1. Organize small group meetings
This approach typically involves members gathering in each other’s homes for food, fellowship and faith-oriented activities, such as prayer and Bible study.
Terry Rush, minister for the Memorial Drive Church of Christ in Tulsa, Okla., advocates this approach:
The groups allow our members to develop deeper and richer connections. Too, it seems to allow our people a place to be additionally, actively engaged in a format that has brought refreshing hope to the church.
Alan Phillips, an elder of the Lake Cities Church of Christ in Trophy Club, Texas, said:
We have consistently had more people in attendance on a given Sunday night in small groups than we ever had when the church met together at the church building.
We have also found that relationships are strengthened, shepherding is more effective, visitors are less intimidated, and more prayer takes place.
Steve Kenney, minister for the North Central Church of Christ in Indianapolis, said:
The experience has worked well, but it does take a higher level of commitment for people to prepare and participate meaningfully. It changes our a.m. services in that there is not so much pressure to finish exactly in 60 to 75 minutes because we will not be driving back for evening services.
In an urban area like Indianapolis, minimizing driving is a thoughtful thing to do. This also helps take our faith out of the building and move it into our homes.
As far as attendance goes, the total small group attendance exceeds a Sunday evening service.
But there are potential drawbacks.
Kevin Jensen, minister for the Summit View Church of Christ in Yakima, Wash., shared this concern:
One of the issues we’ve noticed in the absence of Sunday evening worship services is a lack of opportunities to train new people for leadership in worship: opportunities to preach/teach, to lead singing, to read Scripture, to lead prayers, etc.
We want to give our very best presentation on Sunday mornings, but when can we train the people who lead on Sunday mornings?
We’ve done a little bit of personnel training during the Sunday morning Bible class time but need more. One idea we’ve considered is holding Sunday evening devotionals, the purpose of which would be to train our members in leadership and also in congregational singing. This idea is still in its developmental stages.
At the same time, small groups can become cliquish and unwelcoming — purposely or not — to newcomers, some leaders said.
Danny Dodd, minister for the Levy Church of Christ in North Little Rock, Ark., reported:
Some of the groups here have basically turned into fellowship groups — much too large to really meet the definition of small groups. This has resulted in inertia in the ministry.
The folks in the groups are content to enjoy their friends and are not intentional about adding new people. New members here have difficulty finding a group, and no new ones are being created. We have no overall leadership either from a staff position or volunteer. People happy in their groups have no urgency about doing anything differently.
For the record, the Levy church is working to make the groups more intentional and evangelistic.