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thoughts on community groups at grace seattle

September 7, 2011

I remember being told to never swim alone and understandably so. Swimming puts you in a vulnerable position (not to mention most things are just more fun when enjoyed with other people). In any case, no matter how competent, talented or able you are, things out of your control can happen when dealing with water and, as a result, an uneventful situation can turn quickly dire.

The Christian life is very similar to swimming. We should not go about it alone. Everyday life puts us in a vulnerable position and we need people around us to support and encourage us. At Grace Seattle we express this commitment through community groups. Community groups are places of care and community where we live the Christian life together.

Community groups certainly provide a context for doing Christian things like worshipping God, praying, and discussing the Bible. Nonetheless, I think the real strength of these groups are the relationships built and experienced. Last spring, we experienced this first hand. Our son had health issues resulting in many doctor appointments and a couple of extended hospital stays. It is hard enough to maintain life when there are no major complications. But throw in some unforeseen difficulties, one has to fight to keep their head above weather. In that place, our community group showed up. They called us. They prayed for us. On more than one occasion they cleaned our house. They made countless meals. We weren’t alone and were extremely thankful and regularly empowered.

This being said, community groups don’t simply exist in order to show up in the midst of our tragedies and difficulties. They are a place where we live the Christian life together, not in some theoretical way but really and truly. They are a place where we give ourselves to rhythms and practices that cultivate faithful Christian living. They are a place where we can concretely love and serve others.

Because of what community groups are, we desire everyone at Grace Seattle to participate. However, given our other commitments, it can be very difficult to find the time to join a group. Knowing this, we’ve made a few changes to the ministry structure such that now, more than ever, these groups better accommodate the rhythms and needs of our actual life. For example, we are now encouraging longevity instead of multiplication. In the past, we asked our community groups to get to a place where they could become two separate groups instead of one. We emphasized this in an effort to love and serve our neighbors (i.e. groups growing leads to multiplication which leads to more groups which translates in more people being connected). At the end of the day, our stressing multiplication led to burnout, relational fragmentation, and instability. As a result, we decided to stress group longevity over multiplication while still pursuing hospitality (especially to the outsider). Of course this change will present it’s own challenges but our hope and prayer is that this modification will better accommodate the rhythms and needs of our actual life.

In the coming weeks, I will be writing more about these changes and our vision for this ministry.

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