My wife and I made a commitment to leave our Sunday School class (our final day in the group was yesterday) and provide leadership to start a new group on October 14. After a long search for a new church home two years ago, and after having connected with people in our current LIFE Group (that’s what they’re called at our church), why would we raise our hands and volunteer to leave? Are we insane? Do we not value the people and relationships we’ve already begun? Here are our reasons for starting a new group…I hope these might give you some encouragement to do the same at your church.
1. If not us, then who? The one thing we seem to be lacking at our church is a long line of people just dying to leave their Sunday School classes to start new groups (yours, too, huh?). After reviewing some of our church’s attendance data earlier this summer, it became apparent that the church needs to start new groups. As much as we like our current teacher and the class members, it feels a little selfish to just sit there when I know the answer to grow the church is to start new groups. If we don’t leave the , then why should I expect anyone else in the group (or other groups in the church) to leave and do the same?
2. To reconnect the unconnected. The Minister of Education, Marty Blakely, provided my wife and I with a list of 49 prospects…49! Those are 49 people who once were associated with our church and a LIFE group, but somehow over the years they’ve fallen through the proverbial cracks. These are people who are members, have been in groups before, who know their way around the church campus, and who once identified with the church’s worship and preaching. But now they’re gone, and someone has to provide a place for them to get a fresh start, a new beginning, if they wish.
3. To connect the unconnected. This is close to #2, but we know there are people who are out there in the community who will fit the target group (David Francis, LifeWay’s Director of Sunday School, calls them UPGS (unreached people groups)) and have never set a foot onto the church campus. Tammy and I are targeting empty nesters like us…people who have kids in college, or people whose children have already moved out of the house and gotten married. Those people need a group to belong to, so we’re going to be the leaders to make that possible for them.
4. Because someone started the group to which we’ve belonged. I’m “paying it forward” so to speak. Someone once left their class to start the one we’ve belonged to. I’m glad they did, because when Tammy and I began searching for a group to which we could belong, we found Marty Blakely’s class. We owe a lot to people who may have already moved on and left the church…people we’ll never meet…but people who were pioneers and knew that people like us would one day need a group to which we could belong. They knew that newer members like us would want a place to connect with other people in a similar life stage.
5. Starting new groups is biblical. When you read Acts 13:1-3, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the Spirit’s involvement in calling Paul and Barnabas to their mission work. I love this short passage because it’s packed with some great insights about starting/leaving groups! First, note that Paul and Barnabas were not told directly by God to leave the church at Antioch for the mission field…the Spirit told other leaders to set apart Paul and Barnabas “for the work I have called them to” (verse 2). Perhaps there are gifted people in your Sunday School class that should be encouraged to leave the fellowship of your class to start a new group. Second, note that the “loss” of these two great leaders/teachers did not handicap the work of the church at Antioch…there were many other talented teachers who could carry on in their absence…maybe even stepping up in new ways to the leadership plate! The class Tammy and I are leaving will have others in it besides me who can teach…I’ve enjoyed subbing in and helping Marty when he’s asked, but now others will have that same chance and perhaps one day they, too, will leave to start a new group.
6. Starting new groups embraces a pioneer spirit. If you were to come to my office at LifeWay, you’d quickly see that I’m a Star Trek fan. I’ve been a “Trekkie” for as long as I can remember…I have memories of watching the show as young as 3rd grade. I’ve got some Star Trek memorabilia in my office, and it all reminds me of the famous opening dialog to the original TV series: “Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. It’s 5 year mission: to seek out new life and new civilizations…to boldly go where no man has gone before.” Do you see the pioneer spirit in that? The crew was headed out into deep space, not knowing what (or who) they’d find. But I tuned in each week to see who and what they encountered. That’s part of the excitement about starting a new group…we really don’t have a clue what or who we’ll encounter next week! We are in uncharted space for the first time in a long time…and it’s thrilling! I’m sure we’ll have people there I didn’t expect to see. We’ll probably have questions come up I didn’t anticipate. We’ll meet people with strange ideas about the Bible. We may even meet some people who don’t resonate with my teaching and leadership…but we’ll find out week by week as we head off “where no man has gone before.” If you have a pioneer spirit and love the unknown, you’ll love starting a new group!
Pray for us as we attempt to launch a new group next week at a church we’ve come to love and appreciate. Pray for the people God will place in our path who need a relationship with Him, and who need a relationship with others like them so they get connected to His people.