It's been well established that relationships play a significant role in people's journey to Christ. We seldom come to Christ without someone we know and trust showing us the way of Jesus. However, a person's journey to a local church community is not always marked initially by a close relationship to someone in that church community. We may get invited by someone we know, but many make their way to church communities because of special programs, reputation of the church, or location of the church building. The entry point is typically the large group gathering. For that reason, we have put a lot of effort into making our worship services places that are welcoming to visitors who don't already have a close connection within the church. For the most part, our worship services and large group gatherings have been the front door of most churches.
But what about when people find their way into the church community first through a relational small group experience?
It's becoming clearer that not only do many people find Christ through a relational experience with one or a few people, but many find their way into a local church community through a relational small group experience. And, in fact, a small group community may be the only way some will ever enter a local church community. Since we typically think in terms of moving people from large group to small group experiences, how does the upside-down version of that work? How do people assimilate into the life of the larger church when they enter through a small group first?
A Case Study
For the past seven years I've been involved in a "church of small groups" where the emphasis has been on making small groups the front door of the church. We've invested a lot of time, vision, ...