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Beta Vitality: Transform groups from being strictly business to… opportunities to share!


At our last Beta Vitality meeting we watched a short video featuring Rev. Curtis Brown who works in the Conference office.  The topic, the module we were discussing, was small groups and he told a story of a Board of Trustees.  The Board could not find anyone to be chair (imagine that!) so they went directly to a younger, newer member of the church who they believed was a good person for the job – he also seemed to be a good fix it guy and God knows that’s what’s important!  The young man’s experience of the Church came primarily through Disciple Bible Study – he had never been on a committee in the church.  So when they had their first meeting with him in charge he started the meeting as he had experienced in Bible Study – he asked members to share about their lives and faith.  For a group of mostly men, often older who usually go right into talking about dirty carpets and fixing toilets this was a shock!  By the end of the story the Board of Trustees became a close knit, prayerful and even mission minded group.  At the end of the video Rev. Brown offered the challenge that we should to go any and every group in the church (even Trustees and Finance) expecting to meet God.

Usually when we think of a “small group ministry” it is about the creation of new small groups – a new program.  But the trend these days is not toward programming but relationships.  The problem with creating more small groups is that people in a smaller church (and most churches in our Annual Church are smaller) are already involved in the church…. Time doesn’t allow for more commitment.  (Disciple Bible Study requires meeting for about 35 weeks for 90 minutes and there is a lot of “home work.”)  Instead of creating more groups, said Curtis Brown, we need to transform the groups we have from being strictly business to… opportunities to share our faith and meet God.  Committees, choir, Bell Choir, Band, classes, UMW, the Men’s group, Youth and so on, all are potential opportunities to grow in our faith together.  For years now at the beginning of Church Council instead of a simple devotion, a reading from Upper Room, we have asked some sort of question about the lives of each other.  Sometimes they are pretty mundane questions – what was your favorite Valentine’s Day?  Other times they are more spiritually probing:  How do you feel about the silence in worship and is silence a means of grace for you?  In the process, over time we have grown closer.  When that happens, and we know each other more as persons, the spirit changes – it can’t be just business.

I remember once in a class after some good sharing saying to them that rather than the book we are studying, or the Bible, that they are the primary text.  After than it became the theme of the class.  Our experience, our lives, our stories are the first text.  There is a wealth of spiritual subject matter in the lives of people; I believe that it isn’t programs that move churches, it’s relationships.  The more we can nurture relationships in the groups we have; the more we create spaces for people to share them more vital we will become as a church.

There is not confirmation for youth this spring so we are going to offer it to adults on Sunday evenings.  At first glance this can sound like indoctrination but it isn’t, just ask the youth who’ve been confirmed.  In it too the first text are the participants.  How do WE see God?  What is OUR image of Jesus?  Why are we United Methodists?  It will be a great small group.

Pastor Jim

Pastor Jim


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