Thinking Out Loud

January 23, 2018

Your Other Small Group: Why You Should Have Two

Back in the day, they were called cell groups.

In the earliest models provided by church growth experts they were drawn as small circles (cells) connected to a large circle (the parent church). They later came to be known as small groups or house groups or house church fellowships.

Full disclosure: My wife and I haven’t been in one for a long time. In some ways her worship teams provide that fellowship and interaction for her. My bookstore community provides a huge source of connection throughout the week. If we could find the right group, meeting at the right time that works with our schedules, I would certainly want to sign up.

I am a great believer in small groups. At the fastest growing church movement in Canada, The Meeting House, pastor Bruxy Cavey is known for telling his people, “If some week you face a choice between attending your house group and attending church on Sunday, choose the house group.” There is an immediacy and an intimacy in sharing our journey with others, whether bound by the age and stage we’re at in life, or by geographic proximity.

Today, I want to suggest something a little out of the ordinary; something you don’t hear in the annual appeals to become a member of a Connection Group or Life Group or whatever your church calls it.

You need to also have one part of the week where you’re connected to your broader community.

You need to have contact with people who are outside the Christian bubble.

You need a non-work, non-neighborhood, non-family context in which to rub shoulders with people outside the bubble. Unchurched people. People far from God. People Jesus loves.

Why?

Because doing so would be intentional.

In a Jerusalem-Judea-Samaria context, your neighbors, family members and co-workers are your primary sphere of influence. That’s your Jerusalem.

But you need a Judea.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Coaching a soccer or baseball team
  • Serving on a civic (local government) committee
  • Singing in a community choir
  • Sort donations at the local food bank
  • Joining a book group
  • Helping out with a local theater production
  • Taking a community college course
  • Sign up as a volunteer at the seniors home
  • Offer to be scheduled once a week at a thrift shop
  • Serve at your elementary school’s breakfast program

These types of things provide us with opportunities to be salt and light in our respective communities.

I realize you are more accustomed to the type of appeal we talked about yesterday, to use your gifts in the church. I also believe that a small group Bible study needs to be a higher priority.

But next, I think we need to consider doing and being more in our respective communities. We need to reach out to the wider populace which surrounds us. It’s good for them, and it’s good for us.

Some of us are far too trapped inside the bubble. We need a second small group.

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September 1, 2015

Homeschool Parents’ Paranoia Extends To Sunday School Teachers at Their Own Church

This archive article is the second of two in a mini-series on the homeschool movement which I began yesterday. In this case, this will actually be the third time around for this one, but the other two were over five years ago…

homeschool fishFor seven months, Mrs. W. and I (but mostly her) were forced to become homeschoolers during a period when Kid One wasn’t quite fitting into the public school near our home. Despite the short period in which we did this, we became immediate friends with other people in the homeschool movement, and I would say we can somewhat understand their motivation.

So if you’re a homeschooler, let me say that I get it when it comes to not wanting your children to be under the influence — for six hours each weekday — of people who do not share your core values, some of whom may be 180-degrees opposed to your core values.

What I don’t get is not wanting to put your kids in the Sunday School program — some now call it small groups for kids program — of your home church. Not wanting anyone else to teach your kids anything. If your home church is that lax when it comes to recruiting teachers, or if you are that concerned that any given teacher in your church’s children’s program could espouse some really wacky doctrine — or worse, admit that he or she watches sports on Sundays — then maybe you should find another church.

To everyone else, if these comments seem a bit extreme, they’re not. Apparently, in one particular church that was under discussion this week, the homeschool crowd — which makes up the vast majority of those in the ‘people with kids’ category at this church — has decided that absolutely nobody else is going to teach their kids anything about the Bible. (Those same parents say they’re too tired from teaching their children all week to take on a weekend Sunday School assignment.)

In other words, it’s not just people in the public school system who aren’t good enough to teach their kids, it’s also people in their home church.

I am so glad that my parents didn’t feel that way. I think of the people who taught me on Sunday mornings, the people who ran the Christian Service Brigade program for boys on Wednesday nights, the people who were my counselors and instructors at Church camp, and I say, “Thank you; thank you; thank you! Thank you for sharing your Christian life and testimony and love of God’s word with me when I was 5, 8, 11, 14 and all the ages in between. And thank you to my parents for not being so protective as to consider that perhaps these people weren’t good enough to share in the task of my Christian education.”

I also think of Donna B., the woman who taught Kid One at the Baptist Church that became our spiritual refuge for a couple of years. He really flourished spiritually under her teaching, reinforced of course, by what we were doing in the home.

What message does it send to kids when the only people who have it right when it comes to rightly dividing the Word of truth are Mommy and Daddy? And what about the maturity that comes with being introduced to people who, while they share the 7-12 core doctrines that define a Christ-follower, may have different opinions about matters which everyone considers peripheral?

