Andy Stanley & Bill Willets on “Creating Community”

In the church world these days everyone is saying “you gotta have small groups” as if the mantra itself provides the energy to turn-around every church on the planet. As a United Methodist, I confess that we just lost it … this was easily one of Wesley’s key innovations to building the people called Methodist into a revitalizing force in England and the United States. Andy Stanley & Bill Willets, in Creating Community: 5 Keys to Building a Small Group Culture (North Point Resources: Multnomah, 2004) provide a comprehensive vision and strategy that North Point Community Church used to launch their adult education plan. Their sense of the five keys to building and sustaining a small group culture are:

  • People Need Community (see chapters 1-3)
  • Leaders Need Clarity (see chapters 4-6)
  • Church Need a Strategy (see chapters 7-9)
  • Connections Need Simplicity (see chapters 10-12)
  • Process Need Reality (see chapters 13-15)

Most folks, including myself, tend to move to the strategy without thinking through the process the way the folks at North Point have. One would do well to follow their lead and discern the need and clarify the goal. Below is a summary of the introductory chapters:

  1. A Culture Craving Relationship. “Our goal is to avoid people at all costs – and costs us it does” (p. 22). “Americans are among the loneliest people on earth” – George Gallup (p.24).
  2. It’s Not All Good. “Living life alone does not accurately reflect the One whose image we bear” (p. 34).
  3. The Divine Community. “One of God’s biggest dreams for us in authentic community” (p.40). “God has called the church to create environments where authentic community can take place” (p. 46).
  4. Clarify the Goal. “What is the point of your church?” (p. 53). “Clarifying what you want people to become will ultimately define your church’s mission (p. 56). The BIG THREE #1: What do we want people to become? (e.g. Bible Knowledge or Skills-Based churches). NP’s answer: “We want people growing in their relationship with God” (i.e. spiritual mature, see p. 57). “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19).
  5. Define Spiritual Maturity. “Saying spiritual maturity is a point in time is like saying physical fitness is a point in time” (p. 65). The BIG THREE #2: What do we want people to do? (e.g. worship, Sunday school, sub-groups, ministry teams, spiritual gifts, etc.). NP’s answer: “We want people growing in three vital relationships: a person’s relationship with God, with other believers, and with unbelievers. We want people to grow in their intimacy with God, community with insiders, and influence with outsiders” (p. 65). “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
  6. Decide Where People Go. “Have you decided what home plate looks like for your church” (p. 73). “For children to adults, we want people’s destination to be the same” (p. 76). The BIG THREE #3: Where do we want people to go? (e.g. Sunday school class, ministry team, or doctrinal seminars). NP’s answer: a small group.

So did you pick up the big three questions you must answer? If not, here they are again:

  • The BIG THREE #1: What do we want people to become?
  • The BIG THREE #2: What do we want people to do?
  • The BIG THREE #3: Where do we want people to go?