A month ago, Sophie and I shared the news that I accepted a job as the D-Groups Pastor at Long Hollow Church and joined the Training Team with Replicate Ministries. This decision has been the hardest decision of our lives as we uproot from a place we love and move away from friends, family, and a church that means the world to us. (We share our gratitude and love for The Chapel in this video.) Along with the sadness of leaving, we are excited and honored to serve at Long Hollow and start this new adventure in the Nashville area.
The transition process has been difficult, but sweet. I greatly underestimated the breadth and depth of emotions that come with transitioning from a place you love so deeply. I have felt excitement, sadness, peace, turmoil, curiosity, cynicism, courage, fear, and much more. Through all of the pain and celebration, God has lovingly given me three lessons that I am reminding myself of daily.
Have you ever been in a small group discussion that you wish you weren’t? One of the members monopolizes the time by answering and responding to every person. Another person thinks he is Mr. Fix-It as he gives the whole group unsolicited advice on how to fix everybody’s issues but his. Another member has a special ability to casually bring up every hot button issue and leave everyone cringing. And then, of course, you have the person who derails every conversation by throwing into the discussion a “theological grenade” like, “What’s everybody’s thoughts on predestination and free will?”
If you have been a part of a small group for more than a couple of weeks, you most likely have experienced an awkward group discussion. Though we cannot prevent every awkward moment from happening (see why here!), we do want to have a healthy discussion that benefits all its members. We want to provide a safe and authentic place where people can be real and honest and truly encounter Jesus Christ. Here are guidelines that you can give to help foster an environment where this can happen.
This section focuses on the WHO: Our Roles. Instead of sending out one individual or a couple, we would rather start a Community Group as a team. This allows for there to be shared responsibility of the group which helps each individual to have nights where he or she can receive, not just give.
Also, Community Groups are not a group of people with a gifted leader, but a leader with a group of gifted people. We want to create opportunities for people to use their gifts to contribute to the group. However big or small the contribution may be, we want people to not just think about what can I receive from the group, but what can I give.
Below are four different roles that we recommend for our groups. This is not an exact science, but an art. Certain individuals may lead in two roles or multiple people may help facilitate the discussion weekly. We just don’t want one person doing all four roles.
Despite having the last name Green, I did not inherit a green thumb. If a plant needs any maintenance, you can guarantee that I will be replacing a dead plant with a more low maintenance one in the coming months. With that said, I do understand the most basic responsibility of gardening: water the plant.
In our front yard, we have two hydrangeas. Without rain, these plants quickly go from big leaves and pretty blossoms to withered and droopy. To revive these plants, you don’t need to address the withered leaves or the dying blossoms but instead, address the roots. By simply watering the roots, the plant perks up and the once withered leaves become full. The principle is simple. If you want the plant to bear fruit, you have to take care of the roots.
Focusing first on the roots, not the fruit is the most basic agricultural principle. In the Christian life, it’s just as essential, but often we are not trained as a farmer to start at the roots. Much like a plant, when we feel that our leaves are withering or that we are not producing fruit, we need to first inspect our roots.
At The Chapel, we define our Community Groups as life-changing communities where you can belong, believe, and become. This statement doesn’t just function as our definition, but as our strategy.
Belong: Provide a place where you can meet Jesus in a group where you are welcomed and accepted.
Believe: Provide a place where you can know Jesus through His Word and His people.
Become: Provide a place where you can follow Jesus as you become who God designed you to be.
The three B’s are placed in an intentional progressive order. Today, as more people are looking for a safe, non-judgmental place where they can investigate their faith, belonging precedes belief and belief precedes becoming. Secondly, the statement mirrors our mission statement: To Help People Meet, Know, and Follow Jesus. Each “B” focuses on providing the environment that will help bring about a specific aspect of their relationship with Jesus. Below we unpack each one of these.
In the previous posts, we have discussed the WHY and WHAT behind our Community Groups. Before we get into the specifics of hosting a group and the strategy, let’s first look at the vision for our Community Groups. What are we hoping God will do through our groups over the next decade?
At The Chapel, we have a 10-year GroupLife vision where we are praying and planning for a D-group in Every Community Group and A Community Group in Every Neighborhood. Below is a map that illustrates this statement.
This is a bold vision that is driven by the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. We will reach our city and help people meet Jesus through saturating the city of Baton Rouge with Community Groups that provide a welcoming environment for all people to join. Additionally, as these people meet Jesus in Community Groups, we want to help them know and follow Jesus in the context of D-Groups. As our neighbors, coworkers, and classmates meet, know, and follow Jesus, we will send out laborers to the campus, the city, and the world.
Your friend has made some decisions that is putting a strain on your friendship. Your spouse continually cuts you down in public and you can feel the bitterness growing. Your child is continuing to act out and you want to get to the heart of the issue. A co-worker or employee is not carrying his weight and you need to have a hard conversation. Whether with a friend, a spouse, a child, or a co-worker, conflict is inevitable.
When dealing with conflict, our approach embodies one of two people: the Truth Teller or the Peacemaker. Often an individual has a tendency towards one of these two, but depending on the day, the person, or the situation, he may change his approach. When healthy, both of these individuals are driven by Godly motivation, but when unhealthy, both of these individuals are driven out of a selfish motivation. One of the most important things we can do as we enter conflict is to inspect our hearts and assure that our motivation is in the right place. Here are two questions that will help.
In a previous post, we discussed how the Great Commission is not a task given to isolated individuals, but an identity given to a community. It doesn’t take long before you see Early Church embrace Jesus’ commission. In Acts 2, we see the first snapshot of the Great Commission lived out. We also see the example that The Chapel’s Community Group’s follow. If the Great Commission is the WHY behind Community Groups, Acts 2 explains WHAT a Community Group is.
In Acts 2:42-47, it highlights three things the Early Church committed to doing and two types of impact that it had.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.Acts 2:42-47
The “perfect” Community Group looks different for each person, but below is what it looks like for me:
(If you rushed for time or just don’t care what my version of a perfect Community Group is, there is no shame in skipping this section. You can just look at the candid shot I took from my perfect Community Group below and then skip to “Why You Will Never Find The Perfect Community Group”)
The group would meet in my neighborhood within walking distance. As our family walked down the road, we would drop our kids off with a great babysitter who would have a kid’s version of our group lesson prepared. We would then walk down the street two more houses to where the adults would meet. There we would have dinner and fellowship. Once we finished, we would jump into discussion that would be led each week by a different person who was a wellspring of wisdom and knowledge, but was able to make the application simple and practical. The discussion would find the perfect balance between serious and light-hearted; it would include tears of joy, sadness, and laughter. It would be relatable for people at all places in their spiritual walk, there would be no awkward pauses and every person’s comments would resonate with someone. After an amazing discussion, the group would then share personal and specific prayer requests that were transparent and meaningful. We would also pray for those in our life who did not know Jesus and could benefit from a group like ours. As the meeting time finished, the group would linger because everyone wanted to spend more time with one another.