One of our Core Values is Discipleship. We have come to think of this as the process of “equipping persons to discover their calling in the world through spiritual formation, leadership development, and faithful living.” In other words, we have committed ourselves to becoming Kingdom people – those given over wholly to the concerns and mandates of Christ Jesus. We have committed ourselves to discovery – specifically, the discovery of how each and all of us are called to live out this ancient faith in a modern world.
We believe small groups are one avenue for precisely this kind of discovery. We view these groups as more than Bible study (head knowledge), mission teams (practical experience), or support groups (emotional bolstering), but as some combination of all of the above. They are intended to build up disciples in a holistic way, refusing to dissect emotional needs from critical engagement with scripture or spiritual formation from ministerial practice in the world. We believe discipleship happens best when all of these aspects meet in the same place. The three purposes of small groups are:
DISCIPLESHIP: First and foremost, small group ministry is intended to become a vehicle by which we commit ourselves to living under Kingdom principles, both individually and collectively. It is not just the discovery of calling, but also the decision to live in obedience to that calling. This happens in small groups as we read our own lives next to scripture and are challenged by it and by others to growth and further commitment. The group, then, may act as a mirror that reflects back to us a reality that is difficult for us to see without help.
What this might look like:
- Honest discussion together about scripture and its role in our lives
- A safe place to ask difficult questions concerning life experience and the life of faith
- Confession, not just of failure, but also of doubts and fears in the context of a wider community
- Christians taking responsibility for spiritual maturity of one another
- Times beyond weekly worship for people to pray and encourage one another
FELLOWSHIP: We believe no one is an island unto themselves – that each of us are better off with all of us. While the primary goal of small groups is discipleship, we also believe that inherent in the process of Christians growing in Christ is the process of Christians growing together. Small groups challenge us to not simply pretend to live as a community of believers, but rather require us to live in community. A small group gathering is not a church meeting, but an opportunity to live life together. By joining a small group, you are committing yourself to others, no matter their socio-economic, political, or ethnic differences. You are committing to live as Christians in a warm and caring environment, even when (not if, but when) you disagree.
What this might look like:
- Regular shared meals that help people get to know one another
- Celebrating those milestone events in each others’ lives (birthdays, engagements/marriages, babies born, etc…)
- Taking time for one another outside of regular gatherings
- Sharing in everyday kinds of activities, like a daily jog, grocery shopping, yard work, etc…
- Caring for one another in tangible and intangible ways when tragedy strikes or someone is facing a difficult period of time, like by making a lasagna (tangible) and committing that one to prayer (intangible)
MISSION: At TBC, we believe in Missio Dei – that is, in God’s mission. We affirm that this Mission is God’s and not ours, and we believe that we are tasked with joining God in that mission. Furthermore, we believe in taking the whole gospel to the whole person. A successful small group will not only engage and care for the whole person as members of the group, but also move those persons to give themselves wholly to the fulfillment of God’s purpose for humanity in the world. In other words, what happens in a small group should not stay in a small group! We believe that when small groups take their discipleship and fellowship seriously, a commitment to God’s mission will ensue and creative acts of service will unfold.
What this might look like:
- Being open and willing to invite newcomers and neighbors who would benefit from the gift you’ve been given.
- Deciding together that you will serve monthly through a local ministry or school
- Committing to a community garden project that donates its harvest to low income families or church members
- Committing to join other small groups in an annual mission trip
Frequently asked questions concerning Small Groups:
What do you do in these groups?
The most important group activity is simply “ordinary life” lived out together and with an eye cast to the Kingdom. Small groups are comprised of people who are committed to living out the Kingdom together in our city, and that naturally extends beyond gathering times. During gathering times, we expect groups will engage in a variety of activities, whether that be sharing and prayer, confession and accountability, Bible study, service, meals, and fun. From time to time, the pastors may suggest different seasons of focus for the groups, but it really is up to the group how that time is spent.
Who leads these groups?
Groups have at least two spiritually mature leaders who are the Core Leaders. This is more of a pastoral role rather than a teaching role. Even if these folks are not doing the regular teaching in the groups, they at least are in a position of spiritual oversight and are willing to accept some responsibility for the spiritual health of those in the group. Furthermore, Core Leaders are willing to be a point person for the group by relaying group concerns and needs to the church staff and organizing group facilitators. Having said that, the expectation of small groups is that everyone will lead by facilitating discussion, leading Bible study, or organizing a service project. Members will also claim responsibility in the group by taking part in making decisions about the groups’ focus, meeting time, and frequency of gatherings. Most importantly, small group members will lead by caring for other members of the group.
What kind of people are in these groups?
Our hope is that groups would reflect the diversity of TBC itself. However, many of our members will be more comfortable with a more traditional type of discipleship that revolves around the Sunday school model. Because of this, we imagine that these groups will be made up mostly of young adults and parents of young children. Ideally, groups are made up of 8-10 members, with a maximum of 12-13 members before the group decides to create another group. Under this model of ministry, we believe that size does matter and that if a group becomes too big, it is likely that some members will feel like their voice and place in the group is being lost. We encourage the groups to have some loose geographic basis, but we also realize that people will be drawn to certain groups because of relationships.
What about children in these groups?
It is in the spirit of TBC to see children and youth as full participants in the body of Christ, welcoming them in every dimension of the church’s life. Therefore we want to view children not as an obstacle to our gatherings, but to invite their presence and participation. We also want our children to see parents in loving, supportive relationships with one another and other adults, and to see spiritually discipling relationships develop between children and adults, even adults other than their parents. How this works out practically will be dependent on the groups and the number and age of the children present. TBC also has a fund available to help with childcare if a group needs it.
What happens as the groups grow?
It is our hope that these groups will be inclusive, welcoming broken people and making the Church accessible to all sorts of folk. As a result, it is also our hope and expectation that groups will change and shift and grow, acting as open, dynamic communities and not closed, static accountability groups. While we recommend groups consider multiplying when they have reached 12-13 regular attendees, we do leave it up to the groups to decide when the formation of a new group should occur. Our hope is that new leadership will arise from these groups.
How do you join a group?
Ideally, our small groups will be keeping an eye out for you and you’ll receive an invitation (or two!) before you can even ask this question. If, however, this doesn’t happen for whatever reason, consider doing one of the following:
Speak to one of the pastoral staff at worship and let us know that you’re interested in joining a small group and we’ll get you in touch with Core Leaders from potential groups.
Contact info: Art Wright, firstname.lastname@example.org or 804.355.0134
If you know one of the core leaders, feel free to ask her or him to help you get plugged in.
Go with a friend to a small group gathering and see if it’s a good fit.
Consider starting a small group in your part of town and get trained to be a leader.