Reach Groups

The Reach Small Groups Model

“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”

Thomas Jefferson

Overview: “In a growing church, every system should be tweaked or completely blown up every few years”

Reach Church has had several small group models and approaches throughout the years. Up until this point, we have been a church “with” small groups. In order to have an increasing number of successful small groups at Reach Church going forward, we must change not only our current model and approach, but we must change the very essence of our culture of discipleship and groups by becoming a church “of” small groups.

Andy Stanley, Pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia says, “Small Groups are not an appendage to our ministry; they are our ministry. We think groups. We are driven by groups.” If we are to have vibrant small groups at Reach Church, we must embrace the same kind of thinking.

Theology of Small Groups:Most people have no idea what problems community solves.”

Churches tend to put a lot of focus on the void in our hearts that only God can fill. While that is certainly true, there is also a void in our hearts that not even God can fill: a human-shaped hole that has existed from the very beginning. Even though Adam was in a state of sinless perfection, he was “alone” and it was “not good.” In every human heart, there is a human void that needs to be filled. Community is central to our own hearts and central to everything we believe:

  1. Community tells God’s story
    1. God is a community of persons, and the community of persons in the Godhead is the source of our relational human nature
    2. Being created in the image of God signifies we cannot escape the irreducible minimum requirement each person presents when they walk in the door of a church: they have to find community
  2. Community tells our story
    1. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17. We will not grow unless we are interacting in an intense matter with others. We are wired to change best, deepest, and most often when we confide in others about where God is at work and ask them for intercession, accountability, and
      forgiveness when we fail.
    2. There are countless verses about “one-anothering” in Scripture: love one another, forgive one another, be devoted to one another, etc.
    3. From a research study: People who had bad health habits, but strong social ties lived significantly longer than people who had great health habits but were isolated. In other words, it is better to eat Twinkies with good friends than to eat broccoli alone.
  3. Community tells the church’s story
    1. The entire conception of the church is depicted in the deep, relational intimacy of the marriage between a groom (Jesus) and bride (church). This marriage is the supreme event for which the church is being prepared and defines the very purpose for which any church exists: pulling people together in preparation for Christ himself. A random, disconnected, disjointed collection of loosely affiliated acquaintances will never do when that moment comes. God is imagining a beautiful body, a loving and passionately engaged partner, and one who knows how to live forever in relationship.
    2. The credibility of Jesus’s life and message in the eyes of unbelievers is dependent upon the way we, as his followers, relate with one another.
    3. “Christian community is the last apologetic.” Francis Schaeffer

Foundational Community Passages

  • Genesis 1: 24-28
  • Genesis 2: 18-25
  • Genesis 6-9
  • Genesis 15-17
  • Exodus 18
  • Psalm 133
  • Proverbs 15:22, 18:24
  • Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12
  • Ezekiel 34
  • Mark 3:14
  • John 17
  • Acts 2: 41-47, 4:32-37, 6:1-7
  • Romans 12
  • 1 Corinthians 12
  • Ephesians 2, 4
  • 1 Peter 5: 1-4

Clarifying the Goal
It is important to be clear about what we want our goal to be in discipleship. It is helpful to ask 3 questions:

  1. What do you want people to become?
    1. We want people to become “Nothing But Jesus people”, growing in relationship with Jesus, and becoming more like Jesus
  2. What do we want people to do?
    1. 1) Grow in intimacy with Jesus 2) Grow in community with “insiders” within the church 3) Gain influence with outsiders (evangelism)
      1. Reach Groups exist to form these 3 key growth areas
  3. Where do you want people to go?
    1. We want people to go into Small Groups

Why Small Groups?
There are many ways to define discipleship, but the essence is, “followers of Christ striving to become more like Jesus in every aspect of life.” Groups are essential to having vibrant discipleship at any church, because no two people move toward Jesus in the exact same way. Small groups are the best way to serve the diverse discipleship needs of a church.

