Tom Mullins, senior pastor of Christ Fellowship in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, is a former football coach who uses colorful sports stories and analogies frequently in his teachings. Not one to be afraid of cutting edge ideas and strategies, Pastor Mullins and his team at Christ Fellowship recently implemented a new "game plan." And what a game plan it's proved to be.
This extraordinary game plan is the Lifetogether curriculum, designed to introduce and cultivate new life in a church's small group ministry. Lifetogether has proven so effective that Christ Fellowship has gone from a couple of small groups to more than 350 in just two months.
According to Scott Mawdesley, small groups pastor at Christ Fellowship, the game plan is actually pretty simple. "Discipleship is our goal. Small groups are the mechanism and life change is the end result," he explains. "We're building a solid foundation and platform for long-term steady ministry through the small groups."
He explained that the church had small groups in the past, but it wasn't until the church went through the 40 Days of Purpose campaign late last year that God's plans for the church began to come into focus.
"We must have gone through 7,000 or 8,000 of the Purpose-Driven Life books," Mawdesley says. "It created such momentum that people wanted to know what was next." In just six weeks since the PDL campaign ended, more than 2,800 people have become involved in small groups at the church. There are 300-plus English-speaking groups and another 40 Spanish-speaking groups.
"Our focus is on spiritual multiplication instead of spiritual addition," he notes. "We really delve into each of the five purposes and people are responding."
To help prepare for the growth in Small Groups, known as "Huddle Groups" by Christ Fellowship members, Pastor Mullins taped several introductory video messages that were used in the "huddle groups."
Mawdesley is quick to point out that while God is doing great things in the ministry, it would have been a lot more difficult for the church to offer the Huddle Groups without solid structure and the help of the Lifetogether group. "God opened a door for us through Brett Eastman and his experiences at Saddleback and Willow Creek churches. We were ready, but weren't exactly sure what God was planning to do. Now we know!"
Christ Fellowship isn't afraid to take chances and do different things. "In the past, we tried all kinds of things to grow our small groups, but nothing was working. We realized that God doesn't always want us to recreate the wheel. He DOES want us to be faithful and he responds."
For years, people sat and watched. Now, church members are getting involved and becoming leaders. People in the church are starting to engage with others, to see their gifts and put them to use in many fashions.
"One of my worries was how leaders would be identified and brought into the huddle groups," Mawdesley admits. "But God has brought up leaders in each of the groups. It proves once again that when God calls us to do something, he'll provide the tools to make it happen."
Mawdesley himself is an example of God providing resources. After spending last year working in the business world, Mawdesley was asked to return to Christ Fellowship to lead the small group ministry. His experience with a new business venture made him an ideal candidate for the church's small group plans.
"God let me scratch that entrepreneurial itch," he says. "Now I'm back and it's great to see what he's doing." He draws some interesting parallels about what's happening with the huddle groups and small businesses.
"It's a lot like a start-up business. If you're not prepared for consistent, long-term growth, when things start to happen, you'll be overwhelmed and things will explode," he observes. "It's also typical of a new business that people are afraid of change and doing something different. In this case, doing something different has paid off in a big way for Christ Fellowship and our local community."