Everything You Need to Know About Community Groups
Community groups offer 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 he/she is cared for, experiences the grace of the Gospel, and is encouraged to walk in faith. They are groups where Christ transforms individual lives, the group as a whole, and the larger church family of which the group is a part.
Community Groups are the primary place for pastoral care. In fact, the person not involved in a community group is one step removed from the normal shepherding structure of the church where people are nurtured in personal and corporate spiritual development. They are also at the heart of accomplishing the following:
- assimilation of new members
- accountability and spiritual formation
- leadership development
- gift identification
- missional activity
- evangelism and outreach
- service and ministry to felt needs
What is a Community Group
Community Groups are essentially a microcosm of the larger church. Here people are nurtured, equipped and released for God's work in the world. They 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.
A missional focus is expected in every group. This means that instead of merely becoming a comfortable place for us to “hang out” together, the members of the group must consider themselves to be missionaries to a fallen world and constantly be looking outwardly to others: new residents, community gatherings, poor and needy, youth, children, church guests, etc. Because of this missional focus the group must be inviting newcomers in the church to join them as well as have a vision for multiplying new groups and developing new leadership.
Why Community Groups?
The Theology of the Community Group Church
- In the Old Testament (OT), the tabernacle and temple are called God's dwelling, or his "house" (1 Chron. 6:48, 25:6; Ezra 5:2, 15)
- In the New Testament (NT), 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" 1( Peter 2:5). 1 Corinthians 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" (Acts 20:32) 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" (1 Thess. 5:11) and "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 gatherings, community groups.
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 reach new persons mainly through programs and events, but the Bible says that the body grows member-to-member as each person 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 ministry in small groups. In 1 Cor. 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" (1 Cor. 16:19; Romans 16:5). Acts 2:24 and Acts 20:20 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, therefore, we 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 if 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.
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 indicate your interest in being in a Community Group either by writing your name and address on the response cards found in the Sunday worship folder or by calling the church office. We will respond as soon as possible.
- Perhaps you have been involved with a community group previous to your coming to Community Church (perhaps even in leading such a group). You may feel, therefore, that you could help lead a group if you had sufficient support from the church staff. If this is the case, we welcome the opportunity to talk with you.
Why Does Community Church Heavily Emphasize Community Groups
- Our people are very busy with work, children, travel, etc. and don’t have many relationships established. People need the relationships provided in community groups.
- Suburban towns with ample “starter homes” tend to be transient. Not a lot of stability in the congregation. People need relationships!
- Our city and area is fast growing. People will need to be assimilated into groups or newcomers and new converts will not have either their needs or their gifts identified quickly enough.
- More and more our culture is full of privatized people who will not be easy to follow up through traditional methods home visits, letters, etc. "Evangelism by strangers" won't work.
- In an area of cheaper and affordable housing we will tend to attract younger folks. The fastest way for them to develop a new personal identity as "Christian" is through a Community Group experience.
- The Bible belt is full of people who are "conversion prone" and go through lots of upheavals and changes. Only a group can stabilize them and help make Christianity a lifestyle of faith.
- People are more and more mobile with highly individualized schedules. Communication through formal means is very difficult. The only way to develop unity of mind and vision and good communication is through personal relationships in the groups.
- As racial and ethnic diversity continues to rise, relationships built in small groups offer the safety, encouragement, and empowerment that is required for this diversity to flourish.
- As churches grow, needs often go unmet as staff is stretched thinly over more people. Many churches stop growing because of staff and officer burnout and the breakdown of assimilation processes. Community Group churches do not.
What happens in a group meeting?
Bible Study: The group listens to God's word and applies the Gospel to everyday life. The goal is not mere knowledge of Scripture, but a yielding to its transforming power. Often, the group will discuss questions related to the morning sermon.
Sharing/Fellowship: To fellowship with one another means we share what we are learning about God and how He is working in our lives. It also means genuine concern for each other's well being. This involves bearing one another's emotional and physical burdens along with holding each other accountable for spiritual growth.
Kingdom-Centered Prayer: Prayer is the means that God uses to change us, and the world. It is not mystical escape, but active engagement. Groups pray for one another and for God's kingdom advancement.
Mission: An outward mission to reach others is an overflow of the Gospel. Groups serve the world by sharing the Good News of Christ in word and deed.