June 23, 2006

Small Group Project: Church #3

Church Denomination (if any) _Vineyard Community of Churches______________ Avg. AM Worship Attendance _1800____
Age of Congregation ___15 yrs__________
Number of pastors on staff _____9______

1. Approximately what percentage of your regular attendees participates in at least one small group on a regular basis? What percentage is your church's goal?
45 – 55 % goal: 75%

2. How many worship services do you have each week? Please list when, where, and how well attended. 5 – starting a 6th Sunday PM in September 2006
4:30 PM – 330
6:00 PM -- 270
8:15 AM – 180
9:30 AM – 560
11:00 AM -- 540

3. Who is primarily responsible for oversight of your small group ministry (e.g., layperson(s), senior pastor, staff pastor, etc.)? Is this person or people paid or volunteer?
- Full time Discipleship pastor
- Other pastors also oversee groups or teams
- And I have a team of lay coaches who work with me

4. What level of oversight does your small group ministry leadership team strive for? In other words, how consistent with your church's mission are the "official" small groups which meet?
  • Our Vision: knowing God and enjoying Him forever

  • Our Mission: building a Christians community by making fully devoted disciples of non-religious and nominally religious people

  • Our goals: Exalting: worshipping; Evangelizing: reaching; Encouraging: connecting; Equipping: serving & giving; Empowering: praying

  • we try to do everything in teams

  • Our small groups are absolutely vital to our people connecting, growing and serving Jesus

5. Are there now, or have there ever been any problems associated with your small groups? Please elaborate.
  • No. Our pastor is strong on evangelism, discipleship, our church family being a loving community, and every member being a minister (also worship, serving & giving, and prayer ministry – our 5 E’s listed in # 4)

  • He is a strong leader and sticks with our focus (the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing), so he doesn’t give his leadership away

  • People who come with their own agenda (usually churched people, not non-religious people who get saved in our midst) who try to impose their own agenda [as opposed to developing a ministry] usually end up leaving because our pastor is going to “do church” the way God has called him to do it and he doesn’t shift from that purpose

6. If yes, how are those problems typically handled?
  • Our pastor is also strong on relationships. If a key leader is at odds with what we’re doing, he’ll [the rest of our staff as well] do all within his power by God’s grace to maintain relationships – even going to an impartial counselor [for leaders only].

  • We don’t run or hide from issues if they come up. We invite people to sit down and talk and pray things through.

  • Many times things are worked out; a few times folks move on – usually with mutual blessing.

7. Do you provide initial or ongoing training for leaders of small groups? If yes, on a formal or informal basis? How often do you provide it? In what context?
  • Before people can lead they have to go through Vineyard 101 – Connecting (membership) in Vineyard Church and sign a membership commitment [people are saved at every Vin 101]

  • People can lead a video-driven group by going through a Small Group Orientation led by the Discipleship pastor (4 hour orientation) and a commitment to take Vineyard 201 – Growing in the Vineyard (6 weeks led by various staff pastors, culminating in S.H.A.P.E – a spiritual gifts evaluation – self analyzing one’s Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experiences; and Vineyard 301 – Leading in the Vineyard (three weekly sessions with our Senior Pastor)

  • To do a Bible study or curriculum-driven group people have to have taken Vineyard 201, assisted another small group leader, and taken Vineyard 301

  • Since our small group ministry is on a semester basis (Fall – Sept-early Dec; Spring- Feb – April; Summer – mid-May – July), we have CONNECT WEEKENDS prior to each semester and training times; also mid-semester huddles (prayer, encouragement, skill development) with coaches

  • In all these training situations we have presentations followed by break-out times for people to share and pray together. Vin 301 is by invitation only.

  • All of 101’s, 201’s and 301’s happen quarterly, each following the other

  • I use small group coaching material for Vin 401 put out by Joel Comiskey called
How To Be A Great Cell Group Coach. All the other materials we have written ourselves or adapted from Saddleback or Vineyard churches.
- We also encourage as many of our leaders as possible to attend the Leadership Summit sponsored by Willow Creek and held by satellite at Pleasant Valley Baptist

8. What kinds of requirements do you have for potential leaders before they are recognized as such? If you have "rogue" leaders who are not trained, how does your leadership team handle an issue like that?
  • I think I explained that above. I also keep in touch with small group leaders via e-mail twice a month for communication, encouragement, spiritual inspiration and team building.

