This series of posts is based upon an email exchange with my friend who is also a pastor in Northern Kentucky, Jordan Jones. He oversees the youth ministry of his church, while I primarily oversee the Community Groups at mine. To see where God is at work in our churches and lives, we are discussing various aspects of our ministries. Part One.
JORDAN: Sorry, I was distracted by the NBA playoffs! Let me get around to asking you a question: Chris, how do you define small group ministry in your church?
CHRIS: I usually look at small group ministry from two perspectives: the reasons why we should do small groups, and the purposes of small groups. Scripture shows us two reasons for small groups. First, we are created for community. When you think about the God we worship, what kind of God is He? He is Trinity, and always in perfect community. The Father loves the Son and the Spirit; the Son loves the Father and the Spirit; and the Spirit loves the Father and the Son. Being made in God’s image, we reflect something of what God is like (Genesis 1:26-26). So I think that God created us for close community. Small groups helps meet this God-created “need” in our life. Second, we are saved for community. The gospel creates true community. We are born again not only into a new relationship with God, but also into a new family, the church. Small groups, then, helps connect us together as family.
The purposes of small groups are discipleship, care, and mission. We speak the truth of Scripture to one another in community, confess sin to one another, and express love (discipleship). We also view our groups as family so we care for one another when needs arise (care). And God’s mission extends through community (1 Peter 2:9-10). So we try to advance the gospel together on mission
To put a fancy coating on this: I would define small group ministry as groups which are transformed by the gospel, to be rooted in Christ, connected in community, and engaged in mission. That’s, at least, how I define them at Lincroft Bible Church!
JORDAN: Why do you see this as an effective model for church ministry?
CHRIS: I’ll give some of the practical reasons. biblical community helps all ministries of the church. Think about the different ways that biblical community impacts all areas of church life:
Bible study: The community groups will discuss the previous Sunday’s sermon. This enables the group to dive further into the gospel truths proclaimed in the sermons as well as creatively apply the text to the group’s particular context. It also helps streamline the teaching in the church so that the members are not bombarded with too many Bible studies.
Member Care: If a group member winds up in the hospital, the CG members are the “first responders.” They will be the ones visiting with and praying for the sick member. Thus, a burden is alleviated from the shoulders of the elders, who can concentrate on prayer and ministry of the word. If a group member falls on hard financial times, the CG can rally around him and bear the financial burden together. The member would not have to wait for his case to be reviewed and money from the “benevolence fund” given.
Evangelism: Rather than outsourcing evangelism training to a particular parachurch ministry, or cold-call evangelism which causes night sweats, biblical community provides encouragement to engage in evangelism. Members are hearing the gospel on a weekly basis and becoming well-versed in the biblical storyline, which should spill over into all areas of their lives, especially in conversation with others. In addition, if unbelievers happen to see the group in action, they will witness a community of love and service which provides great opportunities to proclaim the gospel to them.
Mercy Ministry: Various needs outside the church can be met through community groups. Groups are encouraged to engagetheir local neighborhoods with the gospel and with mercy ministry. Widows living next door can be cared for. Kids in the neighborhood can see love and service in action. Meals can be made for shut-ins. Mercy ministry is thus not confined to peopleover there, but mercy is actually given to those here, in our midst.