Within their book, authors Andy Stanley and Bill Willits discuss five key areas:
- People Need Community
- Leaders Need Clarity
- Churches Need a Strategy
- Connection Needs Simplicity
- Processes Need Reality
In discussing that people need community, the authors examine the ways we connect in contemporary society and highlight the benefits and challenges of each and how the concept of "community" has been affected by our mobile and digital experiences. The authors conclude that it is the church that has been uniquely called with the privilege of fostering authentic community. The authors believe that community can be most effectively created through the model of small groups.
In order to build community, the second key was that leaders need clarity. This includes a well-articulated mission, a measurable model of growth, clearly defined roles of members, leaders, and the church as a whole, and finally a vision of the intended destination or outcome. Then follows a discussion of specific church strategies. This section felt more like a business model with first a discussion of a "key word" to encapsulate vision (corporate examples were given). Then includes a discussion of the tangible benefits of implementing a model of small groups within a church. Authors then dig into different types of small groups that could be offered and the purpose of each. The authors encourage churches to periodically review their strategies to evaluate their effectiveness.
Within the discussion of "Connection Needs Simplicity" the authors offered their model of Explore, Build, Own and Thrive based on where people were in their faith journeys. Basically designing small groups that would meet members where they were currently, and then usher them into greater commitment to Christ over time. Tips are given for how to promote groups and considerations for time commitments (authors encourage short-term groups to make it easier for people to commit).
The Processes section discusses the qualifications of a good leader and offers suggestions for training and ongoing leadership development. In addition, the authors discuss some common challenges groups face and how to grow through those challenges. This was a section that offered the nuts and bolts of leading a group and helping to foster involvement from members.
Overall, the book offers a number of practical strategies for implementing a small group system within the church and offers a framework from which a church can hopefully foster greater personal connections within the body. I appreciated the discussion questions at the end of each chapter and think that the book can be a great guide for ministry leaders who may want to begin or improve their church's small group ministry.
The disappointments I had with the book were first of all parts of the book felt like the idea of community was distilled into a mathematical formula. Do a + b and you will yield the product c -- sort of like business best practices redesigned for the church. Secondly, I did not appreciate the disparaging remarks about a campus ministry (not named). One author criticized their model for discipleship but some of the strategies the authors posited were not that dissimilar to what they had made fun of. Just felt that dig was in poor taste.
And finally, I'm not sure I entirely agreed with the author's concept of inclusivity and their position on members living in obvious sin (such as cohabitating couples or homosexual couples). I felt that by only emphasizing acceptance, members may assume endorsement or tolerance of their sin; a mentality that could be a hindrance to spiritual growth.
Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Creating Community from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.