Growth Groups: Cultivating Growth Together
We’re launching “Growth Groups”! There has been much discussion among a number of members the last couple years around the question of the need for and how to start small discipleship groups where meaningful community will produce intimacy in our relationships with one another as well as the Lord. Sounds great, right?! But there are many questions that need good answers: What will they look like? When and where will they meet? What will they study? What is their purpose? No small task. The Education Ministry Team is to be commended for their efforts as they have been working hard on this.
One particular challenge for us, as a church trying to ‘simplify’ our structures (see the “Simple Church” brochure on the Resource Tables at church for more details) and better meet our congregation’s needs, is figuring out how best to make Small Groups work in a way that fits well with our current ministry structure and yet doesn’t add an additional night or expectation/pressure to our already overburdened and busy lives. Easier said than done, right?!
So, after much thought, prayer, consultation with some other ministries, and discussion among the Education Ministry Team, here are the basics of Growth Groups:
- Called “Growth Groups” > In keeping with our 2nd C, “Cultivate Growth, we’re going to call them “Growth Groups” (GG). GGs are about Cultivating Growth Together.
- Meeting on Wed Nights, 6:15-7:30 p.m., at church > They’ll meet in rooms at church (i.e., built-in childcare.)
- Studying ‘Sermon-Based’ Curriculum > They will study a form of the current “Beyond Sunday” Devotional Study that is on the back of the Sunday morning outlines that will be adapted for GGs.
- Structured for ‘Study’ & ‘Support’ > The structure of the time for Wed Night groups will basically be divided between “Study” (6:15-7:00 – Discussion of GGs Lesson) and “Support” (7:00-7:30 – Share, Care, Prayer).
Here are detailed answers to many related questions:
- What does this mean for Wednesday Night structure?
- Wed Nights (and Growth Groups) will begin Wed, Aug 11, in keeping with the school calendar (instead of waiting till after Labor Day) and will be from 5:30-7:30 (instead of 6:00-8:00). This was done to keep all our activities and dinner schedules consistent as well as to help enable families with younger kids and seniors not wanting to drive home later to get home earlier.
- Two-Semester Schedule > All Wed Night activities (GG, dinner, childrens/youth groups) will follow this 4-months “On,” 2-months “Off” schedule: Aug-Nov “on”, Dec-Jan “off”; Feb-May “on”, Jun-July “off”. We will still follow the Greeneville City Schools schedule if they call off for any reason. Sign-up months will be Jan & July.
- Fellowship Dinner will be from 5:30-6:15. Yes, we know that some will have a hard time getting to dinner by 5:30. Sorry. But you can still be in a GG. Also, each week will feature some sort of ‘kid-friendly’ dish (chicken nuggets, P B & J, etc.)
- Adult Bible Study will still be available for those who may not yet be ready for a GG. Anyone is able to join any time… no sign up needed. In fact, for new folks at FCC who want to join a GG, but who come mid-semester, this will function well until they can sign up for the next session (sign-ups will be the months of Jan & July).
- Additional Note: Adult Choir is currently deciding if they are continuing practice on Wed Nights as they have been or if they will try another rehearsal time. If they stay on Wed, this new structure will mean an additional 15 minutes of rehearsal time each night.
- How big are the groups? How do we form them? Who leads each group? Do they ‘divide’ when they get too big? Quick answers: 12 min-15 max. Sign up with whomever you want. Someone in the group leads. Basically no, they do not ‘divide’… Longer answers: We are asking that each group have a minimum of 12. That ensures enough folks are there each week. More than 15 becomes too large to be called, well, a ‘small’ group. Groups are formed by signing up with whomever you want. If you don’t know many folks yet, sign up wherever. Once a group is formed start new ones at beginning of each semester. That means, initially, that ‘veterans’ will be with ‘veterans,’ but also that relatively new folks will eventually be with relatively new folks. In other words, if you wanna be in a group with a few folks you already know well, sign up together, in the same group. That’s what makes these groups “sticky”, keeping people involved and meeting their needs. Think of it this way… People are like Legos™, (Yes… people are like toy-shaped blocks), with a limited number of ‘relational connectors.’ In other words, ‘veterans’ of FCC will more naturally want to be in a GG with their friends. Fine. No problem. Go right ahead. Their ‘relational connectors’ are already, uh, connected. But new folks likely have more ‘relational connectors’ available. So they will begin GGs with and connect to other new folks. If your GG doesn’t ‘gel’ well enough for/with you, if you need a break from GGs for whatever reason, if you’re serving somewhere else in the building on Wed Nights, take a semester off or sign up for another one next semester. Each group fills out an Evaluation Form at the end of the 4-months semester.
