Your Small Group Model Probably Won’t Work in Jersey

I’m almost six months in as Pastor of Community and Outreach at Lincroft Bible Church. My first big task was re-launching the small group ministry (now: Community Groups). The church had three groups already in existence when I got here, so I wasn’t operating from a clean slate. Here’s what I have learned so far.

1. Team is Invaluable

I am extremely happy to work for a church which is lead by a team of elders (which is the Biblical pattern by the way 😉 ). The elders set the agenda for the church. So, re-launching Community Groups was not going to be something I did as an individual. I had to assemble a team around me. The result was getting valuable feedback and wisdom. Coming from those team meetings, I learned…

2. Context Matters

When we lived in Louisville KY, my wife and I attended a church which had its groups meet every week. Now we live in New Jersey. New Jersey is not Kentucky (Obviously enough!). The Northeast is a whole different culture than Bible-belt America. The busyness of Northeastern culture is astounding. The consensus from the CG team was that every week groups would not work.

The groups at LBC had been meeting twice a month for a long time. So…twice a month it is. The verse which was particularly convicting to me was James 3:17 which describes true wisdom:

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”

The important phrase here is “open to reason,” which ranges in meaning from “submissive, compliant” to “reasonable.” Am I willing hold my plans (and models of ministry) loosely? Am I willing to submit to the wisdom of people who have been in this church and context for much longer than I have?

Context matters. What works in one part of the country may not work in another. (Which brings me to the big problem of most books written on small groups. They tend to fall into: “This worked for me! So you should do this!” But that’s a post for another time).

3. Slow Change Is Probably the Best Change

When I was in college, I would often get frustrated by how slowly churches made their decisions, and even adopted change. Now being in vocational ministry for just six months, I have a growing appreciation for slow change. If the church allowed me to come in and overturn the direction of the church really fast with no discussion, then someone could come up right behind me in the future and overturn all the work I have done just as quickly! Building for the long haul is much more important than short-term success. I always need to keep the long view.


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