Making Disciples in a Church Plant
For a church plant to be healthy and grow, it must develop an intentional and natural process for making disciples. For many new churches, the back door is as big as their front door. This means that they lose as many people as they gain. Over a long period, a church will slowly die if they cannot close the back door and connect new people. Therefore, we need to close the back door of our churches by being intentional about connecting people to Christ and the church. The main way that we connect people is through having an intentional assimilation process built into our church plant that helps people connect. To do this, our discipleship process should be clear and understandable so even a non-believer or new Christian can understand it.
Assimilating New People
Helping assimilate people in your church plant is an important part of discipleship. You cannot be a disciple of Christ and not a connected member of His body. Being intentional about connecting new believers to the church is a stewardship issue. The Bible tells us that we should, “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23).Likewise, Paul tells us to “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). If we are not connecting people to Christ in a meaningful way, we fail to fulfill the Great Commission.
Here are some ways that we connected people in the church plant where I have served. Our church developed an assimilation process that helps newcomers connect to the church body. First, we have a hospitality area on Sunday mornings with coffee from one of the local coffee shops and other goodies for people to eat. This helps people let down their guard and mingle before and after the service. I have made many connections with people over a cup of coffee on Sunday morning who felt welcome and eventually let down their guard and became a member of our church.
We hosted a monthly Next Step Dinner for people who are interested in getting involved in our church. At the Next Step Dinner, church leaders share the church’s vision, values, and beliefs as well as our discipleship process. This process emerged from the church’s vision to develop 21st century followers of Jesus Christ who connect with God, connect with others, and live on mission. The key to the assimilation process is helping people take the next step in their journey of faith. We should think outside of the box about how we can connect people. There may be hundreds of ways that new believers can connect to Christ and your church.
Small Group Ministry
Regardless of what you call them, small groups are an important way to help people build authentic Christ-centered community in a church plant. Discipleship seeks to connect and grow disciples with Christ through community groups that involve Bible studies, pathways to serve, and teach spiritual disciplines. The church community is the organic context in which disciples grow. We should desire to help people grow in a community of believers who love God and care for one another through real relationships by meeting regularly in fellowship groups and weekly small groups.
Disciples are made through biblical Christ centered community. When reading the book of Acts, we can see that the life of the early church revolved around community. Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, tothe breaking of bread and the prayers.” Fellowship is an intimate union in which Christians can share. This is not just friendship, but also the deep bond that only Christians can know as the family of God. The Christian life is living together in community with one another and Christ. The spiritual discipline of fellowship is very important in living the Christian life.
Small groups are typically a home fellowship made up of 10-15 people who meet every week for six to eight weeks to share, study, and support one another. A leader usually leads each group. An average meeting lasts for an hour and a half, followed by light refreshments. There are all kinds of groups because there are all kinds of people. There can be small groups for married couples, single adults, blended groups, men’s groups, women’s groups; just to name a few. There can be groups designed for new Christians and groups for people who want to really dig deeper into a book of the Bible. There can be a small group for just about everyone and everything. They are the place where the real ministry of the church should take place as we study God’s Word, while supporting and sharing our lives with one another.
The Christian life finds its fulfillment when we share it together with one another and Christ. Small groups are one of the primary ways of experiencing fellowship. Small groups provide a place for spiritual growth, intimacy, accountability, and protection. The church is not a building but the family of God and the Body of Christ. The people that we connect with in small groups become our spiritual family that support and encourage us. Through true fellowship in small groups, we experience and share the love of God with our brothers and sisters in Christ. In small groups, we also become a part of the spiritual formation of others through the blessing of fellowship.
There are several specific benefits for being a part of a community group. First, small groups are a place for believers to live together in community. The Christian faith is a social religion not a solitary one. Secondly, they are a place for believers to pray for one another. Prayer is one of God’s greatest gifts that He has given the church. Thirdly, small groups are a place to hear and learn from the Word of God. Small groups are a place where we can find, grow, and use our gifts and talents for Him. Lastly, you will be under spiritual protection of godly leaders who will help you grow (Heb. 13:17; Acts 20:28-29). There are many more reasons why you and I need to be part of a small group. Do not rob yourself of the great blessing of being a part of the family of God by joining a community group.