Groups at Park City Church [white paper]
The group strategy is integral to our overall mission of making, maturing, and multiplying followers of Jesus.
Multiple research organizations have noted the significance of the small group experience in the maturing of believers. No single ministry area holds as much potential for life transformation as that of the small group ministry. As a church, it is in our best interest to leverage this statistically significant ministry for the sake of the whole. To leave the small group ministry to chance, or to the preferences of the loudest and most persuasive voices would be a mismanagement of opportunity.
The leaders of Park City Church have prayerfully determined a desired pathway for the people of our church to experience groups.
The Simple Groups Process:
ALPHA -> ROOTED -> SERMON BASED SMALL GROUPS
Alpha is a multiweek experience for people to explore the Christian faith. Participants share a meal together, watch a film session (or listen to a talk), and then discuss the topic.
Rooted is a 10-week discipleship pathway that introduces participants to several key spiritual rhythms (praying, devotions, serving, and more). Participants engage in daily reading each week through a workbook, then share their insights with the group.
Sermon-based small groups take the weekly sermon and seek to apply it at a deep level. Using discussion questions, facilitators are able to lead their group by utilizing the weekly sermon as the main source of content.
By creating a clear groups process, we help individuals from our church take next steps in their faith journey and also give multiple opportunities for them to connect with others in deep and meaningful community.
Alpha is step one. An Alpha session welcomes people into the experience of community. In this environment, people are free to wrestle with questions of faith. Through this multi-week Alpha experience, our desire is that people would come to know Jesus in a saving way and find a greater sense of purpose and meaning.
Rooted is the logical next step. In Rooted, participants are encouraged over the course of 10-weeks to practice spiritual rhythms (disciplines) that help them experience God at a deeper level. Participants are challenged to learn more about God, their own giftings, and how to be involved in the local church.
Finally, we encourage people to join or launch ongoing Sermon-Based Small Groups. The sustainable ongoing group ministry of our church consists of groups that are applying the concepts of the weekly sermon to the ordinary rhythms of life. This weds the group experience to the Sunday gathering and creates momentum. Group leaders can, therefore, leverage the weekly sermons as the ongoing content for their group. This can certainly be supplemented with other resources and studies but will ensure that the regular ministry of the Word is well established in the hearts of our people.
Advantages of This Strategy
- Participants have a clear map for how to get involved and grow spiritually through the group ministries of our church.
- The process is both logical and clear.
- Leadership development is also systematic in this process. Aspiring leaders can work through the multistep process to grow in experience and confidence in their ability to lead a group. There are also multiple opportunities at every level. Our hope is that each leader is investing in other potential leaders.
Disadvantages to Other Strategies (Menu Approach)
A menu approach to groups, on the other hand, creates confusion. A menu approach offers all manner of groups depending on the affinities of the leaders. This tends to work better in larger churches with lots of people (therefore the groups are more easily populated). Nonetheless, it is a hard strategy to scale and do well. Furthermore, it’s a very challenging model to administrate.
Let’s compare the experiences:
Promoting and Filling Groups
Simple Groups Process: The process is simple and therefore easier to promote and communicate. People can easily determine their next step and choose to repeat or move forward in the process depending on their personal needs. Groups are well-attended and leaders have an easier time filling their group because the options are limited and clear.
Menu Style Groups: Communicating a wide variety of groups, times, and curricula is incredibly challenging. The loudest self-promoters get the most airtime. Groups tend to compete against each other for attendance. Participants have a hard time determining which group to commit to and whether it’s the right next step for them. Relationally, “easy people” get recruited quickly (even by multiple groups). “Relationally challenging” people can be neglected or overlooked. Furthermore, in this model, participants tend to gravitate to their preferences and aren’t self-motivated to further grow and develop spiritually.
Simple Groups Process: The content is largely determined by the leadership team of the church. This is done very prayerfully and with consideration of the entire congregation. Since the material is provided (whether through Alpha videos, Rooted workbooks, or sermons) the leader is freed from the responsibility of always looking for new content. Also, there is consistency and alignment in the church’s overall ministry of the word. The content of this strategy can help move the entire congregation in a particular direction.
Menu Style Groups: Leaders select material based on their preferences and passions. There is a wide-ranging option of material. This is hard for the church elders to give oversight and help to. Some leaders will veer into material that isn’t aligned with church’s theology and direction. Participants are inundated with options and have a hard time knowing what to commit to.
The Group Experience
Simple Groups Process: The experience is relatively consistent group to group. Alpha and Rooted trainings reinforce healthy group leadership. Hospitality is experienced and encouraged at every level. Leaders are invested in and the elders are able to monitor the overall health of each group. The elders are able to leverage trainings, leadership documents, and check-ins to ensure consistent and healthy leadership in every group.
Menu Style Groups: The group experience could be vastly different group to group. Some leaders may treat their group as a preaching point—and discussions will be minimal. Some leaders will be content oriented—and relationships will be neglected. Some leaders will be strong on building relationships and community—and people might not be challenged to grow spiritually. The elders will have a difficult time monitoring and helping groups because the groups don’t have shared values and expectations.
As you can see, the implementation of a simple process has many advantages. We understand that there is no perfect groups strategy out there (including this one). Nevertheless, we are very happy to embrace what feels like a sensible and strategic plan for our church.