“The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged…The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pastor and Theologian  

Over the last few blog posts, I have talked about my commitment to teaching, and why the addition of Executive Pastor Lance Young enables me to concentrate on that. In this article, I want to talk about another priority for me this year – Northstar Groups.

Over the years, we have continually discovered that it is just as important for the church to grow smaller as it is to grow larger. Which simply means is, as we grow and expand, we also want to grow in connection. As you know, Northstar has grown from a handful of people to nearly 2,000 each weekend. As we have grown, we also needed to grow our ability for creating a church that can connect with people in a smaller setting outside the weekend services. While it is a work in progress, dividing the church into smaller communities or groups continues to be our focus.  I don’t want Northstar Groups to be just another option in a suite of services and programs here at our church.  I look at Northstar Groups as non-negotiable because I believe sharing our lives takes priority over fulfilling a weekly calendar item. Northstar groups promote an environment that is created to draw closer to God and draw closer to others.

So, how do you look at Northstar Groups?

What’s more, some of the myths such as the need to be a seminary student or an extrovert are simply not true. I have found that Northstar groups can significantly impact your life regardless of what level of spiritual maturity or the material being covered. It happens all the time.  People find they are not alone, that there are others who have faced what they are facing now. And along the way, community is built. These groups are a place where a journey is shared, joys are shared, struggles are shared, and growth is shared. People find fulfillment in being able to use their experiences, talent, and gifts to lift up and encourage others. And, in turn, they are revitalized.  People begin to see the bigness of God, faith gets stretched and growth begins.  I have seen it happen and I am sure some of you have as well.

We all need the support of loving, nurturing people in our lives and never more so than when trials are upon us. Simple gestures and practical acts of service speak volumes. Anybody who has been in a small group for sometime can recite a story about someone in need. One night the small group shows up at someone’s door, helping he or she put away the groceries they bought. The person was overwhelmed. But then the group stayed for over an hour just loving on them, laughing at jokes, sharing stories, and listening to music. It’s an example of the value of small groups.

For us, Northstar Groups have become a way of life, not an event. Small groups make a large church feel like a small intimate church.

I believe with all my heart in small groups.  To me that’s one of the pinnacles of who we are and how we do ministry. Ministry happens through relationships and relationships happen in Small Groups.  Typically, people feel connected best to their faith when they are involved in small groups within the Church groups. It is often within such small groups that we learn the most about our faith, and we feel comfortable to share our struggles and challenges with one another.  In such groups we find an attentive ear and a comforting presence in our lives.

So, a challenge for all of us is to see if we can develop more small and meaningful groups within the Church, and get more of our attendees involved in such groups. The early church shares a beautiful picture of what the church can look like in terms of being there for each other: they shared everything and took care of each other, prayed together and worshiped together regularly. That’s our model and what we strive to be.

Con’t in part 2