Ingomar Methodist: Big things expected from small groups
Like any pastor, the Rev. David Streets loves to see a packed house for Sunday worship at Ingomar United Methodist Church.
But sometimes a crowd, no matter how vibrant, isn't the best place to nurture an individual's spiritual growth.
"We know that any time you have a large group, there are always people who feel they are on the fringe," said Streets, whose latest recruiting effort focuses on creating smaller, not larger, opportunities for prayer and worship.
"Small group ministry is a good way for people to build friendships and grow together spiritually, which is not as easy to do when dealing with a large number of people."
Streets said having church members meet in small groups is not meant to replace larger services, but rather to enhance what is already being offered.
In the coming weeks, Ingomar Church will begin training people to head small groups that will meet to discuss biblical issues and other topics.
Kim Levings, vice president of the Vista, Calif.-based company Outreach Inc., which supplies churches with educational and marketing materials, said there is a growing interest nationwide in small group ministry.
"More and more churches around the country are discovering that it is very easy for people to bounce in and out of church if they are not regularly involved in small group meetings," she said.
"Small groups are a great way to reach out to people who are not engaged or may not even know how they can get involved."
One of Outreach's latest offerings is the book and accompanying resource material titled "Do Something! Make Your Life Count," by former NFL player the Rev. Miles McPherson, who pastors the 12,000-member The Rock Church in San Diego.
Streets sees recruiting people to meet in small groups as a renewal of a ministry that has its roots in early Christianity.
"Jesus functioned in small groups when he was with the apostles," said Streets, pastor of the 1,800-member congregation for the past 3 1/2 years. "And our (church's) founder, John Wesley, ministered in small groups. So this is not a new concept for us."
Streets said he got the idea of launching the small-group ministry after visiting other churches in and outside the denomination.
"I saw churches with very effective ministries that not only had significant worship events, but had programs in place to care for people in smaller groups," he said.
So far, nearly 70 people have expressed interest in serving as group leaders, said Jan Lamm, the church's director of Christian education.
The goal is to create about 100 small groups with between 10 and 15 people each.
The groups will initially meet to read and discuss the book, "The Prodigal God," by Timothy Keller. Streets also plans to conduct a series of sermons on the book to help propel the discussions.
One of the benefits of a small group ministry is the flexibility to meet in places other than the church building, Lamm said.
"We've got people who want to open their homes up for meetings, and others who want to hold meetings at a local restaurant," Lamm said. "Some people plan to invite people who are not members of our church but might be interested in discussing the book we will be studying."
The small-group initiative also has the potential to attract new or inactive church members and increase the level of participation among people who attend services regularly, Streets said.
"The small group environment could be a source for people to get more deeply involved in other projects such as developing an outreach to the needy, or embarking on a mission trip," Streets said. "I think it's a pretty exciting time for the church as we broaden our ministry."
For more information about participating in the small-group ministry at Ingomar United Methodist Church, call Jann Lamm, director of Christian education, at 412-364-3613, Ext. 320, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org .