Organizing Church Groups

PASTORAL PRINCIPLES AND PROCEDURES: Organizing Church Groups

Suggestive details on how to break down a large congregation into small groups

Lynwood, California

Last month's article discussed the Bible and Spirit of prophecy basic principle of breaking a larger congregation down into group units, and here are some suggestive details on how to proceed.

1. Divide the church territory into districts.

2. In general, those living in the given district should be members of that district group or club, but this should not be too ironclad. The district lines will be drawn so -that there live in the territory a sufficient number to form an active band of those who might reasonably be expected to meet together. Territory in which there are no believers should be given special consideration. It may be divided among the church membership, with perhaps a special assignment for the young people.

3. Each group should have a leader, an assistant or associate leader, a secretary, and a deacon and a deaconess where possible. Some of these officers may not live in the territorial district ,or group. The church's natural leadership may not be that evenly distributed. You may prefer to call your leader the president; and the associate leader, vice-president; and your group, a club. For instance, Club ABC, North east Club, Southeast Club, or Highland Park. Club. This helps to create group spirit.

All planning should originate with the church board, and final approval should be given by that body. A special committee will likely be appointed by the board to draw up the district plan. The district groups, with proper progressive adjustment, should be a permanent part of church life.

Group or Club Activities

1. Group cottage meetings at appointed sea sons.

2. Stimulation of individual Bible studies and house-to-house visitation.

3. Visiting the sick, absentees, needy, and shut-ins. (Dorcas objectives.)

4. Literature distribution and Bible school enrollments.

5. Cooperation with minister and Bible instructor on special interests from radio, public meetings, and correspondence school interests. "

6. Social plans.

7. Cooperation on quick coverage of church membership or district territory in any special plan from church expense to handbill coverage for meetings.

8. Other activities as church leadership may indicate.

Give prominence in your bulletin or public services to the work of these groups. A little appreciation goes a long way.

Duties of Officers

1. LEADER OR PRESIDENT. The leader should act as chairman of the group or club. This per son ought to visit each Adventist family of the district territory early after appointment to leadership. Nothing takes the place of a personal visit in placing a leader in position to direct with the greatest understanding and maximum cooperation. Beware of lending too much ear talebearing. Do not give your ad dress list of members to strangers, and instruct your members likewise. Wolves come into the flock at times.

Wise division of responsibility should be agreed upon. Each family should have its territory for literature distribution, house-to-house visitation, and general work. The work of visiting our own people may be wisely divided also. The more specific we are in giving individual responsibility, the more success we will have. "Everyone who is added to the ranks by con version is to be assigned his post of duty."— Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 30. (Italics supplied.)

In visiting, prayer is often the golden key. You may sometimes choose to kneel, sometimes sit, or at times have just a brief prayer standing near the door, ready to leave. When a per son's name is mentioned in prayer by a friend the inner response is nearly always to the good.

When cottage meetings are held the president may be the instructor, or he may not be. His chief qualification is consecrated leader ship, including the ability to get others to do things.

2. ASSOCIATE LEADER OR VICE-PRESIDENT. The associate leader naturally does what his position indicates. He may act as chairman on invitation of the president, or in his absence. He may be the regular instructor for cottage meetings, or Bible clubs, as we may speak of them. He is willing and happy to visit or help in any way. "Everyone should be willing to be or to do anything in this warfare." Ibid.3. DEACON AND DEACONESS. If it is possible to arrange for a deacon and a deaconess to be in each club, their special work is more or less understood visiting the sick and needy, or encouraging the backslidden or despondent. Here again our plans must have adjustability.

The deacon or deaconess may be the president or vice-president of the group. "It is not numerous institutions, large buildings, or great display that God requires, but the harmonious action, of a peculiar people." Ibid., vol. 6, p.293

4. THE SECRETARY. The secretary has an important work. She should keep a faithful record of the district program, with an up-to-date address list of members. Following are suggestions:

a. Make an outline of the district on a map.

b. Locate members on a map.

c. Assign individual territory (or family).

d. Record systematic literature coverage.

e. Record group meetings.

f. Record subjects covered in cottage meetings, and lessons or materials used.

g. Record sick, shut-ins, backslidden, interested persons, et cetera. Remember the sick and shut-ins with appropriate cards or letters, with greetings from the group.

h. Do everything to develop a group spirit and entity.

i. Other items as developing plans may indicate.

"The secret of our success in the work of God will be found in the harmonious working of our people. . . . We must press together." Christian Service, p. 75. (Italics supplied.)

Signal Value of Group Units

There is something inspiring about a large congregation. On the other hand, there is something warm and helpful about a small group where no one is a stranger. God's plan is for us to take larger churches and make of them, as it were, an aggregation of small churches. Thus we have the special advantage of both types.

An army cannot be effectively directed as a mass of men. It must be broken down into small units. The small unit does three very vital things. First, it gives the leader of the unit a specific responsibility that he can visualize and handle. He can in many instances visit his en tire group in half a day, because of territorial arrangement. Second, the unit system sharpens the leader's sense of responsibility. And third, each member of the group will have an increased sense of personal responsibility. If a boy is drowning in a river while one thousand people stand on the bank, it is easy for each of the thousand to think that someone else will rescue him. If only ten persons stand on the water's edge, the individual responsibility is multiplied a hundred times.

Jesus had-a band of twelve men. And that is a very good number for a band, if you have twelve reliable members. Others may be on the list. When bands become too large divide them. If too small, unite two, or form two of three.

"If discipline and order are necessary for successful action on the battle-field, the same are as much more needful in the warfare in which we are engaged as the object to be gained is of greater value and more elevated in character, than those for which op posing forces contend upon the field of battle. In the conflict in which we are engaged, eternal interests are at stake." Testimonies, vol. i, p. 649.

OVESORGANIZATION. Organization does not mean overorganization. Beware of multiplied details and records which will discourage the average person. A watch might have a thou sand wheels and not run as well as the one you carry. Do not smother action with superorganization, nor permit it to destroy initiative. Let- us remember that organization cannot take the place of the love and power of God. But let us make this group system a permanent working part of our church life. (Next installment, "Combining Public Work With Bible Clubs.")

 

 

 

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Lynwood, California

May 1950

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