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community February 12, 2009

Posted by clintcarter in Church, Church Planting, Life.

Shout out to all of my small group peeps in the STL.halloween

As we’re planning, thinking, and praying toward a church plant in Tulsa this summer, the concept of community comes up over and over again.  Here’s my working definition for now – “small groups of people who meet together regularly to do life, grow in the Word, serve each other and their neighborhoods and city”.  The question is how do we birth and nurture community groups among people who at this point don’t even know God?

We’ll be drawing heavily from our experience in Saint Louis.  Carey and I started a small group ministry during our time at Hazelwood Baptist.  It was birthed out of a desire to minister to young couples.  We saw so many with marriages on the rocks, little to no support systems, very little ties to the body of Christ or God’s truth that could provide stability and hope in their lives.  Our senior pastor at the time had the same burden and encouraged us to start.

God laid a collection of people – strangers at the time – on our hearts and we invited them to our house on Thursday nights.  The stated goal from the outset was just to “do life” together and grow through our time in the Bible.  Immediately, God started doing some incredible things.  People began choosing to honor God in their marriage relationships, in their careers, growing spiritually, finding places to serve in the church.  And we experienced community the way it’s described in Acts 2:44-47.  Those were the most enjoyable days of ministry that we’ve ever experienced and some of our most meaningful friendships grew out of those groups.

A lot of God ordained things happened in those small groups, but in hindsight I think we missed one vital ingredient.  We were great at serving and giving to each other in times of need – we weren’t so great at intentionally doing that collectively for those outside of our small group.  We should have taken what we had and found places to serve in our community – whether in schools, local businesses, or neighborhoods – with no strings attached.  And I shoulder the responsibility for that as a leader.

I’m praying that in Tulsa, God will once again create the same type of community we experienced in St. Louis.  But that this time a big part of our formation will revolve around compassion and service.  And I’m praying that these small groups of people will reproduce exponentially around the city.



1. Mike Powell - February 12, 2009

community is something i spend a lot of time thinking about, and i think the only component left out of your definition is that it’s absolutely imperative that people in a Christian community love each other – that’s really what 1 Corinthians 13 is about, love among the body of Christ. (Side note: you should really go to http://www.myspace.com/thrice and listen to some of their stuff. some of it may be too heavy for your taste, but they’re a phenomenal band with a lot of talent and amazing lyrics. especially listen to “Moving Mountains” and “Come All You Weary”)

it’s the one thing i really missed being at Noland Road from being at Wesley House at school, although i definitely felt some of it with the band and Thursday night bible study, but it’s still a shock going from basically full-time immersion in a community to seeing people once or twice a week.

as far as reaching out goes, i think that tends to happen in groups with very strong ties, and it really takes a conscious effort to get the group moving and taking care of others, but i agree with you that it’s something absolutely crucial to the function of any church (by which i mean the body of Christ, not necessarily a “church” in the sense of having a building and such).

2. clintcarter - February 12, 2009

Good point Mike. I was assuming that – but I shouldn’t because it doesn’t always happen.
Good music too – thanks for the intro.
How’s the community hunt going in Columbia?

3. Elizabeth Garvin - February 13, 2009

Greetings from GA! We just joined FBC Woodstock, GA. They have a greatly researched and taken the time to really organize the church around Small groups. They have said that they did not want to be a chruch that was evangelistic through events, but wanted to get back to the one on one aspect of evangelism. James loves it because it does give you a small church aspect in a big church. In their new members class they emphasis the importance of getting involved in a SS class. What they have found that the SS classes would have care groups within the class. These groups were in charge of visitation, teaching, ministering, and fellowship for the members. This means that SS class would invite and visit people who visited their class, send cards, call, and be the visitors live line to the church. Also each SS could plan mission trips within their SS classes which might have more than one care group involved. Thus taking all the responsiblity off the pastors and placing it squarely on the members. Which I believe it should be.
As a result – the attendance for SS is 90% and the attendance for the worship service is 80%. Giving is almost 90% because it is encourage and taught in the SS class.
Our SS class is wonderful. James went first as I was in a full blown depression after leaving STL. They came and visited us, sent cards, called, and invited us to many parties. In a word the Lord has used them to give me another family.
I can honestly say that HBC did not have this system and would have flourished if it had. I believe the contacts and connections that the SS class themselves have made have doen a great job.
For a side note we did have another SS class at FBCW that we had started before that did not fulfill the duties as well so therefore didn’t stay together. So it is important to say that having people in the SS class that understand the way to implement the tools – they really work.
FBCW is a 6,000 member church, but all of us have intimate SS class situations & relationships which is getting us excited about being at FBCW.
I didn’t mean to ramble! But we are enjoying the Experience God has called us to at FBCW.
Thanks – Elizabeth Garvin

4. Brenda Ahring - February 13, 2009

Clint, a small group is just getting started at my house starting next Thursday. This is JUST what I dream about happening — community. Please be praying that THE people God has chosen for this group will hear that call and be obedient. I know it could be a long process, but I’m ready for great things to happen!

5. Jonathan Bryant - February 14, 2009

If we had that picture sooner we wouldn’t have needed to make this video about small groups 🙂


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