Posts Tagged ‘christian community’

by Clint Smith

Richmond’s First Baptist Church is known throughout Central Virginia for its beautiful, reverent and moving Sunday morning worship services. Every week, hundreds flock into the sanctuary at Monument and Arthur Ashe Boulevard to sing, pray, learn and grow. Though God is present everywhere and at all times, the worship service is a place where God seems especially near and where our hearts are increasingly attuned to his movement. There is more to the church experience, however. While the service allows us to grow deeper in our faith, it is not an ideal environment for us to grow together. Relationships require cultivation, achieved only through authentic connection. This is why small groups are such an important part of the Christian life.

callout for small groups post“As much as I love gathering with the whole of the local church for corporate worship, there is something powerfully unique about an intimate gathering around a living room, a small classroom or a dining room table,” says Ed Stetzer, author of Transformational Groups. “It forces us to think differently than when we are in a big room for worship. The theology taught in our pulpits begins to be fleshed out in conversation and action.” ¹

A small group is just what it sounds like: an intimate, intentional gathering of people who meet regularly for a common purpose. While this purpose is often to study the Bible or to discuss a book, it can be any activity that builds community. Small groups can serve lunch at the local middle school, hike the James River Trail System on Sunday afternoons or ride motorcycles on scenic byways. In the course of these activities, friendships inevitably develop around shared experience and interests, leading to deeper connections with one another and with the church as a whole.

The individual’s growth within a small group is often significant. “The concept allows for real honesty with your thoughts and comments,” remarks Ann Hall, a member of a recent Lenten small group study of The Good and Beautiful God (James Bryan Smith, 2009). “We didn’t judge one another as we really had an opportunity to see one’s heart and spirit.” Another member of that group, Mignon Tucker, commented, “Inclusion of individuals at different stages in the Christian journey helped me to re-examine some long held beliefs and ponder new ones. I looked forward to every week and felt motivated to prepare.”

small groups montage

How small is too small? What is too big? “The ideal size is between 6 and 15,” writes Andrew Mason, Executive Pastor of Discipleship Communities at Emmanuel, a multi-site church in Minneapolis. “Groups that start out with two to five people in attendance run the risk of dying out quickly with no one showing up by the third or fourth meeting. Too many and you will inevitably have a handful of people that don’t feel as connected as others do in the group. New guests will take longer to get assimilated and will potentially get lost.”²

Would you like to start a small group? It’s easy. Pick a reason to meet (find a book to read, choose an activity), invite people to join you (call or text your friends, post a flyer at the church) and get together (find a spot and a time). It’s really that simple!

Maybe you’d prefer to join a group that’s already active? Our church has dozens. Many of them meet on Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m. You’ve probably been calling them “Sunday School”, but that’s just a small group with another name. There are also the new “3-D” (Discipleship, Dinner, Dialogue) small groups meeting in the church and in homes. Other groups practice T’ai Chi, make sleeping bags for the homeless and even buff police badges.

Where will you plug in?

¹ https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/march/4-reasons-small-groups-are-vital-to-your-churchs-health

² http://www.smallgroupchurches.com/the-ideal-small-group-size/

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Story by Ruth Szucs. Photos by Karen Brown and Robert Thompson.

Each Wednesday night from the first week of September through the week before the end of the school year, children from age 3 through grade 5 meet together in Children’s Choirs. They sing hymns, anthems, spirituals, Psalms and choruses. Participating in choir provides a medium for singing about things not often heard in the secular world of music or on the radio. They sing about God, talk about God and explore the nature of God.

However, being a part of the Children’s Choir program at Richmond’s First Baptist Church is about so much more. This year, the choir program focused on the fruit of the Spirit. The Carol Choir singers, for those in grades 3 through 5, have a goal of being a total “Fruit Basket.” To be a “Fruit Basket,” they have to learn 10 verses starting with Galatians 5:22-23: “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against such things.” After memorizing this verse, the children earn baskets and begin to learn another scripture verse. Once they have recited the new verse, we place a piece of fruit into their baskets, and then they are “Fruit Baskets.”

Children's Choirs: So Much More than SingingThrough their time together, longtime friendships develop, and the children begin to learn about living in Christian community. When you ask Virginia Dean, who participates in the Carol Choir, what her time in choir means she will tell you about the importance of hospitality during choir time. Hospitality doesn’t have much to do with music, but it has much to do with community, which is how choirs are formed. Virginia says, “It makes me feel good to be friendly and to show others around.” Being hospitable occurs when “you are a disciple and you are showing others about your church,” says Virginia. When we asked Virginia about choir she said, “It is not just about singing, but being friendly, welcoming others and worshiping God.”

Another Children’s Choir member, Peyton Thompson, put the importance of Christian community a little differently. When we asked for her thoughts on coming to the Angels (for those ages 4 and 5 or in kindergarten), she said, “I get to have dinner, see Vanessa Carter and Lynn Turner and play with my friends in the gym. When I go to choir, I have a lot of fun singing, and then I get to go to Mission Friends to learn about missions.” For Peyton, Wednesday evening is an experience where she feels loved and can have fun.

Wednesday night is a special night. It takes effort for parents to bring their children to the Wednesday family activities. The midweek connection with other Christians for fellowship, music and missions is well worth this effort. We are blessed at FBC to have Wednesday programs. More than programs, these are learning experiences to make disciples of Christ.

The children’s choir program incorporates developmentally appropriate materials and activities by age and grade. The four different choirs are:

  • M&M 3s, age 3 by October 1 of the choir year
  • Angels 4&5, ages 4 and 5 or in kindergarten
  • Music Makers, grades 1 and 2
  • Carol Choir, grades 3 – 5

Editor’s note: If you are interested in becoming a part of the Wednesday Night First Family through Children’s Choir, contact Ruth Szucs at 358-5458 ext.164.

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