A Vision for Small Groups

Over the next couple of weeks I want to publish a series of entries outlining the overall vision for small groups High Point. Generally speaking though vision is supposed to answer three questions: What’s the problem? What’s the solution? Why us why now?

What’s the problem?

There are actually a few problems and they almost all have to do with size.

Meaningful spiritual relationships and active spiritual care for one another can only function under a limited ratio – about 1 to 10. That is, you can only have about 10 meaningful spiritual relationships; relationships where you really know what’s going on in other people’s lives and what has led up to the present. Actually, it’s probably fewer than that.  You can only have a few relationships where you can both really know the person and really keep track of the other person so you can be there for them at the most important times. The most important times are the times when we need someone to confront us or someone to be there for us – times of care in times of confrontation. Both out of love.

But there is another issue. That is, the church exists to fulfill God’s mission in the world. There are many metaphors for what we are as a people – the temple, the body, God’s field or vineyard, and so on. All of them point to something true about who we are. But one of the ones Paul like to use was that of a soldier. He also liked the category of ambassador. He liked a number of metaphors that made it sound like we have a job to do. The explicit job we have been left is to make disciples of all nations by going, baptizing, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded. Along the way, out of love for people Jesus loves, we will take on certain humanitarian actions of love because people in their communities are intrinsically valuable – because human beings are intrinsically valuable.

Exactly what these actions are will have to be determined along the way. But one thing most people find is that coordinated effort accomplishes more than uncoordinated effort. On one level, all the individuals of the church will go out into the city and make it a better place. They will do their jobs well. They will be better citizens. They will build stronger families. All these things build a stronger and more prosperous and blessed community. But there also things we will do in concert together. We may have ministries, or programs. We may run food pantries, seek to build low income housing, provide respite care for families with disabled children, support families within the foster care system, and so on. There are many things we can do for the peace and prosperity of the city – and we can often have a larger impact and transfer of the glory to Christ more directly when we do it together as the church. In order to do this we need to be organized in movable squads – groups of about 8 to 15.

Lastly, we need to learn together in small enough groups that each person takes personal responsibility for their learning, but also has help from other people. Because of this, small groups are ideal places to learn when everyone is there to learn.

What’s the solution?

The solution is small groups designed to fulfill these needs. Small groups are small enough that they can respect the span of care of about 1 to 10. It is a place where spiritual friendships for both confrontation and care can be properly developed. They should be good places for people to investigate the gospel, and for us to be trained to explain the gospel better to people. They are squad sized groups that can function within a larger movement, and their presence makes the movement scalable. Scalable means that the system we use works just as good at 350 people as it does with 2000 people. If we have small groups from 8 to 15 people functioning with trained small group leaders, then we can organize almost any size group of people for just about any task. The presence of close knit small groups makes taking on big actions and ministries actually possible.

Last, when small group leaders are well-trained to lead discussions and study the Bible, the small group discussion becomes an ideal addition to the preached sermon and other resources for people to excel in individual learning and application of Christian faith. The small group, over time, will dramatically help people understand the gospel and know the Bible. People will grow in a context where both our knowledge and willingness to apply that knowledge can develop.

Why us? Why now?

There are a number of reasons. One is that we have a number of tasks to do that require us to be better organized. How are we going to take care of 30 different missionaries? If every group takes care of one, then it’s easy. Without small groups, almost all of them fall to the cracks.

Second, High Point church is growing, but a lot of people aren’t sticking who really could be. Churches our size start getting slippery – new people have a harder and harder time getting connected and meeting new people with whom they can have meaningful spiritual relationships. Visiting becomes more anonymous, and it is possible to come to church numerous times about really getting to know anyone. It’s a tragedy every time someone walks in our doors and walks out without really connecting with anyone. Small groups are the most obvious and immediate way we can connect people to our church family and to our spiritual movement.

Third, the more organized and trained are small groups and leaders are, the more we can accomplish together without overburdening or bring out volunteers. And not only can we get more volunteers in the field with organize small groups, the work that we do will be more fun when we are serving with people we know and have built relationships with. Service projects can be great for building relationships – and this is especially true when we serve in small groups.

However, this only works when people are already spiritually on mission. If you really care about serving the good of the city, growing in your understanding of the gospel and knowledge of the Bible, and connecting new people to the family of God so that they can experience what you’ve experienced – small groups will almost always make perfect sense. If not, small groups almost always feel like a chore. We’ll explore this a little more in my next post.

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