Mercy Hill Church is committed to being a church OF community groups rather than a church that does community groups. For us, group life is not an add on or an extra thing that we do. Rather, living and walking through the Christian life together in smaller groups is at the very heart of our church’s vision. That is why we often say that what happens during the week is more important than what happens on the weekend! By that we don’t mean to down play the large gathering part of our church. But we do operate within the understanding that true life change happens when people are taught the Word and then live it out in close relationships with other believers.
So what are some practical things that you find in a church OF community groups? I am sure there are many, here are 4…
- Community group health is taken as a major indicator of overall health. As a pastor I have so many things I look at constantly to check up on our church’s health. I look at giving, missions involvement, the observable spiritual climate during worship, the diversity in attendance, the number of children attending, the number of adults attending, the number of folks we are seeing come to Christ…and on and on the list can go. But in a church of groups, group health is at the very top of the list. For us, when we are planting groups, raising up leaders to plant groups, and seeing life change happen in groups it is a major indicator that the church at large is healthy.
- Ministry to the community is happening through group life. A church of groups is a church that commits to small groups as being the hub of ministry for the church. While this sounds great, sometimes it isn’t easy. Staff people usually want to own most of the ministries that the church is birthing. But in a church of groups, the staff helps to facilitate the ministries that small groups actually own. Practically then, the way that the church is involved in needy areas of its community (ministry to the homeless, orphan, prisoner, single moms, and at risk kids) is directly tied to how individual community groups are involved in these areas.
- In times of celebration and tragedy, pastors often play supporting roles. When small groups are elevated to a level of utmost importance, congregation members buy in and commit to one another. In other words, they begin to “one another” well. Often the best way to see if people are truly committing to and caring for one another is to check in on what is happening in times of celebration and tragedy. In a church of groups, the community group, not a pastor, is making a meals list when a new baby is brought home. In the same way, during times of tragedy the community group is probably the first to arrive for support.
- Leaders are held to a very high standard. In our model this model community group leaders are exactly that, leaders. They are people whom the congregation looks to. Therefore, they are expected to set an example that can easily be followed in areas such as giving, worship response, attendance, and buy in to the entire of vision of the church in both word and deed.