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One of Many Joys

07 Apr

I truly enjoy the wide variety of things that I get to do in ministry. Preaching is by far the one aspect of ministry that I enjoy the most, but another one of the most enjoyable ministries to me personally is the ministry of small groups. It is remarkably refreshing to gather in a home with the same families over a period of time and to get to know them beyond a casual hallway conversation. Last night, we gathered and discussed George Barna’s latest book called Revlotuionary Parenting and shared with each other the journey of parenting. In small groups, I don’t have to perform or play the role of welcoming 300 people to our campus. I can just relax and hang out with friends and talk about life in Christ.

When we came to Benbrook in the fall of 2004, I was still working on my doctorate with Bethel Seminary. I had just finised a course on Building a Transformational Small Group Ministry taught by a staff member at Willow Creek Community Church. I started a small group in Benbrook in the fall of 2005, and then formed a second one in the fall of 2006. Both groups were fantastic experiences with really two different groups of people.

The major challenge in making small groups work is finding the time to do it. For our family, Sunday is a full day experience (with perhaps a three hour break in the middle of the day). Wednesday nights are already devoted to church, so we had to pick another night. We held our groups on Thursday nights which seemed to work well with everyone else’s schedule. However, as our kids got older and their activies pick up and their homework got harder, it became exhausting on our family to add one more night of church activities to our schedule. Eventually, small groups fell by the wayside.

For small groups to work in our church (and in any traditional paradigm church), something has to be replaced. We cannot keep adding; we have to practice addition by subtration. And therein lies the problem. While there are some who still want to “go to church” on a Sunday night and attend a “preaching service,” this appears to be a fading minority judging by attendance. Others have no desire for another worship service but would be very excited about attending a small group in someone’s home. Which way do we embrace? Which way is of the past and which way is of the future?

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8 Comments

Posted by on April 7, 2008 in Uncategorized

 

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8 responses to “One of Many Joys

  1. scottbuck

    April 7, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    I really like the small group on Sunday night format. I think that the growth that happens in small group is far greater on average than the growth that happens during the typical Sunday night worship service, especially for youth. I remember when i was a kid, I hated Sunday nights. Anyways I think it would great if our church could move in that way.

     
  2. tpylant

    April 8, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Scott,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    For those in our church who don’t know, our student ministry is already practicing a small group ministry. How many groups are meeting on Sunday night? What kind of response have you had from the students to small groups?

    Todd

     
  3. scottbuck

    April 8, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    I think there are 5 groups that are meeting right now. The response has been pretty good. Small groups in the youth have a little bit of a different feel than normal small groups. We are still trying to teach the kids how to have accountability.

    Oh yeah, i was going to mention that you should put a picture up.

    -Scott

     
  4. tpylant

    April 9, 2008 at 8:25 am

    OK, I tried to add a picture, but unfortunately, it had to be of me.

     
  5. tpylant

    April 9, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Scott,
    Send me the address of Stem the Tide’s myspace site (or whatever it is) and I will link to it from the blogroll.

     
  6. Monica

    April 10, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    Interesting discussion of small groups, especially in light of the fact that Bill Hybels and Willow Creek have recently revisited the entire concept, wondering at the accountability, effectiveness, growth that has been seen, or in many cases, missed.

    My husband and I and our family attend a relatively large church (2000+ Sunday attendance) that has good old fashioned Sunday evening services including in-depth discipleship classes followed by a worship service. Currently 600-800 attend the Sunday evening services. It’s working…Isn’t there a a place for both? I’ve been too many small groups where there is no iron sharpening iron, no time devoted to the Word, no accountability, just lots of “fellowship”. I’ve been to Sunday evening services that are dead, dead, dead. I don’t know the answer, just wondering…

     
  7. Monica

    April 10, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    Before my comment is published I need to find my source for the Hybels/Willow Creek comment. I’ve recently heard discussion around their use of small groups and the effectiveness of such, but don’t recall where and would like to know that before the comment is published. I apologize!!

     
  8. tpylant

    April 11, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Monica,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    My understanding of the Reveal Report (the link in my article was only to a summary; I couldn’t find the whole report online) was not so much a statment about small groups but a statement about their driving philosophy. For years, they had been telling people, “Come to church (or small groups) and we will give you everything you need to grow in your faith.” What they have found out is that instead of giving them spiritual food they needed to be teaching them how to feed themselves. In fact, the report suggests to me that will come a time when we will outgrow small group Bible studies and small groups as the source of our spiritual growth. Unless we learn to feed ourselves, these things will actually become very disastifying to us.

    To put it in household terms, there comes a time when the child has to grow up and leave the nest and establish his own family. To keep a child in the home for 50 years is to have failed as a parent (unless there are extenuating circumstances, but you get my point).

    The reveal report can be purchased for about $15 online.

    Todd

     

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