The below video is from a Groups meeting on February 27, 2019. This meeting was for everyone at Risen Hope who was interested in finding out more information about groups, as well as an opportunity to check in with folks who have been leading or hosting groups. Below the video is a list of notes of what is expressed in the video for quick reference, as well as points from the Q&A discussion afterward. If you have any questions, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our hope for this meeting was that (1) God would give all of us an increased awareness of the profound joy found in being part of his family, (2) that we’d be encouraged to press as deep into that joy as God is willing to take us, and (3) that sacrifice for the sake of others in these groups would seem to us to be reasonable and even desirable, not reckless.
What is a group at Risen Hope? The church in her native environment. Groups represent the church in everyday life, living as a family for the glory of God and the joy of others. It is the body of Christ, in homes and around tables, actively pursuing the unique fellowship found only in the family of God.
Why do we have groups at Risen Hope?
Acts 2:42-47 – The local church isn’t an event or location, but a family deeply committed to each other.
Ephesians 4:11-16 – We need each other to grow together: Christian growth is impossible in isolation.
John 17:17-21 – The mission of Christ is accomplished by the body of Christ, not by individuals.
How did we get here? Risen Hope began as a group, and so here we provide a brief backstory as to why this is such a critical aspect of our church…
September 2014, two of our families hosted a connect party. God blessed us with some extraordinary people who were committed to doing one thing: eating together.
We had Bible studies and we were active in serving at Kirkland Heights, but we did one thing incredibly well: we committed to always spending time with each other around a table and we became family.
Our group wasn’t perfect and many who came over time were not as committed as others, but those who stuck around eventually became family.
In 2017, God called some of our families to plant a church in Kingsgate, and from this Risen Hope was born.
Risen Hope wasn’t a strategically planned and executed church plant, it was merely an extension of what God had already been doing for years in our group, which is why this is so important to us.
What is it about groups that make this aspect of our church so important to us?
Groups represent the heart of what the church is. Without this, Sunday is a hollow weekly appointment.
There is a profound and deep Christian joy that you will never have apart from this kind of fellowship.
Community is God’s appointed means for personal spiritual growth and for executing his mission.
Below are some key things we believe can make groups healthy and effective. For those in groups, some of these things you may be doing already, others you may not. All are worth carefully considering and praying over. What we discuss below isn’t intended to be a prescriptive mandate, but rather encouraging and edifying. Our main desire here is that you and those in your group are trusting in God and are obedient to his will.
JOY IN GOD: The ultimate goal of a group is joy in God, even if people in the group do not understand or see it clearly. The reason for this goal is that every single thing in the Christian life is ultimately a pursuit of joy in God.
COMMITMENT & PATIENCE: Healthy groups have a shared commitment to be family and patience in waiting for God to make it happen. They don’t cut and run when things seem difficult: sacrifice should be expected and embraced.
MORE BLESSED TO GIVE: Generosity and hospitality are the lifeblood of a group. Opening homes and giving of time and food and possessions wasn’t a requirement of the early church, it happened spontaneously and from joyful hearts. We must seriously ask ourselves, do we really believe Jesus, when he said: “It is more blessed to give, than to receive” (Acts 20:35)?
FIGHT FOR FAMILY: Genuine fellowship isn’t a given, it must be fought for. In our group, we committed dinner nights almost exclusively to fellowship and had other times dedicated for Bible study and prayer. Why was that?
(1) Families are formed around a table, not an agenda or event. You can definitely make friends at a study or gathering, but they will not be family until you’ve meaningfully shared life with them.
(2) When dinner night is simply a means to meet a quota for spiritual disciplines, it typically becomes an item on a checklist. Consider spiritual disciplines as the fuel and fabric of dinners, and not the focus.
(3) A dinner night with no agenda is a dinner night that can be used to reach lost people. Invite believers to enjoy the fellowship you share in Christ and invite unbelievers to witness it and long for it.
OPEN DOORS: One aspect of our earliest group was that we refused to limit size or close our doors, but rather the group always remained open and we trusted that God ultimately would determine the right size of our group. And he did.
CENTRALITY OF PRAYER: Healthy groups thrive because of prayer. This is not referring to making dinner nights into prayer gatherings, but rather committing to regularly pray for those in your group, not as a task on a checklist, but to increase your joy.
GROWTH: Healthy groups may grow and need to multiply. It is wise for groups to discuss numeric growth and what that might mean. The earlier the better, so the goals are shared and the stakes are clear for everyone.
FUEL & FABRIC: Bible, prayer, and worship are essential and irreplaceable ingredients in the life of every believer. These must be pursued individually and corporately, but try to consider ways that they could complement dinners rather than be the focus of them. Thinking of spiritual disciplines as the fuel and fabric of group dinners means that this fellowship becomes an expression of our own pursuit of God, driving the group’s culture and texture by God’s grace, rather than making the dinner night become an exclusive touchpoint for spiritual disciplines.
LOVE FEASTS: Our groups should not be secular social gatherings, but “love feasts” (Jude 1:12) for the sake of joyful fellowship, as well as an opportunity for outsiders to see the church in her native environment. Dinners play a critical role in the Christian tradition and food is often used in Scripture to describe our relationship with God: we should receive our food with gladness and thanksgiving, recognizing that God isn’t just the source, but he is the ultimate focal point of our enjoyment (1 Corinthians 10:31).
After this meeting, we had a brief Q&A session, where we discussed best practices and some common issues with the groups. There were several great points to consider:
We’ve been blessed with very hospitable and generous people in our groups, but we need to make sure that we create an atmosphere where people feel able to be transparent. Sometimes if the home you’re going to and the people you’re visiting with feel too perfect, it can create an atmosphere that is intimidating and may not communicate the fact that we’re all still growing in Christ.
It’s easy to miss that sometimes our verbal and non-verbal actions in communication can lead people to feeling excluded. We should try to be conscious of things that we do and say during conversation, in order to ensure that it isn’t just our environment that is inviting, but that our conversation doesn’t unintentionally cause people to feel like outsiders.
One way to do the above is to always prioritize talking with new people visiting or individuals who may not be talking to anyone. It’s easy to hold conversation with close friends, but we should make a concerted effort to greet and show appreciation for new people, especially individuals who may be on the fringes. The instinct should be to make sure, in as much as we are able, that everyone feels welcome in the fellowship that’s taking place.