Transformational small churches (3 of 3)

Continued from Part 1 and Part 2.

What are the common characteristics of churches that transform their members and their communities? The folks at LifeWay Research set to find out, and published their findings in a book, Transformational Churches. Last September, they held an all-day webinar specifically aimed at small churches, and here are my (sometimes disjointed) notes.

Small groups in small communities, with Rick Howerton (0:00:00)

Proximity does not equal community. Whatever the form the small groups may take, their aim should be that of having believers join their lives for the purpose of maturing in the faith and engaging in God’s mission.

Transformation takes place best in relationship. It happens when we go to the Bible. Small groups can wrongly be used for assimilation. It is important to remember that their right use is for members to learn to be disciples.

In transformational churches (TCs):

  • new members are immediately taught about the importance of living in community with other Christians
  • new small groups are regularly started, because of the difficulty of breaking into an established group
  • heavy emphasis is placed on getting new members immediately involved in small groups and discipleship classes

Supporting factors for small group success:

  • a smaller number of people provides a greater opportunity for personal discovery
  • smaller communities are just that–communities
  • small groups are the best way to genuine life change through the local church.

Key deliverables of a small group:

  • deeper friendships: The Christian life is more caught than taught
  • accountability: in order to be accountable, you have to trust. Additionally, in a relationship, lies can be more easily detected
  • environments for spiritual growth: there are commands in the NT that you can’t carry out alone (all the “one anothers”)
  • maximum participation: no one can remain anonymous for long
  • missional opportunities.

Elements of a transformational small group:

  • Mission orientation: joining God on His mission
  • Word-driven mentality: studying the Bible together
  • Multiplication mindset: advancing the kingdom, not keeping it to ourselves
  • Stranger-welcoming: seeking people to fill in the empty chairs
  • Kingdom-focused: it’s not about having my needs met

Q&A (0:24:15)

Q: How do you address the fear that small groups will take away from the work of the church?

A: One danger is the problem of false teaching. You need to put the doctrinal non-negotiable directives in writing, so that group leaders are aware of them. If you use external curricula, use publishing companies you trust.

Q: In a church of 100, what is the right size for a small group?

A: A church that size could have 5-8 groups. The importance of the small community is to make disciples; this best happens in small groups.

Q: How do you move from a take-care-of-ourselves mindset to a multiplication mindset?

A: Help people understand the reason for small groups– to join God on His mission.

Q: What are the transferrable principles for doing small groups well?

A: We read in Acts 2:42-47 of the church’s devotion to the right things.

Q: How do you change a mentality in a church where everyone thinks they know everyone?

A: The pastor should teach on biblical relationships, holding up biblical standards and finding tools that work.

Missionary mentality, with Ed Stetzer (0:36:00)

TCs know, understand and love their cities and communities. Their church activities are designed to relate to the type of people who live in their community. Understanding context, or having a missionary mentality, is a key component in TCs. Their church leaders think as missionaries in how they view the cultural context within their region. TCs believe that God has strategically placed them in their location and cultural context to serve those around them. They are both locally and globally engaged, having recognised God’s mission and are passionate about it.

Q&A (0:49:35)

Q: When a community has deteriorated around you, how do you genuinely motivate people to a love for it as opposed to desiring to get it back tot he way it used to be?

A: We’ve tied our churches to the physical meeting places, which is unbiblical. Part of church revitalisation may be church replanting [the answer was much longer than this :)]

Q: What if a community has been burned by the church? How should the church go about restoring their reputation?

A: They should build a new reputation. They should tell an alternative story in which they show and share Jesus.

Q: Our church has a huge focus on international missions and less on local ministry. How can we translate one to the other?

A: The church has a mandate that it can’t carry out as a local body of believers. Smaller churches may feel that the only way to participate is to partner with other churches. The important thing is not to exclude one or the other. We should lead people to be engaged in mission, not only to support others to the mission. We can’t outsource the mission of God.