Where does all this end? Are these kids allowed to visit in others’ homes? When they go to the grocery store, are they allowed to converse with the woman at the checkout? My goodness; are they even allowed to answer the phone?

I’m sorry, homeschoolers, but when you start trashing the Sunday School teachers at your own church, you’ve just crossed the line from being passionate, conservative Christian parents to being downright cultish.

…There’s more to the story (two weeks later) — In an off-the-blog discussion I realized there is a critical factor missing in the original article that couldn’t be shared at the time. Because homeschool families made up the majority of this church congregation, it kind of stopped the Sunday School in its tracks. But more important, it ended up preventing any kind of mid-week program that would have been an outreach to neighborhood families that the pastor regarded as a vital element of the church’s ministry; and ultimately the church simply never grew.

However, when all attempts at outreach were ended — the pastor was forced to give up that agenda — one of the core family parents said, and this is a direct quote, “Isn’t it great; all the new people have left. That’s right, the new families that had wandered in got that spidey sense that told them they just didn’t belong and they all left that church, and the remaining families were glad that they left. Talk about backward priorities.


Update (2015) — The pastor of that church ended up leaving the denomination and is now enjoying a ministry on another part of the continent. I do seriously question any Christian denomination allowing all this to happen without severing ties with the church in question. In that particular town, that particular denomination has a reputation and it’s not a particularly good one. If I were part of a district or national office staff, I would be quite concerned.

May 8, 2011

Homeschool Parents Won’t Teach or Allow Others to Teach Sunday School

This is another post from the vault, this one from two years ago; May, 2009.  Sadly, it’s based on a true story. 

homeschool fishFor seven months, Mrs. W. and I (but mostly her) were forced to become homeschoolers during a period when Kid One wasn’t quite fitting into the public school near our home. Despite the short period in which we did this, we became immediate friends with other people in the homeschool movement, and I would say we can somewhat understand their motivation.

So if you’re a homeschooler, let me say that I get it when it comes to not wanting your children to be under the influence — for six hours each weekday — of people who do not share your core values, some of whom may be 180-degrees opposed to your core values.

What I don’t get is not wanting to put your kids in the Sunday School program — some now call it small groups for kids program — of your home church. Not wanting anyone else to teach your kids anything. If your home church is that lax when it comes to recruiting teachers, or if you are that concerned that any given teacher in your church’s children’s program could espouse some really wacky doctrine — or worse, admit that he or she watches sports on Sundays — then maybe you should find another church.

To everyone else, if these comments seem a bit extreme, they’re not. Apparently, in one particular church that was under discussion this week, the homeschool crowd — which makes up the vast majority of those in the ‘people with kids’ category at this church — has decided that absolutely nobody else is going to teach their kids anything about the Bible. (Those same parents say they’re too tired from teaching their children all week to take on a weekend Sunday School assignment.)

In other words, it’s not just people in the public school system who aren’t good enough to teach their kids, it’s also people in their home church.

I am so glad that my parents didn’t feel that way. I think of the people who taught me on Sunday mornings, the people who ran the Christian Service Brigade program for boys on Wednesday nights, the people who were my counselors and instructors at Church camp, and I say, “Thank you; thank you; thank you! Thank you for sharing your Christian life and testimony and love of God’s word with me when I was 5, 8, 11, 14 and all the ages in between. And thank you to my parents for not being so protective as to consider that perhaps these people weren’t good enough to share in the task of my Christian education.”

I also think of Donna B., the woman who taught Kid One at the Baptist Church that became our spiritual refuge for a couple of years. He really flourished spiritually under her teaching, reinforced of course, by what we were doing in the home.

What message does it send to kids when the only people who have it right when it comes to rightly dividing the Word of truth are Mommy and Daddy? And what about the maturity that comes with being introduced to people who, while they share the 7-12 core doctrines that define a Christ-follower, may have different opinions about matters which everyone considers peripheral?

Where does all this end? Are these kids allowed to visit in others’ homes? When they go to the grocery store, are they allowed to converse with the woman at the checkout? My goodness; are they even allowed to answer the phone?

I’m sorry, homeschoolers, but when you start trashing the Sunday School teachers at your own church, you’ve just crossed the line from being passionate, conservative Christian parents to being downright cultish.

Further reading: Apparently we visited some of this topic before, on November 5th, 2008. You can read that post here.


Update (May 17) — In an off-the-blog discussion today, I realized there is a critical factor missing in the original article that couldn’t be shared at the time.  Because homeschool families made up the majority of this church congregation, it kind of stopped the Sunday School in its tracks.  But more important, it ended up preventing any kind of mid-week program that would have been an outreach to neighborhood families that the pastor regarded as a vital element of the church’s ministry; and ultimately the church simply never grew.  However, when all attempts at outreach were ended, one of the core family parents said, and this is a direct quote, “Isn’t it great; all the new people have left.”   Talk about backward priorities.

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