What happens after Sunday?

4

Our church was founded in a time when marketing to gather a crowd for a “launch service” was the prevailing approach. That was how I was trained, so that is what I did.  All my energy in the early days was focused on that first service. I didn’t stop to consider just what I would do with people when they actually showed up.

When I realized I’d need something to catch people who came to that first service, I quickly recruited a few small group leaders and gave them the titles of a few of my favorite studies. With that amount of preparation, we launched about ten small groups.  Against all odds, those first groups managed fairly well, providing at least the appearance of spiritual care and connection for about half the adults in our community.

Ironically, the relative success of those first groups actually worked against our long-term growth.  Because we had the “problem” of discipleship and connection “solved,” I moved on to other things and never took the time to develop a more mature and integrated system of active connection.  As a consequence, our growth as those groups stagnated. Since then, our small group system has undergone several near-death experiences on the way to being finally revived and systematized for sustained growth.

Through failure, I learned the power of systems. To correct my early and naive mistakes, we have now built a system that works its way into every group, ministry and conversation of the church. Understanding that an integrated system requires attention to several key areas, we are now engaged in five initiatives to support a healthier, more sustainable system for making disciples.

Active connections

Our model has always been discipleship through small groups. What we have failed to emphasize is the sense of apprenticeship in the nature of Christlikeness.  We have over-emphasized studies and under-emphasized the spiritual spadework of healing, accountability, spiritual disciplines, and authentic spiritual conversation.

Unlike performance, which can be measured in steps, spiritual growth is measured in effectiveness, or what the Bible might call fruitfulness.  Recognizing that measuring fruitfulness is a somewhat subjective pursuit, we believe there are at least some recognizable indicators present in someone who is authentically, actively following Jesus. They will have a basic understanding of Christian doctrine, a working knowledge of the Bible, a desire to serve others, an expectation to lead in the area of their giftedness and a hunger to grow more deeply in their relationships to God and others.

With the above character traits as our markers, we have developed the following five categories of adult groups:

  • Beginning the journey (Introductory and Invitational Bible and Topical Study Groups)
  • Learning the Trail (Foundational Bible and Topical Study Groups)
  • Boots on the Ground (Mission and Ministry Teams that include a teaching and accountability component)
  • Learning to Lead (Leadership Development Groups)
  • Going Deeper (Focused Formational Groups)

Fruitfulness in this system is measured in the ways we connect people to groups appropriate to their level of formation. It is also measured in our ability to move folks forward from foundational learning to deeper levels of discipleship, service, leadership and ultimately, the joy of sacrificial giving.

Financial Support

We are convinced that giving is fundamentally a discipleship issue, a tangible, practical act of devotion. Those who do not give have an issue in their relationship with God. Those who give with strings attached have an issue in their relationship with God. Those who are not reaching their potential as givers have an issue in their relationship with God.  In our teaching on discipleship and in our annual plan for budget education, our main work is not to develop givers but to develop disciples who are compelled by faith to give.

Staff and leader discipleship

We require that all staff and leadership team meetings begin with a discussion that orients us toward the spiritual care of the group members before we tackle the business of the church. We open every meeting (staff, finance, trustees, leadership council, etc) with three questions:

  • How is it with your soul (or with your life in God)?
  • Where have you seen Jesus at work in your life in the last week/ since we last met?
  • How can we pray for you?

When we begin this way, the business conversations that follow are more kind, productive, and sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Bonds are deepened. Christ is honored.

Spiritual leadership

We used to recruit leaders by finding warm bodies willing to do a job, then putting their name at the top of the list.  Now, we are more intentional. Through the invaluable support and training of Asbury’s Lay Ministry Institute, we’ve learned to develop spiritual leadership that values covenant-building, Bible study, prayer and vision-casting. This has helped tremendously to build health and effectiveness into our teams. We no longer recruit leaders; we raise them up.

Physical Resources for Spiritual Advancement

We consider our building a tool for our mission, which is to make disciples. Our master plan is an interpretation in blueprint form of the stories of transformation that have been told by our own people.  We want even our building to reflect our vision for diffusing discipleship throughout a community of faith, for the sake of a lost and hurting world.

Mosaic exists to share hope and life, and create stories of transformation. Whether in our personal stories or in our corporate story, we can program our way into all kinds of activities that make us look very busy and engaged, but still miss the big story. God’s plan is not for the discipleship of his people to be one more activity in a long list of to-do’s but the basic building block in the formation of a new society.

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Carolyn Moore is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. She was born and raised in Augusta, Georgia and graduated from the University of Georgia (B.A. – Religion, 1985) and Asbury Theological Seminary (Masters of Divinity, 1998). In June of 2003, she was appointed home again to the Augusta area, where she and her family were given the joy of birthing Mosaic United Methodist Church. Mosaic focuses on reaching people in the margins. In more than ten years of weekly worship, Mosaic has seen more than 130 baptisms and hundreds of professions of faith. A satellite ministry serves adults with disabilities in downtown Augusta.

4 COMMENTS

  1. A view from the pew: The title of the article caught my attention. And yes, you are absolutely on the right track–I speak from decades of experience of striving to be a “good Methodist” with no real clue what that meant. What follows is an excerpt of what I just wrote; it is written from the perspective of I am frustrated that in my neck of the woods, everybody keeps fiddling with the worship service:

    I was born as a Christian of the Methodist
    persuasion–it became the best part of who I was because it seemed to point to
    something positive. However, I was never given a realistic way to view my Dad
    or The United Methodist Church or even God within the framework of being a
    Christian of the Methodist persuasion—and that created conflicts in my life
    that I had no way to resolve. So I muddled around doing the best I knew how
    until all of a sudden that was no longer enough! My understanding of things had
    been nothing more than a train wreck waiting to happen—and it happened in the
    most spectacular fashion!

    My problem was not with
    what I experienced in worship—in fact, I am glad worship was never about “my
    preferences” because worship was then able to shape me and my impression of a
    gianormous God with a gianormous story which did NOT include me—at least not in
    any way I could understand/wrap my head around given my circumstances. The real
    problem lay in what was NOT happening once I left worship and it still is.

    I have delved into Wesley and early Methodist and have learned that something that was so amazingly good has drifted so far, I was left rambling around in the fog when there
    was this amazing sunshiny place so close by! All I needed was some clearly
    spoken knowledge of who God is and who I am and what God really expects of me
    in this life…and it was not there! I
    started life as a Christian of the Methodist persuasion and have to continue as
    long as God gives me breath. Except, my understanding of what that means in my
    life has been drastically altered!

  2. I agree that we need to have a plan for AFTER people become Christians. I kind of like your 5 categories of adult groups, and I am looking for Curriculum. Actually, I would like a curriculum that focuses on Spiritual disciplines. Are you aware of any such curriculum?
    Orter,
    I’m glad that your life was drastically altered, but you don’t say exactly what happened to alter it. Could you please expand on that?

      • Yes. He’s already on my list. I wonder if there is a curriculum based on his book. I think I may use Absolute Beginner and add the disciplines in, one each week, to discuss.

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