Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Building Community: Book List

One of my small group leaders wants to guide his group into deeper community this semester and asked me if I could give him some book recommendations. Here are some of the recommendations I gave him.

My favorite book on Christian community is John Ortberg's Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them. The book is easy to read, the content is practical, and the title is fun.

Andy Stanley's book Creating Community focuses more on their philosophy of small groups and the small group culture they are building at the macro level as opposed to practical tips for leaders trying to build community at the group level. And although many of the application points are relevant primarily within the context of their specific small group model, there are certainly Biblically-rooted principles and values that can be applied in any group setting.

Randy Frazee's book The Connecting Church describes his vision and philosophy of neighborhood-based small groups. Like Stanley's book, this one is very focused on a macro vision, but the principles are transferable. Willow Creek is actually moving towards this model of small groups.

The Willow Creek guys published a great book a few years ago, Walking the Small Group Tightrope, which explores some of the tensions we experience in small groups. Many of those tensions revolve around some of the big questions we ask when we are trying to develop small gorup systems. Do I want groups open or closed? Do I want them to focus on building relationships or growing in their faith? Do I want them creating safe places for transparent relationships or safe environments for visitors to experience Christ and faith? The answers to many of these questions is "yes," and the pendulum swings between the tensions.

This is a great book for leaders who have led for 2 years or more and have personally felt the pull of those who want more intimacy and transparency and those who want to invite their unchurched and non-Christian friends. Or the pull of those who want to focus on building friendships versus those who want challenging, confrontational accountability relationships.


At 11:20 AM, Blogger Tyler Jagen said...

All great books that I highly recommend. One other book that is secular worth reading is Robert Wuthnow's "Bowling Alone." This is a book that documents how social capitalism (healthy, deeper and more menaingful relationships) has decreased in America. Frazee taklks a lot about this book in his book.

I am excited about beta testing a new ministry called NeighborhoodLink. We are a growing church of about 2000 in a city of 30,000. Needless to say we penatrate our city pretty well. The problem is most people don't know their neighbors and don't even realize that many of their neighbors go to the same church they do.

So we are creating neighborhood opportunities for people to get to know other neighbors.

The concept is taken from Frazee and NPCC. Since our church is getting bigger, we are wrestling with how do you get people from the community to our church and into a small group. We felt the neighborhood was the best "living room" to move people from the "foyer" to the "kitchen" in our ministry context.

The NeighborhoodLink also creates a more organic ministry environment. As people are meeting other people in the neighborhood, they are connecting, helping each other and developing small groups in the neighborhood.

The cool thing is that instead of seeing your small group only for an hour or so a week, you have greater and easier opportunities to see each other spontaneously throughout the week.

One single mom became a believer because of the people in her neighborhood. She had cancer and three kids and the people from our church came together to help take care of her. It was easy, because they all lived together, so making a meal and walking next door wasn't difficult.

If we had a compassion ministry, they wouldn't have helped her because she didn't go to our church and we probably wouldn't have known her. Second even if they did help her and she became healed, the group would not help her any longer and she might not have ever gotten connected. But since these were neighbors, there is a stronger relationasl bond that only broght the neighborhood closer after her cancer went into remission.

Anyway, it's beginning to prove itself as a cool way to meet neighbors, come to a large church and know people on Sunday, get connected to a small group, because it's easiest to connect with people you all ready know, and ministry just happens because you are neighbors and it's easy to take the initiative to help.

Our motto is, "Putting your nighbor back into loving your neighbor."

Anyway, it's really cool and fun infusion of the "Connecting Church" meets "Creating Community."

At 12:05 PM, Blogger Heather Z said...

Tyler- this is really cool stuff. Keep us updated on how things develop. Sounds like Willow Creek is moving in this direction, as well. (Guess that's why they brought on Frazee).

Are people placed in groups by neighborhood and where they live? Do you have any workplace groups or affinity groups?


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