The importance of community, even now

The importance of community, even now

A letter from Jared Boltman to our community group leaders

Hello Community Group Leadership,

            It is amazing how fast things change in our world. These last two days have been quite the whirlwind. Even so, I am sure of a few things:

  1. God is in control.
  2. God is not surprised by any of the chaos or problems we are facing
  3. We are loved by our Creator and His plan is perfect for us.

This post is filled with a lot of information and a lot of change. It can be scary and overwhelming and that is ok. Before you dive right in, please reread the three points above. 1. God is in control. 2. God is not surprised by any of the chaos or problems we are facing. 3. We are loved by our Creator and His plan is perfect for us. I pray these things are as encouraging to you as they are to me. Ok, are you ready? Here we go!

I have said for years and more recently we’ve heard in our sermon series the last few weeks that our mission doesn’t change, but our method is always changing. We must be married to the mission, not the method. For us, practically right now that means we are still Leading people to pursue a Jesus-first life. It just won’t look the same as our large group Sunday church gatherings on our campus. God has given us the opportunity to do ministry differently in this season.

            As we are transitioning our Sunday services to homes all around our area starting this Sunday we have opportunity to reach people in ways we’ve not done before. First as we gather at homes all around Salem & outlying areas we can invite our neighbors to attend with us. People are more likely to attend a small gathering in a neighborhood they know so this could be a great opportunity to be bold and invite those we’ve been praying for. Additionally, our online presense and ability to interact with people in this way is entirely new. We’ll get to be missionaries to the online community in engaging ways that we could not do before.

            Since all of our church gatherings will be in a small group setting it will be critical for us to all be flexible and willing to adjust how we do ministry during this season. These are uncertain times, but the opportunities God has for us are worth all that we can give.

What is our part in this? I’ll put the biggest changes first.

            As Community Group leadership (Leader, Assistant Leader or Host) we will:

  • Prepare each of our groups to be ready to expand. There is no better time than this to expand our groups and multiply what God is able to do. Pastor John said it so well a couple weeks ago “when a church decides to protect it’s intimacy by blocking growth, it turns community into an idol”. Ouch. So good! We’ve all done this inadvertently– I have too. We want to care for our people which is good, but we can’t do that at the expense of all the others around us. No blame or shaming here, but we have to have a fresh start. So to avoid creating idols, shutting others out, and becoming a clique here is what we must do: We must open our groups and welcome new people in! Every group will be open for the foreseeable future. We would never tell someone to their face we don’t want them, but by having full/closed groups we are essentially communicating the message that they are not wanted. I know this can be scary for some of you, but it is time to share with others what God has done in your groups life so they can experience that transformation themselves! You have the freedom to GET CREATIVE so your group can grow – have half your group meet in one location and half in another, encourage someone else to step up and host who may have a bigger house, invite someone in to host with a bigger space, rotate who hosts, start a new group. PLEASE keep in communication with your coach so we will know how many new host homes we have and where we can send the many, many people who are not yet in a group. (We also know there are RARE circumstances where your group can’t be opened to a specific person for various reasons: a stalking/harassment situation, someone with extremely frail health needing to be protected from someone who is sick, etc – Be safe and wise with your group. We’re not saying you must add people “or else”, we’re saying if you can add people it is important and very helpful for our entire church family if we do so.)
  • Participate in Sunday Service online. We’ll have 9am & 11am online church! Just go to: Mstar.church/live to participate in the service. You can do this from any device that connects to the internet (Phone, laptop, computer, a smart TV). Pick which service works for your group and invite them over to participate together in online church. It is more than just a livestream where you sit and watch, it is actually an interactive church service, meaning you can dialogue (by typing questions) with the moderator and Pastors who are preaching. It will be a conversational style and accessible to more people than a traditional church building service. It is an experience we have not had the opportunity to do yet and it opens the door to lots of exciting opportunities to reach our city with the Gospel. There are so many ways to MAKE THIS FUN! Have a breakfast buffet, make coffee, serve bacon, or wear your pajamas, be creative and have fun! There’s a letter we’ll share on the CG Leadership Facebook that the Whittaker group will be using to invite their neighbors! They created this from the CG Leadership meeting we had Friday night. It is a great example to all of us to invite our neighbors. SO soon as that FB page goes live Monday or Tuesday, do take a look for a great example there.
  • Please pick up a yard sign.  we’ve had signs made for each group that is willing to host a Sunday morning service. This is a great way to let your neighbors know you are having church in your home and to go around and invite them to attend with you. Signs are available at the church office for pick up – they are sitting by the front door of the office right now waiting for you. We suggest putting the sign out 15 minutes before service and taking it down after service is done each week.
  • Continue to meet during our regular midweek Community Group times. We will NOT take a study break in the Spring as we have done in past years. Ok maybe this one isn’t a hard one. Most of you keep asking if you can meet anyway during the break. Especially now and going forward It is essential for us to be meeting regularly to continue and foster a thriving church community, to put people at ease, and to witness to our city. We have taken a Spring study break in the past to do Feed Salem, but that will look different. As we partner with foster families starting in the fall we will get to know them and provide our outreach ministries (Backpack Blessings, Christmas Blessings and Feed Salem) to those families as we build ongoing relationships with them. Details to come on that in the months ahead.
  • Create your own questions. After talking with many of you I feel like we are ready to move past the Community Group question model we have done for years. We’ve asked questions that go beyond the sermon to different Bible passages and how they apply to our daily lives. However, they have not been very relational. I feel like now is the time and we have built a solid foundation to change the questions. Let’s dive into each others lives. Let’s ask how each other is doing and really listen to the answer. Then let’s minister to and pray for each other. The problem with any specific set of questions is they can’t relate to everyone. Some will say they are the best questions ever and others will say the same questions are worthless. However, you have the opportunity to ask the questions that you think are most important in your group. We trust you and want to be as effective as possible! This freedom to ask your own questions will give you that ability. Always feels free to start with the basic “what stood out from the message”. It helps get the conversation rolling. Some other examples would be:
    • How are you doing (and WHY)?
    • What’s the best thing going on for you right now?
    • What’s the worst thing going on for you right now?
    • How are you dealing with stress?
    • How can I pray for you?
    • How are you struggling right now?
    • What is God teaching you in this season of life?
    • How have you been able to see God at work in your life?
    • How is God answering your prayers?
    • What inspires you?
    • What drags you down?
    • What brings you true joy?
    • How is God giving you victory?
  • Read the weekly all-church email. We will no longer have a weekly email specifically for CGroup leadership. I value your time and I don’t want to overwhelm you with redundant info. Because you’re now creating your own questions each week and because the rest of the info is in the church-wide email we won’t be doing a Community Group specific email anymore. We’ll pass along all the pertinent info in our quarterly trainings and via these occasional blog posts rather than weekly emails. We appreciate you and value your time so that is one less thing you have to check.
  • New Facebook page for CG Leadership. We’re starting a Facebook page for YOU as leaders this coming week. You’ll be able to interact, share what works in your group, ask questions, and learn from each other. This will be a great way to interact with each other and grow together as we lead people to pursue a Jesus-first life.