In order for Small Groups to be the primary avenue for discipleship in a church, small groups must be the number one ministerial priority of the whole church

  • EVERYTHING in the church must 1) expand the weekend service or 2) advance small groups. If a ministry or event isn’t a step towards accomplishing one of these 2 things, it should not be done
  • Groups are more effective when they stand alone, rather than having to compete with other church programs
  • When new people visit the church and ask what they should do next, there’s only one button: join a small group. If small groups are just an option on a long menu of choices, they will lose every time
  • The only numerical goal that should matter in a church is group participation.
  • While other data can be tracked (such as Sunday morning attendance), small group participation is a truer measure of the vibrancy in a church
  • Small groups become a primary entry point for having others attend church for the first time
  • The more we move away from the mentality of “the weekend is everything,” the better chance we have to reach entire communities

“Most ministries in a church are led by either staff or volunteers who think of their ministry like a store in a shopping center. They are glad for the space in the mall, but focus solely on their own business, remaining aware of other shops only to the extent they must. They cooperate with the shopping center when it benefits them. This perspective doesn’t make them bad people. It is a mindset that develops out of positive passion for their calling, expertise to meet the needs they do, and investment made in the building their ministry. If you seek to become a ‘church of groups’ however, you need to move from the shopping mall to the department store. Ministries within a department store-style church have a higher level of integration into the vision and strategy underlying the small group effort. When ministries within a church view themselves in this way, the language used to describe roles and tactics becomes unified across departments. The methods of organization used for small groups translate into each subministry so they function more similarly. Each area, as a part of a larger whole, has to increase their interest in how other parts of the store are doing.”

Our goal at Reach Church is to achieve 80% participation in small groups.


Reach Small Group Model

“Reach Groups – Where No One Stands Alone”


The name for the encompassing group/discipleship ministry at Reach Church will be called “Reach Groups.” In order to reach as many people as possible, Reach Groups will be comprised of two separate kinds of groups:

Reach Groups:

  1. Community Groups – “Traditional” in-home groups
  2. Affinity Groups – Groups based on common interest or demographic, such as women’s groups, men’s groups, sports groups, interest groups, etc.

Although both kinds of groups will be considered a part of the “Reach Group” umbrella, the Community Group will be communicated as the primary and most important kind of Reach Group

Community Groups:

  • Community groups will be closed groups (once the group starts, new members will only be added if 1) the group agrees to add more or 2) the group has not yet reached capacity).
    • Why closed groups?: Groups that constantly change seldom experience authentic community
  • Community Groups have a 18-24-month covenant period
    • Community Group Covenant: All groups will sign a “group covenant” at the beginning of their covenant period. This ensures that the group will be a predictable environment where participants experience authentic community and spiritual growth.
      • The covenant will include agreeing to: authenticity, confidentiality, respect, availability, and potential multiplication (starting a new group after 18-24 months)
        • The covenant will also be clear on certain group expectations, such as:
        • The group will meet from ___ through ___
        • The group will meet on ____ nights
        • The group sessions will begin at ____pm and end at ____pm
        • The group time will typically consist of ____ minutes of sharing, ___ minutes of study/discussion, and ___ minutes of prayer
        • The group will be a closed group unless the members agree to additional members
          • Attending and participating on a regular basis
          • Praying for other group members on a weekly basis
        • Community Groups will consist of 12-15 people and will allow sign-ups up to 20 people.
          • Larger groups avoid having long periods of time without meeting, as groups will often cancel if there are too few attenders
          • Larger groups create a more welcoming environment for people new to the church/small group ministry
        • Community Groups will meet twice a month.
          • Every month, the group leader will send a survey with potential meeting dates, and the group will agree on the meeting dates that fit the majority of their schedules. Not creating the opportunity for flexibility is unnecessary.

Affinity Groups

  • Affinity Groups are open groups (anyone is welcome to join at any time)
  • Affinity Groups follow a semester-based schedule
    • Groups will form and begin studies/meeting times from: Late August – November, January – Easter, and 2 weeks after Easter – June
    • The semester-based schedule allows for repeated periods of concentrated sign-ups throughout the year
  • Affinity Groups can consist of any number of people
  • Affinity groups meet at a frequency that works best for what they are doing. Can be weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.

Community Group Guide

There are 4 levels of belonging: Public belonging, Social belonging, Personal belonging, and Intimate belonging. Deeper levels of belonging (personal/intimate) may develop among people in small groups; however, small groups should focus on social belonging (a place for friendships). We have oversold the importance of personal and intimate relationships, and we have tried to force small group members into such relationships, even though groups are naturally structured to accommodate social, not personal or intimate, belonging.

By not promising people life-changing, intimate relationships, but rather just a safe place to meet new people, make friends, grow in faith and have fun, leaders don’t feel as if they didn’t do their job if deep intimacy in the whole group isn’t achieved. The small group leader accomplishes his role by providing social belonging for members of the group.

Curriculum: “Our groups aren’t determined by our study, it is defined by significant relationships, built around the stories that God has written with our lives and the story he’s writing for our group.”