  • We have had hardly any rogue groups. People are free to meet or gather any grouping they desire. We don’t list or advertise rogue groups in any of our small group catalogues or in our information centers.

  • It seems like the more we’ve grown people want training and want to be related and part of the team. This may reflect less of a pioneer mentality and more of a settler mentality.

  • Our pastoral staff truly strives to be servant leaders, caring for our leaders and loving and praying for them. So small group leaders appreciate all the support they get from us and our partnership in the gospel.

  • We have 4 Vision Nights a year led by our Senior Pastor where we worship, hear testimonies of what the Lord is doing in various ministries, celebrate God’s goodness, and have a fellowship time in prayer and around coffee and dessert. We ask all our small group leaders to attend Vision Night.

9. What kind of small group curriculum does your church use, if any? How strictly is use of this particular curriculum is enforced? How so? How major of a concern is right theology in regards to small groups (compared to Christian fellowship and formation)?
- There is a multitude of excellent material out there. We use stuff from Zondervan, Willow Creek, LIFE TOGETHER by Brett Eastman, Navigators, Serendipity, Vineyard, Gary Smalley, book studies directly from the Bible, some self-written materials by Bible college graduates; lately a bunch of video-driven materials that people facilitate more than teach
  • We tend to trust the Holy Spirit more to lead us than the devil is capable to deceive us. Having said that we realize we’re not immune from error. We pray for our people to have a love for God’s truth. Our Sr. Pastor preaches Biblically practical messages so our people usually have a sense if someone is sharing from their New age, Mormon, Catholic, or non-religious “street theology” background. From time to time a leader may come to us with a concern and we’ll prayerfully help them deal with situations, appealing to the Word of God

  • We are developing an 18 month Vineyard Discipleship School and have a two year Vineyard Leadership Institute which is a mini video-driven seminary out of our Columbus, OH, Vineyard

  • There’s also a Vineyard Biblical Institute offering courses. This is stewarded out of South Africa

  • We believe in the fruit of the reformation – getting God’s Word into the hands of God’s people

  1. What particular types of small groups does your church body officially recognize (e.g., service groups, Bible study, support, fellowship, accountability, 12-step program, etc.)?
  • We’ve got them all. Anything Godly that is need meeting and of interest to people

  • So, besides Bibles studies, Recovery groups, Age related groups, Fellowship groups, Topical study groups and Task groups, we have Recreation groups and craft groups, etc.

  • We ask that our groups do at least two of the following things: Bible study, pray for each other, share testimonies of Jesus at work in lives, worship, acts of kindness (eg. on Christmas Eve one of our small groups handed out over 250 blankets to street people in the downtown area), or reach out to others

11. How significant is the concept of small groups as compared to other components of your church’s overall ministry (e.g., worship services, evangelism, compassion, corporate prayer, etc.)?
  • Our desire is to do some of the same stuff in larger settings and in smaller settings (Acts 2:42-47; 5:42; 20:20). Most life change or discipleship takes place in smaller settings

  • It’s all about being a believer in, a follower of and a witness to Jesus Christ

12. Do your small groups primarily function as a means of evangelism to new believers, or discipleship to existing members? Why? How do you separate and/or incorporate these two goals within the small group context?
  • We maintain open small groups unless a recovery group needs to be closed for a short period of time due to sensitive and confidential matters for a brief time frame

  • Since a lot of are people are newer believers many are still bringing unsaved friends. Some who have been Christians longer don’t have many unsaved contacts. But we’re always telling people to be “bringers and includers”

  • Again, its all a part of being a follower of Jesus

  • 99.5 % of our groups are open and new people welcomed to what God is doing in that group. We really believe Matthew 18:20, and Jesus is at work by His Spirit

