There's a lot of talk about the church and how we are a family. But where do we really see a church "family?" In most churches there are groups of people who somehow find each other and have the following in commmon:
-the same social-economic status
-the same race; ethnic group
-the same age
-the same marriage or non-marriage status
-the same sin; dysfunctionalism, etc.
If this is a family, it is the most dyfunctional family around. Many churches answer this is by holding home groups, set up and run by the church. Most of these groups don't work because often they are led by people who aren't good leaders, people go to the group they want to be in which simply continues the segregation, and they answer boring Bible study questions. So what should a church do?
Proverbs 27:17 says, as iron sharpens iron, so does countenance sharpen countenance. There is nothing better to grow as a person than being around people unlike yourself. Recovery groups IMO, from what I've observed, simply hold people down with people just like themselves. And where I've seen a little growth in some of the people in these groups, on the whole, the growth doesn't continue. So what can a church do to facilitate this growth and come against the human tendency to segregate? Churches need to get brave and help people understand this fact. Most churches do not wish to upset the apple cart because they are terrified that people will leave the church. Good. Let them leave. If a church is doing things God's way, He will bring new people to the church.
Churches need to organize the groups geographically and have people go to the one nearest to them. But they also need to go further and tell people what group they will be in for logistical reasons, instead of allowing members to choose their own groups. Why? Because manhy people will still choose a group their friends are in. I went to a church that organized the groups geographically and it was incredible to see the growth in the people. By the way, this was not a controlling church at all. The reason the church could pull this off so well was because they simply told the congregation the truth, that is, they said many of the things I've written above. For the most part, the congregation understood and accepted this. Once the groups are formed leadership is very important as is supervision. So who should lead the groups? I firmly believe after seeing church after church wrecking their groups by not having the right leaders and supervision, that elders or what I term "near-elders" should be leading these groups. That also solves the problem of elders not really knowing most of the members of the church. So what do we do in these groups? I don't believe they should be therapy groups. This can be tricky when people are sharing prayer requests. There should be ice-breaker games on a frequent basis so people really get to know each other. Also, people can break up in smaller groups during the meeting to work on some question or project. I just do not want to go to another group where the church has no clue to what is going on under an ineffective leader with another boring Bible study that I've probably heard ad nauseum over the past 40 years. The younger evangelicals just will not come to this type of group either, so what is the future of the church if they aren't in it?
Some churches are doing a group I call the interest group. These are small groups for people with similar intersts and hobbies. Examples I've seen can include the knitting group, prayer group, cooking group, philosophy group, help the poor group and so forth. In many hcurches these are used to evangelize. I don't mind these groups but they should definitely not replace the small diverse group. Interest groups basically are made up of similar age groups and so here we go with the segregation again. The pastors and elders of a church need to bone up and stop being girlie men. They need to put the emotional and spiritual health of the congregants above their fear of offending people and the (maybe) resulting "low attendance numbers." We need leaders who actually care about thier congregants and put them above their fears.
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