Group leaders will be free to choose the appropriate study for their group, with final approval from appropriate oversight

  • Sermon guides will be offered for reference and an option for study
  • DVD studies are encouraged; Book studies are discouraged
  • A library of suggested curriculums will be offered to all group leaders

“All church campaigns” will occur every January and September

  • All groups will study the same thing a few times a year, delving into interactive studies around the sermon series
    • Getting everyone to study the same thing realigns leaders and staff with the heart of the whole church

Leadership/Training

Reach Group Leadership Team

  1. Designated staff member (Tyler Schoenberger)
  2. Designated Elder (Jordan Schoenberger)
  3. Community Leaders
    1. A Community Leader is a seasoned member of our Small Group Ministry that the church has identified as someone who "gets it and lives it." The Community Leader will care about Reach Group Leaders and the success of small groups.

 

The benefit of this communication/leadership stream is to have an identifiable person to contact with questions, concerns, and problems that are occurring in Reach Groups. Also, this structure ensures important events that are happening in the lives of members are being communicated up the chain to the church leadership, as well as, information being disseminated from the top down effectively and efficiently with request for volunteers and participation in events.


Coaching

One of the main roles of the Community Leader is coaching. Community Leaders form “Support Teams” with approximately 4 other Reach Group leaders. The Community Leader connects with their Reach Group leaders on a one-on-one basis as needed and holds quarterly meetings with all of their Reach Group leaders. The purpose is to share ideas, resolve issues, develop an on-going relationship with the small group leaders, and to connect Reach Groups together.

When coaching other Small Group leaders, Community Leaders should:

  • Discover with their leader = give snapshots of what God is doing in life and ministry
  • Develop their leaders = focus on specific challenges to address and opportunities for growth
  • Dream together = focus on what God is doing in their lives and in his kingdom

Leader Requirements:

  • Be a member
  • Embrace the culture of Reach Church
  • Have good chemistry with the staff and other leaders
  • Possess a level of competence/social intelligence to lead/host groups

Training: “If you train your group leaders to provide an environment where people are loved and the gospel is shared, God and the Holy Spirit will take care of everything else.”

NBJ 201: Reach Group Leader Training: This is our basic training for all new leaders (for both community groups and affinity groups). This course prepares group leaders by focusing on four main areas of the Small Group Ministry. (Offered approximately 4 times a year.

  1. Small Group Strategy
  2. Small Group Survival Guide
  3. Small Group Spiritual Health
  4. Small Group Support Systems

During the training, we will focus on essentials such as:

  • The purpose of Reach Groups (Groups exist to create a predictable environment where participants experience authentic community and spiritual growth with self, each other, and in the community)
  • How to cultivate relationships (Planning activities, going out, etc.)
  • How to promote participation
  • Raising up other leaders
  • Providing care for your group (Care calendars, prayer requests, visitations, etc.)
  • Multiplying your group’s influence
    • Creating a small group culture that says, “I am going to get this guy in our group if it kills me”

Online Training

  • We will develop an online training resource platform in order to train leaders year-round

Reach Groups Sign-Ups and Communication

Reach Groups will have periods of sign-ups throughout the year in order to create a buzz and concentrated push to get more sign-ups.

For Community Groups: Since these groups are closed groups, during the sign-up period, there will be more of an emphasis to form and start new groups, rather than adding people to existing groups (unless an existing group has room for more members)

For Affinity Groups: These groups are more flexible and will be open to add existing members throughout the year; however, during sign-up periods, we will still have a sign- up push for the Affinity Groups and (depending on the group) change the topic of the studies at the semester points to attract more sign-ups.

Avenues for Sign-Ups

  • Connect Card
  • Reach Group Table/Small Group Catalog
  • Website/Phone
  • GroupLink

GroupLink

GroupLink is the major event in which new people are strongly encouraged to attend, in order to connect them to either 1) an existing community/affinity group or 2) with other new people in order to start a brand-new group

  • Occurs 3 times a year (January, April, and August), which follows the semester-based schedule

Staff Leadership

It will be a requirement that all staff members and church officers are a vibrant part of a Reach Group, specifically a Community Group. Staff members do not need to lead a group, but they must be a part of one.

