Community Groups at Spring Meadows
In preparation for our retooling of Community Groups and your involvement in them, we would encourage you to read this article that provides a biblical foundation for the emphasis we place on them. While some congregations may have Community Groups, our congregation is Community Groups. They are the primary place for pastoral care at Spring Meadows. They are also the chief means by which the following are accomplished: assimilation of new members, accountability and discipleship, leadership development, gift identification, evangelism and outreach, service and ministry to felt needs, and communication. Therefore, we hope that a great majority of Spring Meadows members and attendees will be involved in a Community Group.
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for Me and the Gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields – and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30
When Jesus made this statement He was talking about the church. In that statement we are reminded that what matters most in life are relationships. And that is what the church is all about: relationship—with God and with one another. It is our great privilege and our great responsibility to engage in such relationships with zest and delight. At Spring Meadows, the chief opportunity to cultivate and develop such relationships is in our Community Groups.
What is a Community Group?
Community Groups are gatherings of 6 to 12 people meeting in individual apartments and homes throughout the city during the week. In Community Groups, a primary Christian community is developed and fostered. People are nurtured, equipped and released for God’s work in the world. Community Groups also provide an opportunity for intimacy, mutual support, practical love and service, learning about the Christian faith, prayer, and sharing of what God is doing in our midst. All groups are led by trained lay-leaders from the congregation who are given continued oversight and support.
Spring Meadows’ Community Groups provide systematic pastoral care for the entire congregation, to enable personal and corporate spiritual growth. Individual groups develop a primary Christian community where Jesus Christ is experienced in his presence and power. They are communities where His Spirit ministers to each person so that everyone is cared for and encouraged to lead a God-pleasing life. They are communities through which Christ works to transform the lives of the individuals, the small communities themselves, and the larger communities of which the group is a part.
Christian Fellowship can be defined as seeking to share with others what God has made known to you while letting them share what they know of Him. This becomes a means of finding strength, refreshment and instruction for one’s own soul. The Scriptures give us numerous commands concerning how we should interact in fellowship with one another. We are told to encourage one another, serve one another, rejoice and weep with one another, correct, instruct, sing to, build up, accept and love one another. There is no better way to put yourself in a position to fulfill these commands than by becoming part of a Community Group.
These groups also serve as a primary way to keep the leadership aware of pastoral concerns and troubles facing our members that might otherwise remain hidden.
Community Groups are a place where individuals who are seeking truth can be invited and encouraged to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ. In addition, they serve as a place where we can remind one another of our call to share the Gospel and pray for those with whom we are sharing good news that God has reconciled Himself to us in Jesus Christ.
Because these groups are expected to be reaching out to seekers and inviting newcomers in the church to join them, they must have a vision for multiplying new groups and developing new leadership.
The church is sometimes compared to a football stadium where you find 22 people who desperately need a rest and thousands of people who desperately need exercise. Community Groups are a place where spiritual gifts are discovered and exercised within the group itself, within the larger church, and to the world. They are a place where a vision for ministry and service are developed.
Why Groups? The Theology Of TheCommunityGroupChurch
- In the Old Testament, the tabernacle and temple are called God’s dwelling, or His “house” (I Chron.6:48, 25:6; Ezra 5:2, 15).
- In the New Testament, the people of God themselves now become the dwelling of God. Individual Christians receive the Holy Spirit and now become “living stones” being built up into God’s “spiritual house” (I Peter 2:5). 1Corinthians 3:9 says, “you are God’s building.”
- Now the main work of Christ in the church is oikodomeo, or “building up.” Now “God is the one who can build you up” (Acts20:32) and “in him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph.2:21). The church grows not by joining physical stones but by joining and uniting human lives filled with the Spirit of God.
- So, too, the main work of the living stones themselves is oikodomeo. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up” (I Thess.5:11). “Speaking the truth in love…the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Eph. 4:15-16).
Now how does that happen? How does the church grow and build itself up? (When we speak the truth in love to one another, when lives are joined to lives, when the living stones are united.) This cannot happen only (or even mainly!) in the large worship service. It happens in face-to-face groups, house churches.
Traditional churches expect the pastoral staff to “build up the believers,” but the Bible expects believers to “build up one another.” Traditional churches expect the pastoral staff to attract and win new persons mainly through programs, but the Bible says that the body grows member-to-member as each speaks the truth in love, builds up, and equips the other.
The early church certainly recognized that the essence of being the church was face-to-face, every member in small groups. In 1Cor. 14, Paul assumes that when they meet together “each one of you has a psalm, a teaching…let all things be done for building up (oikodomeo).” See! Paul is clearly talking of house churches, in which everyone participated. He assumed everyone ministered. The New Testament epistles talk of “the church that meets in their house” (I Cor.16:19; Romans 16:5). Acts 2:24ff. and Acts20:20 tells how the Christians all met in homes as well as in the temple courts.
