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100623 seeds presentation

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  • 1. Liftime Sabbath Fellowships Texas Conference
  • 2. Introduction – What we’ll be looking at in this presentation
    • History behind the development of this approach
      • Most of context - while pastoring a traditional church
    • What we’re currently doing in San Antonio, TX
  • 3. Who’s here?
    • Vocation
      • Pastors
      • Educators
      • Administrators
      • Lay members
  • 4. Who’s here?
    • Interest/Involvement
      • Involved in church planting
      • Involved in house churches
      • Would like to be involved in house churches
  • 5. Background
    • After being born-again in my senior year in high school, I participated in a college fraternity fellowship spawned by Campus Crusade for Christ – experienced the life changing power of small groups
    • Shortly after becoming an Adventist, sensed a call to a career change and full time ministry
  • 6. First full-time ministry experience
    • Bible worker in New York City with Greater New York Conference van ministry
  • 7. Two challenges that began to emerge
    • Lack of places to plug people into
      • Dawning realization that there must be some better way to connect people to church members
    • Some better way to multiply my efforts
  • 8. Initial attempt at small groups in pastoral setting
    • Pastoring in suburban setting (M) - went to training by Robert Coleman, founder of Serendipity House Publishers
      • Tried to incorporate Serendipity Bible, etc., various small group materials
    • Had difficulty getting church members to make consistent commitment to small group ministry during the week
  • 9. Attempts at small groups in urban setting - New Jersey
    • In a more busy, urban setting not only had difficulty getting church members to make consistent commitment to small groups, but had difficulty getting church members involved in anything outside of Sabbath morning
  • 10. Across NAD, holistic small groups is consistently lowest score on NCD
  • 11.  
  • 12. Importance of Holistic Small Groups
    • (Schwartz question)
    • “ After we had processed all 4.2 million survey answers, we calculated which of the 170 variables had the most significant relationship to church growth . It is probably no coincidence that our computer survey selected this variable in the area of ‘holistic small groups’: ‘ Our church consciously promotes the multiplication of small groups through cell division .’
  • 13. Importance of Holistic Small Groups
    • (Schwartz question)
    • If we were to identify any one principle as the ‘most important’ – even though our research shows the interplay of all basics elements is important – then without a doubt it would be the multiplication of small groups .”
  • 14. Importance of Holistic Small Groups
    • (Schwartz question)
    • “ . . . there is a greater tendency to give small groups priority over worship service attendance , in itself a strange alternative, in churches with a high quality index and in churches that are growing numerically.”
  • 15. Importance of Holistic Small Groups
    • What would happen if pastoral staffing formulas were driven by:
      • number of new holistic small groups
      • number of holistic small group attendees
    • rather than
      • tithe, baptisms, worship attendance, membership?
    • Peter Drucker - what gets measured gets done
  • 16. NCD and Holistic Small Groups
    • Why has this factor continued to be our lowest, in spite of its persistence as lowest?
    • Possibly because, as Adventist, we devote a twenty-four hour time slot to “our religious experience” and a few hours of “common time,” Sabbath morning, in particular; however, after our Sabbath gathering, we tend to be done with gathering for the week.
  • 17. Initial attempts at trying to multiply my efforts
    • First attempts at multiplying pastoral efforts via videos
    • Church members tended to be mailmen rather than relationship builders no matter how much we tried to encourage, coach, train in relationship building
    • Interests did not easily bridge over to coming to the church building
    • Even with Net events (‘99) clear presentations, had very difficult time getting church members to build relationships
  • 18. Transition phase
    • Presentation by conference president from segments in Beckham’s The Second Reformation
      • List of NT church characteristics
    • Russell Burrill’s books
      • EGW cautions about not calling for settled pastors over churches
      • Role of pastors in early Adventism
    • Are these principals that still apply?
      • Or are things different today? This was only applicable back then?
  • 19. A look at architecture history reference to Old St. Peter’s
    • Constantine gave us a way of worship as well as a day of worship
    • Although occasional ceremonies may have been held in catacombs, it is likely that they were regularly held in private homes --- rearranged to make “community” houses --- or in simple columned halls. The later have not survived intact, having been destroyed in the last great persecution under Diocletian.
  • 20. Architecture history . . .
    • When Christianity achieved imperial sanction under Constantine, there was suddenly the urgent need to set up buildings that would meet the requirements of the Christian liturgy. All the architectural ingredients were present: the atrium house, the catacomb chapel, the Roman basilica.
  • 21. Architecture history . . .
    • How these combined into the masterful composition that was one of the first Christian church buildings of the new age, old St. Peters in Rome, we do not know. Discussion about the origins of the Christian basilica has not ended. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, pp. 238-239
  • 22. Architecture history . . .
    • Dedicated in 326, St. Peter’s is probably the most important design in the history of church architecture . Being the first church in the ancient capital, it had a wide influence, which was augmented by the belief that it stood where Peter, first of the apostles, had been martyred.
  • 23. Architecture history . . .
