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?

Andy Stanley & Stuart Hall on “Being an Influence without Being Influenced’

(1) The Standards Principle – Gaining the High Ground:

  • Principle: You must develop, be able to personal articulate, and live by personal standards.
  • Critical Question: Are you developing and living by standards that you can clearly articulate to others?
  • Key Passage: Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge (1 Peter 2:11-12).

(2) The Priorities Principle – Putting Your Own Spiritual Health First:

  • Principle: You must establish your own spiritual health as a priority over the spiritual health of the friends you are attempting to influence.
  • Critical Question: Are you prioritizing your relationship with Christ over your relationships with friends?
  • Key Passage: But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33).

(3) The Accountability Principle – Making Sure Someone Has Your Back:

  • Principle: You must maintain effective accountability relationships with other Christian students.
  • Critical Question: Are you accountable to other Christians.
  • Key Passage: My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:1-2).

(4) The Unconditional-Acceptance Principle – Out-Loving the World:

  • Principle: You must love and accept your unbelieving peers unconditionally.
  • Critical Question: Do you unconditionally accept your lost friends?
  • Key Passage: Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God (Romans 15:7).

(5) The Sustained-Influence Principle – Sustaining the Influence You’ve Gained:

  • Principle: You must sustain the influence you gain with your unbelieving peers.
  • Critical Question: Are you sustaining your influence with your lost friends?
  • Key Passage: You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).

(6) The Leverage Principle – Using Your Influence Wisely:

  • Principle: You must properly put into practice the leverage you gain.
  • Critical Question: Are you using your wisdom to leverage your influence for the sake of the gospel?
  • Key Passage: Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ-whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died (1 Corinthians 15:12-20).


  • Andy Stanley and Stuart Hall, MAX Q: Developing Students of Influence, (West Monroe, LA: Howard Books, 2004).
  • Andy Stanley and Stuart Hall, MAX Q Student Journal: How to Be an Influence without Being Influenced, (New York: Howard Books, 2004).

Andy Stanley & Stuart Hall name “Seven Principles Every Teenager Needs to Know”

Checkpoint #1 – Authentic Faith:

  • Principle: God can be trusted. God will do all that he has promised to do.
  • Crucial Question: Are you trusting God with every area of your life.
  • Key passage: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Checkpoint #2 – Spiritual Disciplines:

  • Principle: When you see as God sees, you will do as God says.
  • Crucial Question: Are you developing a consistent devotional and prayer life?
  • Key Passage: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).

Checkpoint #3 – Moral Boundaries:

  • Principle: Purity paves the way to intimacy.
  • Crucial Question: Are you establishing and maintaining godly boundaries?
  • Key Passage: For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8).

Checkpoint #4 – Healthy Friendships:

  • Principle: Your friends will determine the direction and quality of your life.
  • Crucial Question: Are you establishing healthy friendships and avoiding unhealthy ones?
  • Key Passage: Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm (Proverbs 13:20).

Checkpoint #5 – Wise Choices:

  • Principle: Walk wisely.
  • Crucial Question: Are you making wise choices in every area of your life?
  • Key Passage: Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:15-17).

Checkpoint #6 – Ultimate Authority:

  • Principle: Maximum freedom is found under God’s authority.
  • Crucial Question: Are you submitting to the authorities that God is placing over you?
  • Key Passage: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment (Romans 13:1-2).

Checkpoint #7 – Others First:

  • Principle: Consider others before yourself.
  • Crucial Question: Are you putting the needs of others ahead of your own?
  • Key Passage: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:3-11).


  • Andy Stanley and Stuart Hall, The Seven Checkpoints for Youth Leaders: Seven Principles Every Teenager Needs to Know, (New York: Howard Books, 2001).
  • Andy Stanley and Stuart Hall, The Seven Checkpoints Student Journal: Seven Principles Every Teenager Needs to Know, (New York: Howard Books, 2001).