Why is God a Trinity? We don’t know! But, because He is, we therefore know that community dynamics are intrinsic to the structure of reality, foundational to the universe. If God were only one this would not be true. If He were dual, in Him there would be love, but because He is triune, community is the highest form of life in the universe. God has always existed in a lifestyle of community.
“Within God’s very nature is a divine ‘rhythm’ or pattern of continuous giving and receiving—not only love, but also glory, honor, life…each in its fullness. Think. God the Father loves and delights in the Son (Matt. 3:17), Jesus receives that love and pleases the Father (John 8; 29). Jesus honors the Spirit (Matt. 12:31) and the Spirit glorifies the Father and the Son (John 16:14). Each person in the Trinity loves, honors and glorifies the other and receives love and honor back from the others….there is never any lack.” — John Samaan, “Servants Among the Poor” Newsletter
Traditional vs. Community Group Churches In The Urban Context
|Traditional Churches||Community Group Churches|
|Traditional Churches (TC’s) Are Inadequate For Urban Ministry. Traditional Churches Are Forms Based On Rural And Small Town Settings.
|Community Group Churches (CGC’s) Are Far More Effective In Reaching Urban Areas. These Are Churches In Which Most Or All Of The Persons Are Involved In Community Groups.|
|1. Building centered. It is senseless to undertake the enormous expense of erecting even small buildings, inadequate in the midst of millions.
|1. People centered. CGC’s meet in homes/apartments and rented facilities, stressing people, community, and ministry over buildings. Eventually, a large meeting space might be rented or bought or built, but the attitude is: ministry happens “out on the streets and in offices and in homes—not in a ‘holy sanctuary’.” The strangulation point for a TC is its building; the strangulation point for a CGC is its number of group leaders. CGC’s are not limited by building size.|
|2. Homogenous. TC’s think in terms of only one kind of person in one neighborhood, the “parish” boundary. But neighborhoods in world class cities contain numerous diverse types of people groups. Classes and races and ethnic groups overlap geographically.||2. Multicultured. CGC’s penetrate the “mosaic” of the city, proliferating home groups, bible studies, preaching points and lunch meetings among all the various social groups, classes, ethnic groups, vocational clusters, etc.|
|3. Staff driven. TC’s heavily depend on staff-led programs. They are “program-based design” churches. No more than 10-15% of the laity are involved in ministry.||3. Lay driven. CGC’s are not as dependent on staff. CGC’s are “people-based design” churches. Church functions such as discipling, leadership development, communication, gift identification, and outreach are eventually done mainly through the small groups. These functions are supplemented by staff and supervised by staff, but done through lay people in groups.|
|4. Formal structure. TC’s evangelism and follow-up is formal and technical. People who come through advertising or some other outreach must be visited in their homes by trained evangelists or followed up in other formal ways. “Stranger evangelism” happens more through programs than through relationships.||4. Organic. CGC’s evangelism and follow-up happens naturally, through relationships. People ordinarily come to worship and group life through friendships and relationships with the people in the church. So sharing the gospel, answering questions and follow-up happens fairly naturally.|
|5. Limited and impersonal. TC’s plateau at certain growth ceilings, depending on the gifts of the leaders. One third plateau at 50, one third at 175+, another 28% at 400. Only 5% grow past this and most plateau at the “800” barrier. There are a number of TC’s today, “mega churches,” that attract many people away from smaller churches by the quality of their program. Very few can get beyond 5-6,000.||5. Unlimited and personal. CGC’s growth is not limited. Since the “span of care” in the church is 1 to 10 (someone is watching out for you and no more than 9 others), regardless of the size, large CGC’s do not produce the lack of accountability and the lack of “caring” felt in large TC’s.|
They require no money for space. They relate people together who may be uprooted and far from family. They can help a congregation become more heterogeneous in a heterogeneous city by providing multiple options relational associations, depending on their interests and background. They make it possible for the church in urban areas to operate with fewer pastoral staff (1 to 25 vs. 1 to 250) where staff support is expensive. They are the only way to develop spiritual maturity in a fast-growing and fast-changing (transient) church. They avoid the shallowness of urban places which tend to encourage shallowness in relationships. They develop a Christian self-identity and world-view. They help Christians handle the greater temptations of the city.
How do I get involved in a Community Group?
There are three possible avenues:
Someone that you meet in church or some church-related activity may invite you to their group. Or, you may discover through casual conversation with someone that they are part of a Community Group and then ask if they would mind you joining them. This is the preferred avenue: relational, organic, and friendship based. You can also indicate your interest in joining a Community Group either by indicating in the attendance register at the worship service, by signing up for a group at the Spring Meadows book table in the lobby, or by calling the church office (702-384-3437). We will respond as soon as possible.
This set of questions is designed to help you consider involvement in a Community Group.
Introduce yourself to one another. How has God been working in your life lately?
Have you ever been a part of a Christian small group? What was positive in that experience? What were the shortfalls?
Scripture tells us to “love one another.” How is this best done in a Community Group setting?