The remaining keys are things we will keep doing:

  • Continue to trust the Lord and remain flexible in this season. Our world is full of change, and right now things are changing rapidly. God has equipped us as leaders to shepherd and disciple the group of people in our care. No matter what that looks like, the goal is the same and I’m so thankful the Lord has you on our Community Group team!
  • Lead by example. If you group is fearful, or worried encourage them. If they are doing ok, help them stay that way. If they are unaware of what is happening inform them, If they pray a lot then encourage them to stay strong in their prayers. We will likely have some fearful, some perfectly fine and some brushing this off as no big deal all within the same group. Be aware of how your people feel and what is important to them and as a leadership team minister to them appropriately, with wisdom, with care, and with love.
  • Use the resources available to you. As you have the freedom to ask your own group questions remember that we are here to help. Ask your coach if you are struggling with what to say, or how to say it. Converse and ask questions. We are here for you and we will grow together!
  • Move locations if your host is sick. Obviously if someone is sick in your group and they host, you will want to find a different host until they are well. Help protect the older or more vulnerable folks in your group as well from getting sick. We want everyone to be safe for sure. We just don’t want to stay isolated in our own groups because we are comfortable with that. God has called us to so much more. We know this is a balancing act because we want to reach out, stay safe, protect our people and not be in a bubble of isolation…nots to navigate here, but you have the wisdom and discernment to do what is needed for your group that will effectively minister to the most folks possible.

As we adapt and grow together we will have growing pains. Again, I know this is a lot of information, and it is ok to be a bit overwhelmed. God has it all under control and He chooses to use us to share the Good News of Jesus Christ!  Let’s talk about it and work through it together. Your coach is a wealth of knowledge for you. I’m here for you. Most of all God is good and He is leading all of us. I am reminded that we really do have nothing to fear even though there is fear all around us. We can be a rock to our community, and that is something sweet that draws people to Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  Thank you for your leadership and care for our church family. I appreciate you all so very much. I look forward to all that God will do in this new season!