This article is from regional pastor Randy Bloom.
In GCI we have a vision for all kinds of churches for all kinds of people in all kinds of places. Some of our smaller congregations have realized that they are most effectively positioned to contribute to the realization of this vision by utilizing a fellowship group structure where people worship and fellowship in an informal environment that is attractive to new people who do not wish to be part of a more traditional, large church.
Fellowship groups are an ideal setting sharing the word of God through interactive Bible discussions rather than traditional sermons. Sermons typically are most effective in larger groups when there is a need to convey information within a time-limited, more formal context. Sermons are generally delivered to people without a means of interaction through discussion.
The interactive aspect of the discussion format is both powerful and fruitful. By engaging the whole group in dialog, it stimulates intellectual development, critical thinking and the sharing of ideas. Discussion helps people get to know themselves and each other better, thus promoting relationship as people are helped to grow closer together.
Guided by the Holy Spirit, Bible-based discussions facilitate life transformation (spiritual formation), which is the goal of Christian discipleship. As people interact together, discussing the Scriptures, the Spirit “bears witness with their spirit” to understand what the Father is saying to them, which then enhances the relevance of the Bible to their daily lives. The Spirit uses interactive discussions to draw people closer to Jesus, collectively and individually.
Some who see the vitality that fellowship groups provide may be unsure about how to facilitate effective Bible-based group discussions. Here’s where the CAD team can be of assistance. We have developed an online resource that provides training and other resources to help you develop effective discussion formats. This resource is FaithTalk equipper—found online at http://faithtalkgroups.blogspot.com/.
FaithTalk equipper provides training videos and written guides showing how to go about setting up safe and caring places where people (churched and unchurched) can freely discuss faith and life as revealed in Scripture. On FaithTalk equipper you will find a number of tabs. Each one will take you to a video with a written guide, or an additional resource related to various aspects of establishing and conducting fellowship group or other small group discussions. The tabs most relevant for GCI fellowship groups include:
- Tab 5: Guidelines for organizing and preparing meetings (including optional agendas)
- Tab 6: How fellowship groups can be effective for “relational evangelism”
- Tab 7: How to develop listening skills
- Tab 8: How to ask good questions (essential for effective discussion)
- Tab 9: Connection outside the meeting
There also is a tab that provides links to discussion guides that can be easily adapted to GCI doctrine, and a tab that provides links to books related to small groups. For those seeking to adopt a fellowship group format, remember that there is no set format—feel free to respond to the needs of your members as well as the cultural context of your surrounding community (focus group). If you have questions or would like assistance, feel free to contact your regional pastor. We’re here to help you.