In the Fall of 2016, my church launched community groups. For us, community groups are multi-generational, home-based, sermon discussion small groups. We’ve been encouraged by the great participation from our church body, but now several months into these groups, I’m encouraged to observe how these groups are changing our church’s culture and equipping the saints. Here are a few anecdotal observations about the ways community groups have changed our culture at Forest Hills Baptist Church.
1. Community Groups Provides a Ripe Environment for Disciple Making
I’m convinced that programs don’t make disciples, people do. We’ve designed our community groups to be as bear-boned in their structure as possible. The intention was not to create another complicated program for people to follow, but to form an environment in which personal disciple making happens. By the grace of God, we are beginning to see such disciple making occur. Members are discussing their struggles and seeking encouragement for one another. Relationships have grown out of these community groups, nurturing a culture of personal disciple making.
2. Community Groups Have Increased Attention for the Sunday Morning Sermon
The climax of our worship each Sunday occurs when the Scriptures are opened, and we hear and respond to the word of God. Because these groups are sermon-discussion based, its encouraged community groups participants to listen carefully to the message. They listen to the pastor much more intensely and digest the material through copious note taking. Knowing that they will be gathering with their group that night to discuss and apply God’s word, the accountability of community forces them to engage with the sermon personally.
3. Community Groups Form Multi-Generational Relationships
Many churches struggle with an age chasm between generations. Many churches still structure their disciple making strategy around age-segregation. I’m convinced such practices are misguided, and can actually hinder Titus 2 type relationships from developing within your members. When all the older men and women are sequestered off from the younger members, how will such disciple making occur? We’ve sought to be intentional in forming community groups at the start with a multi-generational ethos. In the majority of our groups the 70-year old saint is meeting with the young mom with a brood of children. By bringing the old and young together, this has already begun to bring unity across generations.
4. Community Groups Stir Missional Fervor
Many of our community groups are beginning to think together how they can reach their neighbors for Christ. I’ve been encouraged by one group recently who has taken it upon themselves to provide meals for a neighbor who just welcomed a new baby into their home. Such outreach has begun to occur organically, without any prompting or prodding from the pastoral leadership. It turns out that as people live life together in community, they look for ways to share the Gospel and reach out to others.
5. Community Groups Have Provided a Pathway for New People to Get Connected
One of the greatest challenges as a pastor is helping people go from Sunday morning visitors to community participants. Community groups have provided an excellent first step in helping new people get connected to the life of our church. It provides a safe and non-threatening environment to built relationships with other members in our congregation. It also allows our members to utilize their gift of hospitality to open their homes to outsiders, something the New Testament very much calls us to do.
Life in Community
God has used community groups to bring spiritual growth in our church. As our people live together in community, dig into the Scriptures together, and care for one another, changed lives are the inevitable result. Though we are only a few months in, it’s encouraging to see the way Community Groups have begun to change the culture at Forest Hills Baptist Church. If your church offers something similar to community groups, I’d encourage you to get involved. After all, the Christian life cannot be lived in isolation, but we must habitually meet together, so that we can encourage one another as we wait for the day of the Lord to draw near.
If your a member of Forest Hills and your reading this, and your not in a community group, what are you waiting for? Sign up for one online at our website!