Today’s post is a guest post adapted from my good friend Rich Birch’s brand new book, Unreasonable Churches: 10 Churches Who Zagged When Others Zigged and Saw More Impact Because of It, for which I had the privilege of writing the forward.
Paul Lawrence worked on the assembly line at the Hyundai plant in Montgomery, Alabama. As he watched a YouTube video on his phone about basic tennis lessons during one of his breaks, another worker, Jamal Henry, overheard the video and sat down across from him.
“Sounds like you’re a tennis player,” Jamal said with a smile. Paul looked up from his phone with a grunt. “Well, I don’t know that I would say that. But tennis is my thing. I’m trying to be more active, you know.” The two men introduced themselves and Jamal invited his coworker to come check out the group he played tennis with every Tuesday night.
Paul was soon playing every week with Jamal’s tennis group, and he also accepted Jamal’s invitation to come with him to church.
What began in a factory break room would be completed in the last place Paul ever expected to go—an “unreasonable church”—a massive church of 38,000 and growing, yes, but also a church that knows how to bring people together through small groups of all shapes and interests.
Many churches have small groups, but they are typically pre-set types initiated by the leadership, and while these groups can reach many…they don’t reach all.
What if we’ve been managing small groups in our congregations completely wrong? What if there was another way that was even more effective?
Whatever your church size is at the moment, here are three reasons why you might want to try a new approach to small groups in your own congregation.
1. People Learn Best When They Work and Play Together
Most small groups meet in churches on Sunday mornings, or on weeknights in a home, focused on Bible study. There’s no doubt studying God’s Word is extremely important, but something special occurs when we combine our desire for pursuing a closer relationship with God with our desire for a relationship with others.
Though it may seem like a pretty hands-off way to train new leaders, this way of learning within the context of playing and working together is not new. Jesus practiced this leadership method often.
Think about the original 12 disciples Jesus chose; despite lacking the background, education and vocational aptitude for the huge enterprise they would undertake, Jesus devoted himself to them. He spent time with that small motley group of men, young and uneducated, on a daily basis. Then, after His death and resurrection, He left them with a commission to “go and make disciples of all nations.”
These “group leaders” received only a mere three years of training before they began leading their own “groups,” and most of it occurred over meals and while traveling. But these very first small groups were catalysts that changed the world, with the Holy Spirit as their “coach” along the way.
The very day after Jesus was baptized, John the Baptizer saw Jesus and said to His disciples, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:35, NIV). When two of John’s disciples heard this, they followed Jesus, who invited them to “come…and you will see” (John 1:39).
This is what Jamal did with Paul Lawrence; he invited him to “come and see.”
When Paul first attended the “Drop Shots Tennis Group,” he connected with people who put God first in their lives—not tennis—and his life changed forever.