Friday, November 21, 2008

Review - Creating Community

I just finished reading an excellent resource for those involved in small group ministry - "Creating Community - 5 Keys to Building a Small Group Culture" by Andy Stanley and Bill Willits. Creating Community is an excellent blend of vision, motivation, encouragement, and some extremely practical ideas. Whether you are a pastor or a small group director/coach/leader, this book is definitely worth reading. Best of all, it's not just theory - the principles have been put in practice and shown to be highly effective at North Point Church in Atlanta, Georgia.

Stanley and Willits start off making the case why people need (and often crave) community. Leaders need clarity. Churches need strategy. Connection needs simplicity. Processes need reality. The book is very well written, practical and concise. The appendix has several useful items, including a groups director job description, a description of the role of a group leader, and a sample group covenant.

Below is a summary of some of the key points in the book, teaching that caught my attention...

Clarify the Goal
- What do you want people to become?
- What do you want them to do?
- Where do you want them to go?

Define Spiritual Maturity
- Intimacy with God
- Community with Insiders
- Influence with Outsiders

One key feature of the North Point Model is that they actually use closed groups. The key reason is to put a greater emphasis on community and give it time to develop, typically 18-24 months. At that point they will multiply. Along with this they have GroupLink and Starter Groups that allow other ways for groups to form other than multiplication. North Point's well known Foyer - Living Room - Kitchen model is described and explained as well.

Train Less for More  (reduced frequency and distilled content has greater impact)
- Think Life Change
- Cultivate Relationships
- Promote Participation
- Replace Yourself
- Provide Care
- Multiply Influence

These six essentials form the basis of everything they teach, just the need to know info, not the everything they could know. In new leader orientation they introduce all six. These are reviewed during one-on-one meetings with coaches. During the semi-annual training events just one is covered in detail, allowing for leaders to see all six in detail over a three year period.  Leaders huddle with their coaches about 3x/year (March/Aug/Nov), and one-on-one 3x to 4x per year.  There are annual retreats in the Spring and Fall.

Their approach is very clear and well thought-out. The principles and examples will help you decide which aspects are right for your church. If you're involved with small group ministry, do yourself (and your group members) a favor and read Creating Community - 5 Keys to Building a Small Group Culture.

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