Evergreen Community Church in Burnsville, Minnesota has grown from 120 worshiping in one location to 3,400 worshiping in five locations in the last 13 ½ years. They have also grown from one group to 160 groups, from no coaches to about 50. As a small group consultant, I have consulted with hundreds of pastors and trained thousands of group leaders and have not run across too many churches whose coaching strategy is working as well as it is at Evergreen.
Recently, I sat down with Mark Bowen, one of the pastors of Evergreen and asked him to tell me why the coaching system at Evergreen is working so well. He was first to say that much of what they have learned has come from trial and error. By his own admission, Mark said that they have made their share of mistakes. Sounds like they're human to me. But I know they have done some things very well. So instead of me writing an article about Mike Shepherd's guide to great small group coaching this month, I decided to tell their story. Anyway, as I listened to Mark I began filtering what they have done well with the lessons learned from their mistakes and came up with the following observations:
- VISION. There is a strong emphasis on "relationally" based groups as the catalyst for authentic community. It is in this environment where a connection is made with unchurched friends to come to Christ and become fully devoted followers. "Informational-based groups" did not facilitate growth. So they championed a relational-based approach in the very beginning and that multiplied many times over. Relational community is the culture of Evergreen CC.
- PASTORAL MODELING. All the pastors agreed to become active coaches of small groups. They discovered the importance and power of modeling what you believe. Evergreen is a church OF groups. One of the big reasons for that is when pastors (of any church) step up and model the value of community with their own life, it speaks volumes to the church about how important it is to be in a small group. This is huge!