As Christians, we are directed to grow in our faith and mission through our church communities. One model for building church communities is is through small groups — groups where “everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.”
Gilbert Bilezikian, founder of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, says, “It is within the small groups that people can get close enough to know each other, to care and share, to challenge and support, to confide and confess, to forgive and be forgiven, to laugh and weep together, to be accountable to each other. ” Through this kind of sharing, disciples are born.
The making of disciples does not happen in isolation, but through interactive relationships. In the small groups space, participants’ faith is stretched and strengthened, and they form the disciplines needed for discipleship. The small group helps them commit to connecting to God through community and to challenge each other to grow in faith. The group creates an environment that fosters and enables the “magic” to happen. It is the strength of individuals coming together in surrender to God.
In this course, Kate Wesch, an Episcopal priest and small group minister at Epiphany Episcopal Church in Seattle, WA, offers reasons that churches might choose to adopt the small groups model of building community. She offers suggestions for what effective small groups might look like and what activities they might engage. She guides congregations that want to adopt small groups in what questions to ask as they plan their groups, and ways to avoid problems, emphasizing patience and persistence. Finally, she discusses what small groups might achieve for themselves and the parish at large as they grow together in community.
For a preview of Kate’s course, click here.