    • Its extraordinary dimensions are difficult to realize from the old drawings; the nave was as long, as high, and twice as wide as the nave of the great Gothic cathedral. Its interior was one “one of the most spacious, most imposing, and most harmonious . . . ever built, imperially rich in its marbles and mosaics, grandiose yet forthright and large in the best Roman sense of the word. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, p. 239.
  • 24.  
  • 25.  
  • 26.  
  • 27.  
  • 28.  
  • 29.  
  • 30. Came to conclusion
    • That if in western culture holistic small groups were going to become:
      • A sustained, regular part of church life
      • Essential and integral part of the fabric of church life
      • With broad participation
    • They were going to have to occur in prime time on Sabbath morning
  • 31. Primary place small groups happen today - Sabbath School
    • But they usually don’t have key characteristics of Holistic Small Groups
      • Multiplication
      • Leadership Development/Discipling/Mentoring
      • Outreach/Mission
      • Accountability
  • 32. Two possible options
    • Encourage existing small groups (Sabbath School classes) to become more holistic
      • Sabbath School action units were attempting to do this – but we didn’t see meaningful, sustained changes in Sabbath School classes
      • Today, Sabbath Schools at these churches are much the same as 20 years ago
  • 33. Two possible options
    • Begin other small groups that meet in homes on Sabbath mornings during prime time
      • Had already pastored a Sabbath afternoon church plant that had difficulty getting members involved then
  • 34. Attempts to utilize Sabbath morning prime time (NB)
  • 35. Two important questions
    • How do you do this while pastoring a traditional church – or a traditional multi-church district?
    • How do you establish a new DNA with folks who have a very “traditional church” mindset? Wearing ties, church talk
    • I knew I needed to be more involved
  • 36. What we tried – switching Sabbath School/church time
    • Church 9:30; SS 11:00
      • To allow those that wanted to participate to go to homes for “branch” Sabbath School
      • To increase Sabbath School attendance at church
      • Children’s attendance especially was low and sporadic
  • 37. Results
    • Positives
      • Sabbath School attendance increased dramatically
      • Some classes doubled, juniors tripled
    • Negatives
      • Church members resented time switch
      • Church members resented a handful leaving to go to homes
      • Home groups wouldn’t get started until 12:30, 1:00 – more minor problem, but still problematic
  • 38. Results
    • Times were eventually switched back
    • Groups continued to meet for a while in the afternoon
    • Eventually dissolved
  • 39. What we’re currently doing in San Antonio, TX (version 7.0?)
    • Elements that seemed to be essential
    • Methodology core values clearly articulated at the outset
      • Steve Jobs: the only thing that works is management by values. Find people who are competent and really bright, but more importantly, people who care exactly about the same things you care about.
  • 40. Our methodology core values
    • Start with the end in mind – Disciples spiritually equipped to be fruit gatherers.
    • Key inspiration – Gospel commission, Matthew 28; “Gathering the Fruit – A Dream,” GW p. 136-139
  • 41. Our methodology core values
    • Primary focus – find, pick, and disciple/care for ripe fruit (those who are spiritually open to something better)
    • Context of equipping – It is more important for us that those to whom we minister be involved in a small group on the Sabbath than attend a church (worship service) on the Sabbath; and we will consciously promote the multiplication of these small Sabbath groups through cell division.
  • 42. Our methodology core values
    • Establish holistic small groups – buckets for the berries – as the fundamental and most important regular, life-changing corporate experience (and the most important corporate Sabbath experience) for members and non-members - more important than the worship service.
    • Develop holistic small groups leaders
  • 43. Our methodology core values
    • Repackage our message so it’s primarily experiential rather than primarily cognitive, and then share that experience.
    • Establish inspiring corporate worship that utilizes various worship styles (including contemporary styles)
  • 44. Our methodology core values
    • Develop meaningful spiritual experiences for children and young adults, especially that happen on Sabbath
    • Spend time and money in such a way as to maintain primary focus and core values.
