Josh Hunt

It is not about the lesson; It is about the life.

All growing churches have one thing in common: they are about doubling groups. Charismatic or not, liberal or conservative, traditional or contemporary, if they are growing, they are about doubling groups.  Whether you follow the. . .

or any other model, if they are growing, they are about doubling groups.

This week we will explore Randy Frazee's Pantego Bible Church in Fort Worth, TX and their spin on doubling groups.

Randy has two books you might want to take a look at. The first, The Connecting Church, explores his philosophy on a church-wide basis. The newest one, Making Room for Life, explores the philosophy from a personal viewpoint. (Somewhat like Purpose Driven Church and Purpose Driven Life.) They also have a ministry web page at www.theconnectingchurch.org)

Several features make the Pantego approach unique. 

First, Frazee has clearly defined what they want.

Just when you thought Purpose Driven had said all there is to say about purpose, Frazee offers seven purposes (functions) of biblical community. While these do not exactly parallel the five purposes of the church, they are close. To make it easy to remember, Frazee spells out the word S.E.R.V.I.C.E.

Spiritual Formation
Evangelism
Reproduction
Volunteerism
International Missions
Care
Extended Compassion

I get the impression that these seven functions are mentioned often enough that if you were to wake the average group leader at Pantego at 2:00 a.m. and ask them the seven functions of community, they could tell you.

This kind of relentless redundancy is imperative to leadership. Rick Warren calls it the Nehemiah principle. After 40 days, Nehemiah discovered that the people had lost heart and forgotten the vision. We too need to define the vision, simplify it and recast it over and over and over.

I have my own definition of what we are after which is spelled out in the book/ video, Disciplemaking Teachers. I list 9 qualities of a disciple, spelling out the word D.I.S.C.I.P.L.E.S. Willowcreek has their Five Gs. The point is, a number of targets will work. Get one.

The one plan that doesn't work is the vision-of-the-month plan, or vision-by- whatever-conference-I-went-to-last. Get a vision, stick with it, and pound away.

Note, as stated above, part of the vision includes reproduction. This is why I say Frazee is all about doubling groups. All growing churches are. No exceptions.

 

Frazee follows a geographical division of groups

There is some debate in the small group literature between what is known as the Three-C and Two-C models. Three C's was first articulated by Peter Wagner:

Celebration
Congregation
Cell

Some have doubted whether the middle C is necessary and many follow a two C model. In a small church the whole debate goes away because the whole church is one congregation. Thus, in a way it is a two C model because they don't have the first C. In many old- fashioned Sunday Schools this principle manifests itself in the department and class. The department is the middle C, the class is the small group.

At Pantego, they have an interesting twist on the three-C model. Whereas in most Baptist churches, the worship service is integrated while the small groups/ departments are segregated, Pantego does just the opposite. Their worship services are segregated by age. They have a service for Preschoolers, Children, Youth and Adults. (Northpoint does the same thing.) Groups, on the other hand are intergenerational. They are based on geography.

Their mid-sized groups meet on campus on Sunday morning. They are divided according to which High School district people live in.

The small groups meet in homes (most on Sunday night) and follow the geographical division of the Elementary Schools.

Frazee does this for a very strategic reason. If you have to drive half an hour to see some friends in your small group and half an hour to get back, it is going to cut down on the number of times you are going to get together. If, on the other hand, you are within walking distance (the ideal in Frazee's view) it makes it much easier to get together for planned as well as spontaneous events.

A hybrid plan is possible. I have long contended that age grading below about a decade doesn't make a lot of sense. That is, if you group me with adults in their 40s, that works because that is my age. However, if you group me with adults 46 - 49, I might prefer some other division. It might make sense to divide by decades first, then geographical area. This is especially helpful in large metropolitan areas.

But, even in a small town, groups would do well to use the geographical outreach strategy. Each small group is challenged to reach their neighborhood by starting with parties and what-not in the area and moving people into community and into a relationship with Christ. I will give an example of just how effective this can be in a moment.

It is not about the lesson; it is about the life

There is far more to Frazee's approach that I am able to unpack here. I invite you to get the book. It is a good read.

The bottom line is this. Group life is not about content-delivery. It is about connecting people. If people want content delivery they can buy the book or watch their favorite TV preacher at home. They can enjoy sermons online.

People want more than content-delivery. They want life. Group life. Church life. Life together. That is what the connecting church is all about.

How is it working? One story tells it all.

"While it may be too early to tell whether this will work, let me share my own experience with community. Two and a half years ago, my family moved into a neighborhood with 88 homes. There were two Christian families living in the neighborhood that attended our church. We approached them with our ideas about community and went to work on the principles laid out in this book. Today we have fifteen families from our neighborhood (and from our church) fully involved in community. That's 17% of the total households! What is even more exciting is that many of the families were previously unchurched or even non-Christians. On top of that, we currently have relationships or at least acquaintances, with up to 50% of our neighbors. We know almost 100% of everyone by name."

How did they reach 17% of the people in their neighborhood? How could you do the same?

  • They have block parties and other neighborhood events to get to know neighbors. They play in their front yard.
  • They invite people to barbeques and get to know them better.
  • They invite them to Bible studies where they hear the words about grace from the teacher and feel grace from the participants.
  • They reproduce groups. At the time of the writing of Connecting Church, they had 3 groups.

Connect. Invite. Include. Tell. Disciple. Reproduce.