Local, Organic, Pasture-Fed Sacred Cows Make the Best Hamburgers: Killing Our Small Group Ministry

I can barely contain my excitement about our new round of Experimental Collectives at Vintage. (I’ve written about them before herehere, here, and here.)

A little background: We had a traditional small group ministry – 8 or 10 people doing a Bible study together every other week. We realized that it was just boring and not really connecting with where we were at. We came to think that what people in our community need is not more knowledge of the Bible. What we need is more opportunity to put our knowledge to work. We need more activity, practice, and doing.  

SacredCow

And so, we killed our small group ministry. Local, organic, pasture-fed sacred cows make the best hamburgers. 

 

We replaced small groups with Experimental Collectives – six week gatherings of people to do something. In our heart of hearts, we as a community really want to follow the way of Jesus, to live the way Jesus is calling us to live. And our collectives help us to do that together.

We organized the teachings of Jesus around 5 big ideas:

– Authenticity – Jesus invites us to be the people God made us to be.

– Simplicity – Jesus invites us to see our stuff, money, time, anxiety, and worry differently.

– Purpose – Jesus invites us to engage with the broader world out there.

– Freedom – Jesus invites us to shed the bad habits and sins that are holding us back.

– Community – Jesus invites us to generative relationships with one another.

 

A collective meets every week for six weeks. But we don’t just study the big idea. We try to live it. We call our attempts at doing things “experiments” because sometimes they fail and sometimes they succeed, and we don’t want to foist guilt on anybody when they don’t work out. Also, we do them for a short time with an invitation to continue, but there is no shame in not continuing the practice. They are experiments.

For instance, during the round of Authenticity collectives, one group focused on how creativity helps them to be their true selves. They painted and visited a museum and wrote songs and read poetry. Or, during the Simplicity collectives, one group de-cluttered their houses and lives in search of greater peace of mind about their stuff.

 

This week, our Purpose collectives are getting started. There are three.

One collective is focused on service. They identified that most people have a real desire to be involved in their communities or neighborhoods, but for some reason, they have a hard time getting connected to local volunteer organizations. This collective is going to try to bridge that gap – giving people experience with volunteering and also helping them connect their passion with the a local organization.

Another collective is going to take the huge pile of stuff that was collected during the de-cluttering of the simplicity collectives and turn it into usable resources. They are going to figure out a way to sell it – garage sale, flea market booth, etc – and then use the money they make to meet some real needs – maybe funding some micro-loans in developing nations or helping a local family.

The third collective is planning on developing a broader understanding of people who are a part of different faiths. They are going to be visiting a mosque, a synagogue, an orthodox church, and a Hindu temple to observe and experience the practices of others. They are going to dialog with faith leaders to gain a better perspective on where people from other traditions are coming from. In so doing, the people in this collective will become better global and local citizens.

 

We’ve patterned our Experimental Collectives after Mark Scandrette’s book Practicing the Way of Jesus. Slowly, they are completely transforming us and our community. And I couldn’t be more excited about it.

 

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  • ChristiMadrid

    Earlier this evening I was looking at my church’s new semester of small groups and I felt let down. I gravitate toward outreach groups but have always disliked the idea of a group of church people going “into the world” and trying to make it better for an hour or two then going back to their bubbles. it seemed condescending. Like “here we are, aren’t you so luck to have us!” Alas, I have been looking for a way to be more involved in the community but didn’t know where to start. I felt stuck. sigh. Safari >> Close. sigh. I sat there and thought about what I would like to be involved in. And the truth is, I don’t want to volunteer through the church. I want to volunteer and *be* the church wherever I am. For me, it’s going to be the guardian ad litem program. I’m excited about it. Then I read your post, and I felt relief. I’m loving your experiments and the transformation they represent. Hear-hear!

    • rryerse

      Christi – when we started Vintage, we purposely decided not to start a bunch of programs. The world doesn’t necessarily need more church-based social programs. There already exists programs in our community to address a host of needs. What those organizations need is people motivated by love and grace. Rather than have a bunch of Vintage programs, we want to infuse existing organizations with Vintage people. These purpose collectives are reinforcing this value for us.