Joe Leach | September
As long as Grace Church has existed, a mantra that has been repeated with some regularity is that ‘our Life Groups are the backbone of church life’. So much of what is core to us as a local church (such as pastoral care and discipleship) happens in the context of getting together in smaller groups.
Where we’ve been
The core values of Life Groups have always been Fun, Food, and Fellowship.
In some churches in the past, small groups had a tendency to be rather intense and serious but we have always wanted our groups to be a place where people want to be. Food has always played a large part in ensuring that was the case and eating a meal together has been a key part of our Life Groups. And we have sought, through our Life Groups, to support one another through the highs and lows of life and faith.
These priorities have served us well for many years and have helped us to truly live our lives alongside one another (as opposed to just standing/sitting next to each other on a Sunday morning to sing some songs and hear a sermon!) Where many churches had run the risk of formal, dry religion, our Life Groups have helped us to maintain, and actually enjoy, the community that we are part of.
In recent times though, our wider context has changed. The church in the UK, along with most people who come along to Grace Church, are in a different place. Now the primary concern is no longer that there is a shortfall of fun and fellowship (as it has been previously); but that there is a deficit of discipleship.
It’s for this reason and in response to the changing wider context in which we live and serve, that we feel now is the time to change the core values of our small groups.
Where we’re going
We are very keen to ensure that our groups are set up in such a way that meets the needs of our community. And so we want to shape our groups around ensuring that everyone who is part of Grace Church knows that they are genuinely loved and cared for and also encouraged and equipped for living lives of faith.
The core values of our small groups will therefore be changing to, simply, Belong and Grow.
Belonging is and always has been a high value in God’s economy and it has and always will be a high value in Grace Church. We want to focus our groups to make them a place where we deepen friendships, care, serve and love one another. But our groups are much more than a bi-weekly meeting. We want everyone in Grace Church to know that they belong and to know that there always someone to sit with on a Sunday morning; or someone to talk to after a meeting; or someone they can offload on. When we belong, rather than attend, we increase our pastoral care of, and love for, one another.
John 13v34,35: A new command I give you; love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.
Followers of Jesus Grow. It is not easy to live faithful lives with so many distractions around us today. So we want our groups to be a place where discipleship takes place and where genuine growth happens. It’s not that we want our groups to be less than a place where we come and enjoy being together. But we do want them to be more than that! We want the outworking of our groups to be “encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2v12).
Belonging and growing go together. There is a reason why those who stop coming along, often stop growing and ultimately lose their way. As we increasingly belong to one another, we are in faith that we will increasingly grow together.
One more thing…
Because we want to underline that the core things about our groups are changing, we are going to change the name from Life Groups to Grace Groups.
We really want to work through this change well so we are pausing the return of Grace Groups until the week beginning 9th October whilst we ensure our group leaders are well equipped and well supported both in the shorter and longer term.
We’re very excited to get the new groups off the ground. Our Grace Groups are, as much as our groups ever have been, the backbone of Grace Church life. And I pray that they are a place where grace may abound.