Small groups (July 2016)

We’ve been talking about growth here at Springfield for a while. It’s one of the top three priorities we identified during the transition year, and our future depends on it.

Growing a Quaker meeting used to be pretty simple. 50 or 100 years ago, Quakers had large families, and children mostly stayed in the same community where they grew up. So, if each couple had 4 or 5 children, and 3 or 4 of them married and stayed active in the meeting, the church grew automatically. This is what’s called natural growth.

We can’t depend on natural growth any more. Families are smaller, and young people are much more mobile. Only a few tightly closed religious communities still manage to grow this way.

A common way churches grow is to steal members from other churches. Almost everyone agrees publicly that it’s wrong, and most churches practice it to some extent. But building our congregation up by tearing another congregation down doesn’t honor Christ and doesn’t build up the church as a whole.

In today’s world, the best way to grow is to invite new people in the door. For many people, the main door is still worship on Sunday morning, and in survey after survey, more than 90% of new people say they came to church because someone they knew asked them. It’s not the pastor, it’s not the web site, it’s not advertising or door-to-door canvassing. A personal, friendly invitation is overwhelmingly the #1 way churches grow.

But Sunday morning at 11:00 may not be the best time for many people, and worship can be a strange experience for some visitors. Churches today need lots of “different doors” for people to come in by.

This summer, people at Springfield have been coming to me and asking if it would be all right for the meeting to start or host some new groups. The first to get started is the new Zumba exercise class – see page 2 in the newsletter for details. It’s fun, it’s healthy, and people are coming in the door.

Other folks have come to me to test out different ideas for groups they are interested in. Just in the last month, I’ve talked with folks who would like to help start a Bible study for the Hispanic community, a series of family-oriented evenings on safety, a 12-step group to help people stay straight and sober, a ministry on healthy living, and a series of Christian music evenings.

I love all these ideas! I think it would be great if we opened our doors to activities like these. To get started, any new group needs a core of 1-3 leaders who are excited and willing to plan and pray. Most of these groups don’t require any financial support. We can lend our facilities, help with scheduling and publicity, and provide guidelines to help things run more smoothly. But I hope the meeting will listen to new ideas, and welcome new people with open arms.

– Josh Brown

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