Clearing the Way for Small Groups

Clearing the Way for Small Groups

How small groups became the central ministry at Zion Church
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Whenever we talk about the African American church, or African American people for that matter, the idea of community is not foreign. But it’s about including this intentional spiritual component where we’re not sitting listening to someone teach us, but we’re teaching each other. We’re sharing life together.

It’s quite refreshing to be in a group where we’re focusing on curriculum or we’re focusing on a topic, but we’re also enjoying each other, and enjoying the fact that all of us come from different walks of life or different experiences and can share those with each other.

Can you tell me a little bit about your small-group ministry model?

Nadine: We were debating yesterday what kind of model we have. We have a hybrid.

Terri: Most people join groups based on their geography. A lot of our groups are age and stage: men’s, women’s, married, and single.

Nadine: And our leaders choose the topics they study.

Terri: We ask them to consider the needs of the individuals in the group they’re leading, and the group gets to have input on the study that they do. We recommend some authors, but they’re welcome to choose whatever they’d like as long as they run it by us.

For us, the non-negotiables are fellowship, prayer time and praise reports, and the teaching/discussion time. We’re just starting to incorporate a new component called CPR that we’re going to be asking our leaders to discuss at the end of their group meetings. We adapted this from How People Change by Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp:

  • What central point do we need to understand and master?

  • How does the central point apply to your personal life?

  • How will the central point affect your relationships both personally and in ministry?

How do you find and train new leaders?

Claire: We have an apprentice model. Folks who are apprenticing attend a three-session orientation. After they’ve been an apprentice for a while, if they decide they want to lead a group, we have a leadership track that consists of three main parts. People apply. They are trained. And then they are placed.

Each of those components has a series of steps, but the goal is to learn as much as possible about the person on the front end. Then as we take them through the training and orientation process, we can get a sense of their skills.

All of our training is done in relational environments that are conducted almost like small groups, so that we can begin to see where their strengths are, where their weaknesses are, what placement would be best for them, and what kind of coaching they may need once they are ready to be placed in a small group. We do require that those who are small-group leaders at our church be members, so if they are not members, that is incorporated into their training. This gives us a very solid sense of who they are, not just as an individual, but as a disciple-maker and a leader.

Terri: One of the things we’re most excited about right now is how we’re preparing people to lead. Last year we incorporated intensive discipleship training for all of our new leaders. We do a 12-session small group with every new leader using the Real Life Discipleship Training Manual. We have each new leader lead a session of the group so that we can see how they interact with people and how they lead a discussion. It gives us a glimpse of how they would lead a small group.

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