TITLE: Community: Taking Your Small Group off Life Support (RE: Lit)
AUTHOR: Brad House
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishers, 2011, (256 pages).
What the Book is About
Beginning with a critical diagnosis of many modern small groups, House notices that far too many groups are trying to 'do more' instead of to 'be more' (17). Many churches are sleepy or dying simply because they lack the vital community groups. Most of them are basically on 'life-support,' where there is over-emphasis on one or a few key leaders. In a culture that looks more like a collection of disconnected individuals, House wants to encourage the formation of connected communities that knits every member bearing the common identity of the people of God.
Part One works on the foundational blocks of community groups. Based on biblical principles, a community group has a clear sense of identity in being the image of God. They recognize their calling to be a community, to glorify God. They are inspired and empowered by the vision of God's glory and kingdom. They learn that community is not an option but a must have lifestyle. Biblical groups see themselves as the Body of Christ, reflecting the values of the Church. They practice the three key distinctiveness of community groups: Pastoral Care, Discipleship, and Mission. Community groups are essentially people who have a sense of ownership of the group.
Part Two redefines the health of community groups. He contrasts the differences between the poor and the good kinds of groups:
- Poor groups focus on pragmatic approaches; Great communities begin with convictions;
- Poor groups react; Good communties are led to vision and envision;
- Poor groups focus on programs and products; Good communities focus on purpose
- Poor groups ask about 'what we do'; Good communities work from 'who they are'
- Poor groups focus on events; Good communities on lifestyle
- Poor groups tend to be 'life-taking;' Good communities are 'life-giving'
- Poor groups conform; Good communities are creative
- Poor groups see meeting up as an obligation; Good communities see meeting up as a blessing.
Part Three talks about effecting change in community groups. Beginning with repentance, the author works through meticulous details to ensure that groups can rebuild well. There is a chapter on 'boot-camp' to give churches and small groups a leg up in reforming their groups, and to take them off life-support.
As a believer of community groups, I believe this book is required reading for all pastors, elders, and church leaders. In fact, every church member ought to read this and be convicted about being part of the church. Chapter 4 is worth the price of the book. Filled with powerful comparisons of the poor and the good kinds of community groups, it presents much food for thought for leaders. I enjoy the way the author leads the reader through the weaknesses of traditional life-support groups, to glimpse what biblical groups are made of. The key point is worth emphasizing. The Church is simply not one that contains small groups or collection of individuals for some program or event. It is not one that people gather for the sake of gathering. When groups come together and are united in the name of Christ, they become Church.
I like the way House manages to provide not only the teaching behind each idea but also some models to kick-start planning. The evolution of the "community group expectations" is a useful model to use. With the Bible as core, caregiving as practice, and outreach as an extension of the small group, such a community will be beneficial within the group as well as outside the group. There are appendices on group plan, leadership, neighbourhood outreach plan, community group replication plan, and other job descriptions to help readers get off the mark.
Ratings: 4.5 stars of 5.
This book is provided to me free courtesy of Crossway Publications and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. The comments above are freely given.