On Sunday evening April 2, our Transition Team will present a proposal to change our Sunday morning schedule.
The recommendation is to move our worship to 9am and our Bible study groups to 10:15am. Why are we proposing this change?
Our church mission statement says that we are to Love God, Love Others, and Make Disciples. The last part of our statement is from the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20; the final words of Christ to His disciples before returning to heaven. Jesus had spent three years of His life making disciples of the twelve men He called to follow Him. While Jesus often preached to crowds, the majority of His earthly ministry was focused on those twelve guys. When Jesus’ ascended to heaven, He gave instructions to His followers to carry on the work that He had been doing – to go into all the world and make disciples. We are called to carry on that work today; we are called to make disciples.
Jesus’ model of disciple-making was to call people from the large group (congregation) to the small group (disciples) to follow Him. He focused on the small group rather than large gatherings. Like most churches we have focused primarily on the worship service, the large gathering. Unfortunately, studies show (and statistics prove) that large group gatherings are not an effective means of making disciples. In his book Growing Up, Dr. Robby Gallaty quotes Avery Willis, the long-time vice-president of the International Mission Board: “I really don’t think much discipling is done through preaching… You can impart information and emotion in preaching, but discipleship is more relational.” Discipleship happens in small groups rather than large gatherings.
The goal of this proposal is to provide a Discipleship Pathway to make it easier for people to move from the congregation to the community, to be more effective at making disciples. The worship service is typically the “front-door” to our church; most people make initial contact through attending a worship service. By offering worship first, our desire is to make it easier for people to take their next step and connect to a small group. There are several studies that show the importance of helping people get connected to a small goup (you can read an article from Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway, at the end of this post), but our ultimate reason for doing this is to be obedient to the Lord and be more effective at fulfilling the Great Commission to make disciples.
Please prayerfully consider the following.
(Times are approximate)
- 8:30-9:00am – Fellowship Time in the Fellowship Hall
- 9:00-10:15am – Morning worship service
- 10:15-10:30am – Dismiss to small groups (Sunday School/LIFE Groups)
- 10:30am – 11:30am LIFE Groups/Sunday School
LIFE groups would vary in age range. We would still provide nursery and children’s classes, but above the children’s class, youth and adults would be free to choose what LIFE Group to belong to. This would enable our church to be more intergenerational, and families could choose to attend a LIFE Group together.
LIFE Groups could use traditional literature, but a study guide related to the morning sermon would also provided to the LIFE Group leaders during the prior week.
A “catch-all” group would meet in the Fellowship Hall for guests and visitors to help them connect to the church, with the ultimate goal of moving them into an existing LIFE Group.
Thom Rainer: 6 Benefits of Healthy Groups
Bible engagement. Healthy groups study the Word. LifeWay Research found that people who attend groups spend significantly more time reading and studying the Bible than those not in a group.
Evangelistic accountability. Healthy groups look for opportunities to both show and tell the gospel to both those in and outside the group. When we are dwelling in the Word and it is dwelling in us, we can’t help but tell others the good news of Christ.
Increased retention. In previous research, we found that people who attend groups were five times more likely to stay connected to the church than those who only attend the worship service. People typically stay in a church because of the relationships they develop with others. And these relational connections take place best in groups.
Enhanced discipleship. An hour-long worship service once a week is not sufficient time to disciple people. That’s not to say discipleship doesn’t take place in corporate worship or one-on-one with another believer. It does, but a group setting is needed, too. In a group, people are not only receiving biblical content, they also are experiencing biblical influence, which is an important part of discipleship. To see people grow in discipleship, they must be a part of a worship service, belong to a group, and be involved in ministry. Unless all three are happening, discipleship growth will be limited.
Better stewardship. According to LifeWay Research, giving is higher among those in groups than those who only attend worship services. Why? Because people give to things in which they are involved and believe in their purpose.
Multiplied ministry. Ministry to others becomes natural in the context of groups, rather than an assignment within the church. Group members tend to shepherd one another because they’ve come to know and love one another. So when a group member experiences a crisis, the rest of the group steps in to care for and minister to that person.
Churches with healthy, transformational groups will experience each of these benefits and so much more. I believe an intentional and committed groups strategy can be transformational for your church and community.