13. Has your church always sponsored small groups? If not, what ministry or service (if any) was sacrificed or minimized in order to make room for small groups in the church community? How were they initiated? Were they promoted as necessary for the well being of the church, or as an "add-on" to an already full list of voluntary church activities?
  • Yes, our church has always done small groups. If fact, our pastor started the church doing evangelistic small group. People came and got saved . . . and little by little the church kept growing

  • We are now getting into offering “Sunday School groups” since we have increased our facilities . . . but not so much as Sunday School classes but as an optional time to attend a small group

14. What would you consider the primary reason that your church encourages and supports small groups?
  • UP (worship & prayer); IN (connecting people with friends, fellowship); OUT (reaching out in evangelism and acts of kindness)

  • We believe in three major commitments: to the person of Jesus; to the people of Jesus; and to the purposes of Jesus (as expressed in UP, IN, OUT)

15. What would you consider your most pressing concern in regards to small groups?
  • Training and developing enough coaches to encourage and serve our leaders (hopefully a 1 to 3 ration – 1 coach for every 3 leaders and groups)

  • We’d like our coaches to meet with the leaders they are serving at least 2 times a semester and also visit their small group at least once a semester, affirming the small group leader before their group and praying for them and encouraging the group members to share the ministry load with their small group leader

16. How do you handle difficult situations that arise that might be too complex for lay leaders (e.g., personalities that attempt to sway new believers, dysfunctional relationships, stalking, etc.)? Do you require leaders and/or participants to sign a "covenant of confidentiality"?
  • We encourage small group leaders to go “up-line” to their coach first of all. If the coach is stymied or desires confirmation regarding the course of action, he or she would go “up-line” to their small group pastor.

  • Our small group covenants are more “group agreements” and focus on faithfulness in attendance, creating a safe environment, respecting differences, shared ownership of the group, confidentiality, welcoming newcomers, and the schedule of which homes meetings will be at

17. Does your church currently host Sunday School classes for adults? Why or why not? In what ways does that potentially impact your small group ministry?
  • Please see # 13 above.

  • Any Saturday or Sunday adult classes are also seen as part of our small group ministry

  • Many of our people are newer Christians; 1/3 come from Catholic backgrounds where they did not have Sunday School

  • Weekend groups (classes) are another option for groups for people’s busy life-styles and schedules; we want these groups to do the same things our others groups are doing (end of # 10 above)

18. How are small groups defined in your church? What size do you consider to be a small group? When a "small group" becomes a "large group" is it divided, or allowed to continue to grow? If divided, how is that handled in a way that satisfies all parties and encourages positive growth?
  • We define small groups as intentional face-to-face gatherings of 3 to 12 people coming together on a regular basis with a common purpose of growing in Christ and giving His love away to others

  • We encourage our groups to keep developing leadership within them. One of the ways we do this is by rotating leadership responsibilities in the group under the direction of the Small Group Leader and his/her Coach

  • We respect a leader’s sense of the Holy Spirit leading them when it’s time to multiply a group and when the time is not right. So, some of our groups may have 18 + people in them . . . but to have them multiply at the wrong time may injure the dynamics of the group

  • Group leaders will also talk things through with group members so they are part of the communication process and also part of the process of seeking the Lord’s direction and timing

19. In what ways does your church continue to promote and support the concept of small groups (e.g., website, newsletter, foyer advertising, announcements, etc.)?
  • All the above

  • Plus our pastor will mention the place of relationships (small groups) for growing in Christ at least once a month in messages or sometimes twice a month

  • Then our semester “kick off” plan three times a year brings small groups into clear focus

20. Based on your experience, what advice would you give to a church body that is contemplating adding small groups into its mix of community activities?
  • Have the Senior Pastor champion small groups, not someone else; he/she doesn’t have to oversee them, but clearly believe in them and be the positive spark behind them

  • Have a clear Biblical understanding of small groups

  • Have a clear vision of where you’re going with them – how you’re going to do them

  • Don’t be afraid to do them and grow and make adjustments along the way

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