Recently the group of guys who head to the YSC monthly for Second Saturday Serve has grown so much that not everyone can play at once. This gives them the opportunity to sit down and have more intentional conversations with the young men. These are young men who literally can't go to church, but they are a part of a small group—whether they realize it or not. As a result, NCC guys are occasionally contacted by the young men who have been released.
The Living Room
One of my favorite groups at NCC was started a decade ago by my friend John Hasler. John has a heart for the under-resourced, and he recognizes the reality that when we're focused on helping "those people" who are "out there," we often do little good and much harm.
So John started The Living Room, a small group that aims to bring together people at NCC who have a place to live with those who do not. Like many other small groups, they have dinner, a Bible study, and a discussion. On any given Wednesday you'll find well-paid young professionals breaking bread with jobless and homeless neighbors.
Something I've learned over my many years of living in the city is that people who have significant physical need often aren't simply lacking for food or shelter or clothing. They're lacking deep relationships and a community of people who care for them.
And when our educated, driven, successful congregants begin to make friends with some people who are less fortunate, "those people" become friends with dreams and hopes and histories. They begin to realize that but for a single decision—often one beyond their control—their positions in life could be reversed.
Humility, grace, and gratitude take center stage. No longer is it about "fixing them" but about loving each other as friends, brothers, and sisters.
Bump, Set, Spike!
On the surface, volleyball doesn't seem like the most spiritual activity, but our volleyball group might be one of our most effective outreach ministries.
The group had been informally meeting for five years. But last summer, Amy Wall, one of the participants, decided to make it an official group when our summer theme for small groups was: "Have fun. Bring a friend."
Amy now leads it with Jodi Otto. They are both incredible women of God who don't just organize a volleyball game, but create space for conversation, and intentionally invest in the lives of those who attend.
And because there's no sermon, no devotional, and no opening prayer, group members feel free to invite coworkers, neighbors, and friends to come play. People who wouldn't think of darkening the doors of a church—people who would be turned off if asked to bow their heads and close their eyes for prayer before playing—are able to experience the church and the community of Jesus. This opens the door for conversations about faith.
Last summer, a young Marine who had started attending NCC showed up at the group. Amy and Jodi were encouraging folks to invite their friends, so he brought his Marine buddies, most of whom had no other connection to our church.
One of the Marines who began coming got married shortly after joining the group, so his wife started coming with him. The group, like any good small group would, embraced them with open arms. They had them over for Thanksgiving, threw them a baby shower when they got pregnant, and went to their house for dinner. The young couple was overwhelmed by the fact that they were loved even though they weren't part of the church.