  • 45. Our methodology core values
    • Measure and evaluate effectiveness – evaluation is a tool for the acceleration of the accumulation of experience
    • Establish an environment conducive to experimentation
  • 46. Use methodology core values as a screening tool
    • We wanted participants who could catch a vision for these core values
    • I needed to be involved personally in the groups (at least initially in the first group as the DNA was being set)
  • 47. Organizational beginnings
    • Approached conference administration with the idea
      • You need to get support of Conference leadership if your efforts to do house churches is to succeed
      • Otherwise you’re likely to get caught in a triangulation created by those who oppose it
  • 48. Organizational beginnings
    • We settled on the idea of having a retired pastor join as an associate so my time Sabbath morning could be more heavily involved in the house church
    • Conference president met with our board to discuss having an associate join so I could be freed to lead in church plant
    • Board voted to support idea
    • Made it very clear to board that church plant would govern itself
  • 49. Associate came on board last June
    • We took six months to let him get acclimated and the members to get to know him
    • We also had a major evangelistic series in October/November with lay outreach efforts leading up to it
  • 50. January 2010 Liftime began
    • I began preaching about once per month
    • The associate pastor, elders, conference leaders and other guests have preached the weeks I haven’t been there
    • I have still been chairing board meetings, with associate pastor co-leading a weekly follow-up to evangelistic series, visitations, Pathfinder camporees/events
  • 51. Reaction by the church since we’ve started
    • Members initially had a hard time accepting the idea of a house church
    • They had a hard time accepting that the groups would be intergenerational
    • Some said they thought the associate was going to be doing the house church
    • Quite a few have said they feel like they don’t have a pastor, shepherd, leader
    • Some have tried to argue it’s negatively impacted attendance (although statistics don’t show this)
  • 52. Adjustments we’re making
    • Starting in July I’ll be preaching every other week
    • My wife, Karon is now the discussion facilitator in the house church
  • 53. Logistics of Liftime Sabbath Fellowships
  • 54. Our format - Keep it Simple
    • 10:30 prayer for food and study
    • 10:30-12:00 Eat breakfast while we study
    • We use adult Sabbath School topic as a springboard for our discussion
    • 12:00 noon officially close with prayer, including specific needs of group members
    • People generally hang out for another hour
  • 55. Guidelines
    • Brunch Food
      • Keep it simple
      • Meat free
      • Caffeine free (although a man comes regularly who wants it and the home host has some brewed for him)
    • We provide the food instead of it being done potuck style in order to maintain menu consistency and reliability
      • The group shopper will be responsible for food and supply purchases
  • 56. Guidelines
    • Bible study topic
      • We use the weekly Sabbath School topic as a springboard for discussion (makes for easier multiplication)
    • Most groups will be intergenerational
      • need to engage children in the discussions - Simon
  • 57. Guidelines
    • Role of discussion leader
      • Primary role to encourage others to share their perspective about the topic
      • To keep the discussion from getting too far off track
      • To make sure that a few individuals don’t dominate the discussion
  • 58. Guidelines
    • Music
      • Key church growth principle relating to music
        • The number one factor determining who you attract, who you lose, and who you keep – choice of music – Rick Warren
      • Therefore, we want the Liftime groups that meet on Sabbath mornings to be “music neutral”
      • That means, for the Sabbath morning meetings, we will not include music
  • 59.
    • Music will be a special focus for Friday night worships, monthly Sabbath afternoon meetings, but not Sabbath morning
  • 60. Guidelines
    • Additional rationale for not using music on Sabbath morning
      • When music is part of the program, we want the music provided to be high quality
      • Most groups will not have a group of musicians capable of providing either quality accompaniment or song leading
      • We don’t want attraction to a particular group based on whether they have “good” music or “bad” music
      • While in early stages, avoids controversies surrounding music
  • 61. Finding new interest
    • Essential to have an active strategy for finding new interests
    • Host couple grew up in area and know a lot of locals
    • Thus far, primarily friendship evangelism, but not all friends are “ripe fruit”
  • 62.  
  • 63.  
  • 64.  
  • 65.  
  • 66. What is ripe fruit?
    • Those who are looking for something better
    • Those wanting to understand the Bible better
    • Those wanting to experience spiritual fellowship and belonging
  • 67. Experiment
    • If it works, continue it; if not, don’t be afraid to tweak it or discontinue it
    • “If you’re going to win this world to Christ, you’re going to have to sit in the smoking section.” Neil Cole
    • “Bad people make good soil for the Gospel; there’s a lot of fertilizer in their lives.” Neil Cole
  • 68. Finances
    • We have tithe and offering box that people can put their offerings in
    • Tithe and offerings are currently run through the church that holds memberships
    • The network will eventually have it’s own treasurer, bank account, clerk
  • 69. Finances
    • Giving/Expenses thus far
      • 788.87 offerings
      • 702.04 expenses
    • Interesting numbers
      • 3.62 cost per attendee (9.75 trad ch)
      • 6.68 cost per non-member (87.00 trad)
  • 70. Our challenges
    • Finding new interest outside the sphere of relatives, friends, work associates
      • Map of area
      • Demographics of area
      • Will be mailing interest cards to nearby carrier routes and following up with DVD’s and invitations to the group
    • Goal - looking for ripe fruit
  • 71. Our challenges
    • Finding workers to lead new groups
    • Currently have a lady who would like to start a group at her home at 25 miles outside of San Antonio – a lake community, but no leaders
    • “ We want to lower the bar of how we do church so everyone can do it, and raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple.” Neil Cole
  • 72. Our challenges
    • Keeping folks at the mother church relatively happy
      • Currently going through an NCD phase (scored 29)
  • 73. Long-term goals
    • To establish a network of house churches meeting on Sabbath morning as their primary regular gathering (the seventh-day Sabbath is a special contribution we can make to the house church movement)
    • Provide ongoing coaching to group leaders
  • 74. Long-term goals
    • Eventually members from the various house churches will come together periodically (probably Sabbath afternoons) for fellowship and training
  • 75. Long-term goals
    • Possibly have regular or periodic worship services on Friday nights to welcome in the Sabbath, to worship, and to use as an evangelistic tool to invite folks to the Sabbath morning groups
  • 76. Most exciting thing that’s happening
    • Seeing the Holy Spirit’s work changing lives
    • Sandy’s testimony