Dinner and a Bible Study
Some ideas just click.
I got that feeling recently as I was talking to Scott Smith, Minister of Adult Discipleship at Lakewood Baptist in Gainesville, FL.
Scott has been experimenting with an approach to home groups called 3-D groups. I call it "Dinner and a Bible Study." Here is how it works.
3-D comes from Acts 2.42 - 47:
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,  praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 [NIV]
The three Ds stand for:
- Dinner (breaking of bread) (See Luke 24:30, 31)
- Discipleship (apostles’ teaching and prayer)
- Dialogue (fellowship)
These are small groups of 6 – 10 people that meet together weekly for a period of 12 – 18 months. After this period, they intentionally start (birth) at least 2 new groups of 6 – 10 people thereby multiplying their efforts and reaching more people.
One key component of these groups is that they do the Bible study around the dinner table. They do not retire to the living room. Scott says it changes the atmosphere if they move to more comfortable chairs.
Also, by eating around the dinner table, it limits the size of the group. This is a good thing. We want small groups where everyone can participate. The groups are open until the dinner table is full. They rotate homes and the host home provides the meal. They ephasize keeping the meal simple -- something like burgers or pizza.
I love this idea!
Speaking of great ideas. . .
Do you have a number of people attending worship that do not attend groups?
Here is an idea from New Vision Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, TN. They have a good number of people attending worship who are not yet in groups.
One way they address this is to feature one group a week (I don't think they do it every week) in the worship service. They get the group to stand in front of everyone, introduce the group to the people, talk about the teacher just a bit, talk about what they are studying, and anything else that is interesting of unusual about that group. The whole thing takes a minute or two.
This puts a face on the group. People can see the group members and make a judgment as to whether they would fit in that group. Someone is going to see those group members and say, "I can relate to those folks; I think they are my people." They had one group go from 15 to 50 in one week. That is what I call doubling!
I love this idea!
One more. . .
Life Transformation Groups
Want to go deeper spiritually? Want your people to go deeper spiritually?
I am reading Neil Cole's great new book, Search and Rescue. Neil is a big proponent of Life Transformation Groups. LTGs are groups of two or three that meet for accountability, prayer, mutual encouragement and the confession of sin. When the group grows to four, it divides into two groups.
Here are a few reasons why Neil Cole has found the small small groups to work: (condensed from http://cmaresources.org/node/183
1. Community is stronger with two or three. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
Solomon writes, "Two are better than one...and a strand of three cords is not easily broken." (Ecc. 4:9-12) There is a sense in which a group of two or three is indeed stronger for community than any other size. Why? Not only do they share effort, or as Solomon says, "they have a good return for their labor," but also they can encourage one another well. Solomon writes, "If either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion." It is possible for one to fall in a crowd and not be noticed. But in a group of two or three, everyone is noticed and a single absence cannot be ignored.
It may seem obvious, but it is easier to meet one another's needs when the group size is only two or three. It is also easier to resist the enemy as two or three. As Solomon wrote: "...if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart." All of us need this kind of community strength as we take on the devil and his cohorts.
2. Accountability is stronger with two or three. (1 Timothy 5:19)
According to Levitical law, no one could bring a case to trial without two or three witnesses. Moses explains why this is important in Deuteronomy 19:15 "on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed." Paul carries on that idea of strict accountability when dealing with sin in 1 Timothy 5. He is addressing accusations brought against church leaders, and he says, "Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses." In other words, our information is held more accountable with two or three people than with only one. This size of a group is better for holding one another more accountable. In a group of five, it is easier for a person to hide and not speak up, but in a group of two or three, all are forced to participate.
3. Confidentiality is stronger with two or three (Matthew 18:15-17).
Jesus instructs us that if a brother sins we should reprove him in private. If he listens to us, we have won him back, but if not, we are to take two or three others with us. This is further application of the idea of accountability in a group of two or three. Jesus goes on to say, "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church." It appears that Jesus is showing us the balance between accountability and maintaining confidentiality. The bridge between these important concepts is made of two or three others. A group of two or three is indeed the best context to blend and balance confidentiality and accountability.
It is far easier to give account of our hidden thoughts and foolish mistakes made in secret to two other people than it is to a larger group. This is especially true if all in the group are sharing equally, and all wrestle with their own honest issues.
4. Flexibility is stronger with two or three. (Matthew 18:20)
Jesus went on (in the passage previously examined on discipline for an errant brother) to say these famous words, "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." Many believe that these words are the most basic description of church found in the Bible.
Many of us have found that coordinating the calendars for a small group of 10-15 busy people is a real challenge. It is far easier to coordinate two or three calendars. The larger the group, the fewer the options for meeting times and places. Finding a place where 15 people can meet comfortably is certainly easier than for a larger church of 100 or 1,000 people. The options for a group of two or three are vast, almost limitless.
A group of two or three can meet at a coffeehouse in the marketplace or a cooler in the workplace. I have heard of two or three ladies meeting at a local park while their small children play together on the jungle gym. I have also heard of two or three men meeting together at the grown-up gym for accountability while they lift weights together.
5. Communication is stronger with two or three. (1 Corinthians 14:26-33)
It is certainly easier to communicate with fewer people. The more voices you add to the equation, the more confusion results and breakdowns occur. Paul counsels the Corinthian church that they should limit the number of people speaking to two or three at a time, with clear interpretation.
Our attention span is not that great. We have technological gadgets that do so much thinking for us today. I have to look down at my wrist now to know what day of the week or month it is. With short attention spans, it is hard for us to receive more than two or three messages at one time. In a context that was challenged by a lack of order, Paul recommended that we limit our intake to two or three messages at a time.
6. Direction is stronger with two or three. (2 Corinthians 13:1)
Paul wrote at least three letters to the Corinthian church because of its problems; we have two of these letters recorded in the New Testament. He used the Old Testament principle of "two or three witnesses" to verify the direction he was giving to the church and to affirm the authority by which it came.
It is useful when trying to find God's direction to wait for two or three witnesses to confirm that direction. This is not a Biblical command, by any means. Frankly, God should only have to say things once. But if you are uncertain and torn between more than one path, the counsel of two or three may bear weight.
7. Leadership is stronger with two or three. (1 Corinthians 14:29)
Paul suggests that two or three prophetic voices should provide leadership to a spiritual community at any one time. The others are to pass judgment on the messages. There is wisdom in a plurality of leaders. But too many leaders can also be a problem. If the children of Israel had been led by a committee, they'd still be in Egypt. A team of leaders, two or three working together, is a powerful enterprise--safer than a solo leader yet more powerful than a committee.