Small Groups in our Church

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

                                                                                                      Matthew 18:20 NRSV

By the numbers, Watsonville First United Methodist Church // Primera Iglesia Metodista Unida de Watsonville, isn’t a large church.  But in small groups we are mighty.  What does it take to have a thriving small group ministry?

  1. Be open to what God’s Spirit brings your church.
  2. And partner with others.

Behind our church is a little park.  When I first came to Watsonville, it was the source of my headaches.  It was run down.  The play equipment was old, broken and dangerous.  This space next to our facility was a magnet for criminal and other unhealthy behavior, which spilled onto our parking lot.  Graffiti covered the wall of a nearby residence.  There was trash everywhere.

In those days, I called the cops, a lot.  And rest assured, our church budget didn’t include anything to do with parks.

Then something shifted.

I began to see this eyesore of a park, as a gift from God.  We began to understand its potential.  So we started asking questions.

  • To the City: What can you do to fix up the play equipment?  And what can we do to improve our park?    
  • To the Police Department: How can we make our neighborhood safer and prevent crime instead of simply reacting to it?
  • To the neighborhood children and youth we met in the park: Would you like to help us make this a better park?

And that’s how we began our road to small groups.  We began to see our biggest “problem” as a gift from God.  We began to understand that the park was “our” park, and “our” problem.

Partners

So we found partners to help us do what needed to be done.  They were just waiting to be asked.  It was amazing!  We discovered that we needed partners to accomplish our work of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

In this case, the City invited us to apply for a grant to fix up the park, which we did, twice, partnering with the nearby Pajaro Valley Children’s Center and other volunteers to install new fences, better signs, a picnic table, new trash cans, new trees, etc.  The City also replaced the old beat-up play equipment.

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We found a local muralist and with the input of local children and youth, painted a big mural on a private residence.

Mural on the Wall #2

The Police helped us start a Neighborhood Watch group at the church with residents from around the park, and we began participating in National Night Out, an annual event to promote safety and introduce church and neighborhood families to our local fire fighters, police officers and city officials.

It was a win-win situation.

How long did it take to accomplish? We were actively involved in these projects start to finish at least three or four years.  This is not a fast process!  Making connections with the neighbors takes time, one relationship at a time.  But it’s worth it.  And it started us on the road to our small group ministries.

Check it out on our website: www.watsonville1stumc.org, or call me if you have questions, (831) 724-4434.

Blog courtesy of Pastor Robin Mathews-Johnson

PastorRobin-WatsonvilleUMC

5 Keys to a More Dynamic Group Experience

What makes for a dynamic small group experience?  Most of us know it when we see it.  Most of us have been in groups that have a different quality and go well beyond the ordinary.  I’ve written about what I think are the essential ingredients of life-change several times.

Here are what I think are the 5 keys to a dynamic small group experience:

  1. A group leader who is becoming more like Jesus.  Like Paul, the leader can say, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ,” 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV).  Embedded in this key are the practices of Jesus (praying for group members, thinking about their needs, loving them even when they fail, celebrating their faith steps, and appropriately challenging their stumbles.  A key for me is that need to be becoming more like Jesus.  Like Jesus’ closest followers, they can start very far from being like Him.
  2. A group leader who is being mentored by someone who is a few steps ahead.  I’ve often said, “Whatever you want to happen in the lives of your members has to happen first in the life of the leader.” How will the leader become like Jesus?  Almost always because someone is a few steps ahead, living out “follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
  3. A warm and welcoming environment; a comfortable and familiar space.  Environment plays an important role in the meeting.  What’s needed isn’t elegant or expensive.  What’s needed is an invitation to relax.
  4. A shared understanding of essential purpose, values, and expectations of the group.
  5. A connection that extends beyond the meeting.  The meeting itself is important, but the meeting is not enough.  Groups that move beyond the ordinary experience almost always connect between meetings.  Dinner together.  A cup of coffee.  A Facebook message or a quick phone call.  Sitting together in the worship service.  A birthday card or note.

Article by Pastor Mark Howell (www.MarkHowellLive.com)

About Mark Howell

mark_best1   Mark Howell is the Pastor of  Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada and the founder of SmallGroupResources.net, offering consulting and coaching services that help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries.

How to equip group members to live out a holistic faith

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A few months ago, I had the privilege of hearing J. D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in North Carolina, speak about making work Christian. Unfortunately when most Christians think of trying to combine their faith and their careers, they assume they must work for a Christian company, a non-profit, or—at the very least—a company with a not-so-subtle Christianese name (e.g., a coffee shop called “He Brews”). Or, if they can’t seem to find a job at the right kind of company, many assume that combining their faith and careers requires sharing their faith in very direct, even awkward, ways.

But Greear set the record straight. One fact that he shared completely blew me away. Pointing to Acts, he stated that of the three great church planting centers in the ancient world (Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome), not one was founded by an apostle. Rather, the gospel was spread the furthest by ordinary business people on the coattails of commerce. Instead of specially trained missionaries telling people about Jesus, everyday laypeople were living out a holistic faith that included their business endeavors.

Greear’s main point was that we church leaders must equip the people in our congregations to live out a similar holistic faith that encompasses every area of their life, including their work. Rather than live out our faith a few hours a week in special places or roles, we must live out our faith every hour of every day. Who better to equip the everyday men and women in our churches than small-group leaders who are living life week-in and week-out with them—and are most likely laypeople themselves?

So I want to point you to a few resources that can help:

Redeeming Work Events from Leadership Journal
These one-day events happening around the country (beginning in Chicago on March 13) will explore the latest research and biblical scholarship on faith and work and how to recapture a theology of vocation. Hear great speakers as they address how to equip people to live out their faith every hour of every day. Register today!

Serving God in Our Jobs, by Amy L. Sherman
This article fleshes out a biblical theology of work. Use it to clarify your own understanding or hand it out to group members to start a conversation about faith and work.

Christians at Work, by J. D. Greear
This article explains five qualities that make work “Christian” and puts to rest many assumptions about what it looks like to combine our work and faith.

Praying for Our Work, by MaryKate Morse
This article features prayer exercises to help your group members connect their faith and work. It’s a great way to explore this topic.

As a small-group leader, you are perfectly poised to help your group members understand this concept and begin living out a more holistic faith. Let us know how you’re equipping your group members in the comments below.

Article by Amy Jackson
Copyright © 2014 Christianity Today International. Used by permission.