- What do we do with new people who come in the middle of a semester? Newcomers to Wed Nights will join the Bible Study Group until time for the next sign-ups (the month preceding the beginning of groups, i.e., Jan or July).
- Is Wed Night at church the only time and place groups are allowed to meet? Basically… yes. We want everyone to try the same approach/structure to help us measure success and ensure consistency and unity of purpose. This will also allow us to adjust GGs if needed.
- Why aren’t we doing home-based groups? We are being careful to ensure that implementation of GGs does not require adding yet another night to their already busy schedules. If we had home-based groups, they would likely be a night other than Wednesday because we will not cancel youth/children’s activities and the Adult Bible Study. The Education Ministry Team, charged with oversight of Wed Night programming and implementation of small groups, did the best it could to account for all the important concerns: already too busy church family; how to ensure childcare; providing fellowship and encouragement; ensuring meaningful study of God’s Word; not ‘killing’ already existing and effective programming; encouraging churchwide unity of purpose, etc. We believe this is currently the best possible scenario for our church. So, GGs are structured around existing programs.
- Can GGs still do things outside of Wed Nights? Absolutely! In fact, please do! While our structure limits GGs to meeting on Wed Nights for achieving its basic purposes (i.e., the 2nd C), we would like to encourage groups to gather socially outside of the Wed Night mtg time. In fact, meeting to ‘study’ and ‘support’ on Wednesday nights may provide margin and freedom for GGs to fellowship more effectively during other times.
- Why don’t we assign people to groups based on their neighborhood? Sounds great on paper, but one of the poorest predictors of a potential deep friendship is the neighborhood in which we live. In most cases, it simply indicates shared economic status.
- Why don’t we build groups around shared interests or a common ‘station’ in life? 2 responses: (1) We believe that groups will naturally achieve some of this when people sign up together with friends; (2) We think the diversity of a little mixing of ages, ‘place’ in life, etc. is a good thing! So, don’t sweat it and get to know some new folks.
- Why are we doing ‘sermon-based’ groups and not being allowed to choose our own curriculum? Briefly: Increased engagement, attentiveness, and note-taking during sermons, better/easier preparation, increased quality of GG discussion, better learning and greater effectiveness, church-wide focus, easier to bring people into groups, easier to recruit leaders, better assessment of effectiveness, and reaching more people.
- Why aren’t we expecting Growth Groups to serve in ministry together? We expect GGs to serve one another well. Perhaps someday the expectation for them to be involved in a service project of some type may work well, but we want to encourage participation in a Ministry Team (our primary means of achieving the “3rd C” at FCC, Communicate the Gospel in Word and Deed). Also, part of making a ‘win’ in the area of cultivating growth together achievable is not burdening GGs with additional goals. Ministry Teams are for our 3rd C, not GGs.
- What do we do in the intervening 2 months? We rest, take a break, play together, etc. The Education Ministry Team will be scheming with the Fellowship Ministry Team to find ways to meaningfully bring everyone together (not just GG members, but anybody) during the intervening months for an occasional large group gathering.
- Don’t the 2-month breaks mean that we’ll lose momentum? Maybe some, yes. But, breaks and rest provide margin to allow for effective GGs to continue meeting and leaders to continue serving effectively for years instead of months. Also, we assume that GGs will likely continue meeting for fellowship during these breaks… and you don’t need the Education Ministry Team to program that for you! Plus, the ‘white noise’ of ministry complexity (i.e., too many programs achieving same purposes, rendering all of them diluted) is what really kills momentum, both for participants who are living overstressed and overybusy lives as well as for leaders who would otherwise easily burn out. We need to find good ways to balance meeting peoples’ needs as well as enabling people to serve. That’s important for healthy long-term ministry. In fact, over the long haul, adequate breaks might just make all of Wed Night programming as well as the GGs more effective!
- What about those who are serving in some capacity during GGs? Basically there’s no great answer for this yet. This type of question will never be perfectly answered because there are always those who serve and lead who aren’t able to participate, regardless of the ministry or the structure. In other words, current Wed Night leaders are already in that exact circumstance on ‘not participating’ in something else. But, we’ve discussed this issue with some of those who are serving already on Wed Nights to try to work on a good long-term solution.
Please join us in praying that God will use GGs to help us build Christian community that Cultivates Growth Together! If you’ve got any questions about GGs, please don’t hesitate to ask.