Budgeting

We will be offering reimbursements for our group leaders in order to support their ministry

  • Leadership will offer reimbursements at a predetermined rate for childcare expenses. Though we are not responsible for finding each group a babysitter, all groups have the opportunity to get reimbursed at a predetermined rate for childcare
  • Community Leaders and Reach Group Leaders will each have a budget for the year to take their leaders/members out for lunch and coffee

Roll-Out Plan

  1. Organize (February-March)
    1. A “census” of active Reach group leaders and members will be taken, including a “health assessment” of current Reach Groups to check on their status
  2. Create a “Test Model” (March-August)
    1. Using our already established, healthy groups (or new groups we are confident in starting), we will begin to test the Reach Small Groups Model, obtaining feedback from groups and leaders in order to make adjustments
    2. Host our first NBJ 201: Reach Group Leader Training for the “Test Model” groups (all leaders will be required to attend)
    3. Identify a team of Community Leaders to form the Leadership Team
    4. Form the first Support team(s) amongst Community Leaders and Small Group Leaders
  3. Communication Updates
    1. Update website
    2. Revamp Reach Groups table/catalog
    3. Increase communication about the importance of Reach Groups
  4. Schedule membership classes (NBJ 101-104) in order to get newly interested leaders listed as members

  5. Church-Wide Push/First GroupLink (August)

Appendix: What about Reach Classes?

Reach Groups are where Christian Formation occurs - the shared ownership of Christian Practice. They create space for believers to be known intimately and for other believers to speak encouragement and life into one another. They serve as an anchor for members to the larger church congregation. Reach Groups build Bible courage and character, while Reach Classes build Bible Content.

“When people learn I oversee adult classes at The Village, the most common response I hear is, ‘But don’t classes compete with Home Groups?’ It’s an understandable question, knowing our historical “simple church” model at The Village and reflecting a broader common notion that over-programmed churches are the enemy of deep discipleship. But it can point to a potential blind spot in our concept of how discipleship takes place and the tools that help it do so. While we’ve seen firsthand how essential Home Groups are to building community, we’ve also realized they can be less effective at building understanding of the Scriptures, leading us to bring classes and other learning environments back into our strategy for discipleship. Asking Home Groups to bear the load of theologically educating an entire church body is unrealistic, especially considering that the average church typically has only a handful of capable teachers.”
- Jen Wilkin, The Village Church

As our Reach Group ministry increases, the need for theologically equipping Reach Classes will increase in demand. Groups and classes need not compete with each other, but rather complement each other. Reach Classes will further equip leaders as they delve deeper with their groups.

Reach Classes

Membership Track

NBJ 101: Nothing But Jesus in my Church

  • NBJ 101 explores the mission and vision of Reach Church, expressly in the message of Nothing But Jesus. You will hear about how Nothing But Jesus impacts and influences everything we do as a church – our worship services, our ministries, and even what we believe.

NBJ 102: Nothing But Jesus in my Relationships

  • We were made to live in relationship with one another. All of our relationships – families, friends, co-workers, spouses, and children – and interactions with others demand a level of service, sacrifice, and love that only Jesus can give us. In NBJ 102, you will learn how Nothing But Jesus shapes our relationships with one another.

NBJ 103: Nothing But Jesus in my Life

  • “The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” Psalm 24:1. Nothing But Jesus isn’t just a tagline or mantra, it’s a way of life for all areas of our lives. Through this new lens, you will see every area of your life as a fuller picture of all God has for you. NBJ 103 will teach you how to see Nothing But Jesus in even the seemingly monotonous things of life.

NBJ 104: Nothing But Jesus in my Heart

  • Perhaps the most impactful thing of the message of Nothing But Jesus is its reaching to the innermost parts of our very beings. Throughout Jesus’ own ministry, he continually got past the superficial and spoke directly to the real issue - our hearts. In NBJ 104, you will dive into the recesses of your own heart, ultimately seeing your own need for Nothing But Jesus in a new and transforming way.

Leadership Track

NBJ 201: Reach Group Leader Training

  • This class is a requirement for those who wish to pursue leadership as Reach Group Leaders or Church Officers at Reach Church

NBJ 202: Church Officer Training

  • NBJ 202 is for those who feel a calling toward being a church officer – specifically elders and deacons.

Special Offerings (Examples)

NBJ 301: Systematic Theology/Modern Church Philosophy

NBJ 302:Nothing But Jesus in my parenting

NBJ 303: Nothing But Jesus in my marriage

NBJ 304: A Nothing But Jesus Worldview


Resources

Creating Community. Andy Stanley and Bill Willits
 
Transformational Groups. Ed Stetzer and Eric Geiger
 
Building a Life-Changing Small Group Ministry. Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson
 
Small Groups for the Rest of Us. Chris Surratt
 
Starting Small: The Ultimate Small Group Blueprint. Ben Reed
 
Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups. Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas
 

© 2020 Reach Church