Recently, Christianity Today struck up a relationship with Ed Stetzer who now writes a blog for our ministry. And I must admit, I'm thankful.
I'm thankful because he's writing about discipleship, community, and missional living—three topics that are dear to my heart and to yours. And that's because they're goals of small-group ministry.
Last week, Stetzer posted "Four Steps to Community Engagement" and discussed how exactly churches can begin to impact their communities. Though some articles that have a specific number of steps seem to offer paltry advice, Stetzer hits the nail on the head.
First of all, he writes, we must define what success will look like—and it must go beyond bodies, budgets, and buildings. We must learn to define success as transformed lives.
Second, the church must do the hard work of preparing. In other words, churches must train leaders in this area, cast vision, and model how to engage the community.
Third, churches must provide personal leadership to believers. And that's where small-group leaders can have a huge impact. Once your church leaders have trained you, and you've caught the vision, you can explain, model, and coach the vision to your group members. In fact, that's something you can do better with your group members than your small-group pastor can do—because you know your group members at a deeper level. It's critical that you help the ordinary Christ-followers in your group catch the vision because it's part of their individual mission. It's not just something that the church as a whole does.
Fourth, the church must move into the community. And not just to invite people to the church. The church must learn to celebrate the things that build and transform the community, not just those things that build the church.
I've found that small groups really are an amazing way for the church to engage the community, because it allows smaller groups of people with similar passions and interests to engage the community in meaningful ways—ways that sometimes don't feel as authentic or productive if the whole church is involved.
One of my small groups has been developing a relationship with an elderly man who was living in run-down motel. I'm happy to report that we walked with him until he was ready to look for other living accommodations, and then we helped him find a new place to live. My other small group is regularly investing in women and children at a residential program for women who have found themselves homeless for a number of reasons. Simple gestures like making them dinner and playing games with their families are huge wins.
These are just two examples of small groups engaging the community. I have no doubt that your group will do something different, something meaningful in your context. And I hope you use your imagination to dream big about what God might want you to do to engage.
To find out more about helping your small group engage your community, check out our Training Tool on Missional Small Groups and this short video from Carter Moss on why small groups are perfect for community engagement.
What is your group doing to engage the community?