It’s been a great day gathering with so many thoughtful and humble leaders here in Atlanta. Today was centered around four different discussions:
Session 1: Disciple Making
Our first discussion centered around the idea of making disciples, and Rick Howerton provoked some good healthy discussion and serious reflections on whether or not our systems were actually producing healthy disciples of Jesus.
In processing through the different viewpoints that individuals had, my primary takeaway is that we need to allow Jesus to speak for himself through the Word. It’s easy to distill discipleship down to a set of practices or core values, but fundamentally people need to encounter the real Jesus in His authoritative Word. To be a disciple of Jesus means we must find Him in the Word!
Session 2: Small Group Strategies – Multisite
In our second discussion, we split up into different strategic challenges we are facing as we lead in groups ministry, and I was particularly helped in our discussion on groups in a multisite church. Everyone agreed that there is no “best-practice” yet, but all of us agreed that we needed clarity and simplicity to effectively lead in a complex environment.
My key takeaway from this discussion was particularly in the area of culture – how do you not only foster common practices, but common culture in a diverse set of contexts and campuses?
Specifically, as we continue to bring new people onto our team, whether staff or volunteer, we need to not only articulate our culture, but foster experiences and pose problems that help people understand why our culture is the way it is.
Session 3: Strengths and Weaknesses in Different Models
In our third session, we discussed the various strengths and weaknesses of our systems for groups. It was really helpful to hear where others are succeeding and struggling, and how their systems are helping and hindering their ministry.
My key takeaway in this session was understanding the different tradeoffs in groups systems in general. They primarily come in two flavors – connection-oriented systems and development-oriented systems. Connection types are really effective at reaching into the unconnected and the lost, but struggle to maintain groups over time and cultivate depth.
Conversely, development-oriented systems are great at creating depth and longevity, but really struggle to connect new and different kinds of people.
The reality for most of us in the groups/discipleship world is that we must continue to adapt over time, and there is no problem free model, and my friend Mark Howell conveys so well.
Session 4: Trends in Culture
In our final conversation, we spent most of our time dialoguing through some cultural trends that directly affect ministry within the local church. Primarily, we spent time on the impact of the virtual world with respect to community, and some implications for how we engage thoughtfully and theologically to a world dominated by new means of communication.
I am cautious, and yet also somewhat eager to see how we can leverage the tools of technology to strengthen the local church, as well as engage people whom we may not have been able to without these new tools.
There’s more to come tomorrow!