If you have been reading my blog for the past 8 months or you have been at Church of the Suncoast for the past 8 months then you know we have been wrestling with the small groups question. Our church is just over 4 years old and we have had groups for 3 of those 4 years. We have not cracked the code and have had a lot of false starts and mixed results. We have also seen some amazing life-change which is why we wrestle with how do we do groups, are they still working in our community, and what does discipleship look like at the Suncoast.
In the spring we rolled out a medium sized gathering once a month called NEXT. We talked about some spiritual growth topics and 2 out of the 4 gatherings were well attended and 2 fell flat, one due to weather. So, this summer we talked some more as a staff and I had my familiar conversation with God about groups and what to do.
Here is what we are rolling out THIS WEEK:
We are calling them NEXT Groups because our purpose is to help people take their next steps with God, so the name fit, we used to call them Community Groups but community didn't always happen. This fits the goal of taking a next step on your faith journey.
The fall semester of groups will run for just 10-weeks. We don't want groups to turn into a burden for people and I think giving people a break from them is great too. It gives people a light at the end of the tunnel.
We also wanted our groups to reflect our church and who we are, not some other church. So our groups will be open, meaning anyone can jump in at any time, and we will be asking people to invite someone to group for the second weeks big party. Take a look:
We will also be asking the groups to serve two out of the 10-weeks and every group will be asked to find a cause and give towards it. Again, stressing some of who we are as a church. The other six weeks will be deeper study from that Sunday's message. Again, to focus the whole church on who we are and what is going on with our church at that time, not some canned small group book.
Finally, we have taken all the expectations and "rules" off the groups. The problem with expectations and "rules" is someone has to police those and no one wants to be the small group ministry rules police. The only thing we ask is that the groups take a Next STEP:
Study the Bible Together. Each week we’ll come together, share some snacks or maybe a meal, and then circle up to talk about Sunday’s message. Bring a Bible! Each week we’ll be challenged take a next step on our journey with Jesus.
Take Care of Each Other. We all need someone to lean on. We were not designed by God to be lone rangers. Our group will be there for each other in good times and bad.
Embrace Serving Together. This fall we’ll get the opportunity to serve together in the community. We’re going to come up with a place to serve twice by the end of the 10-weeks.
Practice Generosity Together. We will also get the opportunity to be generous with our finances together. In the next 10-weeks we will pick a cause (personal, local or global) and combine our money to make a difference.
So hope that helps someone else out there wrestling with the groups question and if you are at the Suncoast click HERE to find out where and when groups meet this first week. We have one Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.