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New Faces

2 February, 2004 5:12 PM

How do we integrate new people into communities of faith? What impact do they have and what might assist in the transitions?

The Living Room Community has been gathering for almost 11 months. For most of that time we have had a core group of 7-8 key people who have met every week for a meal, prayer, learning and community building on Tuesday nights.

In that time we've had a few visitors (mainly friends and overseas visitors) and one new core member, but we've largely been the same faces each week. This has enabled us to build community and have some great times of sharing and encouragement.

Tomorrow night could be the beginning of something new with 3 new people all coming to our weekly gathering. Each one has heard about Living Room by word of mouth and all are keen to see if they connect with what we're doing.

It is an exciting prospect yet also one which is a little daunting.

I think we are all looking forward to an injection of new people, ideas, stories and experiences into what we do - but at the same time to increase in size by 42% is going to have some significant impact.

This is one of the issues that I'm thinking through at the moment with small churches.

We have intentionally chosen as a community to remain small. If we grow we will multiply (start new groups) rather than grow big - however the cost of this decision is our 'fragility'.

We really notice if one or two people are away from week to week. We also really notice it if an extra person (or three) come along. We notice the good things that they bring, but we also know that even just one person can change the culture of the whole.

I'm not opposed to the Living Room change - I'm all for fluidity - yet at the same time we have spent a lot of time working on the DNA and values that we feel God has called us to. It is going to take some time for others to come to a similar place in their journey.

How have others found integrating new people into their small emerging communities of faith? Any tips or suggestions?

I'm leaning towards making this next week about telling stories to help with the process but am very interested in others experiences.

I'm looking forward to the experience of integrating new people into our community, it will definitely bring some challenges but also has the potential to bring real freshness and life.



Something I found with small groups in general is that you should multiply early. I have encountered a lot of people with the same experiences as me regarding this: They have about 18 people who come, but only about 10 at any one meeting (with a regular core gruop of about 8). They say they are waiting for the number of people there on the night to increase before multiplying. The problem is that no matter how many people join the numbers there at the meeting don't go up. It just increases the number of people who don't come so often. I believe the problem is that the 10 non-core group people don't think they will be missed and usually find something else more pressing to do. My advice would be to multiply when the number of people on your books gets to 12.

Dan » 2 February, 2004 8:52 PM

WE have found that 8-12 make a good meeting, but that we do have more than that involved because not everybody can make every gathering. However... we have worked with a concept that we call "sprouting" rather than "multiplying." Multiplying usually denotes some way to split the group up into two new groups. This has never appealed to people nor been very effective, in our limited experience. So, in our DNA discussions, we are always talking about looking for "sprouts"-- i.e. two or three people who would venture out to begin a new gathering/church. This maintains the basic community of the first group while creating a missional type feel for the second. Those going out can remain as connected as they want, time permitting, with the first group (which causes the first group to still feel somewhat intact). The first group also supports the new group by rotating people from the first group through the second group's gathering. This provides a lot of continuity and connection between the groups and support for the new group "sprouts" that have gone out. We be new and learning... be interested in the experiences of others!

roger » 2 February, 2004 9:13 PM

I've noticed the same thing in our community, that while there may be a number on the peripheral, there are a definate core group. Dan's reasons may explain this.

Our group got to like 20 in size and we decided to multiply. I think the only reason we waited this long was because of the fluctuation that occurs - one week we'd have too many people to fit in the room and the next there would be much fewer. When the group was big, we noticed that the only people who felt comfortable being vulnerable enough to share were the extroverts!

It was funny because at first both groups went down to between 4-6 appearing together at any one time. Recently we've been focussing on values (DNA). People have been added to our number and the fact that we keep returning to our vision is really paying off. I found this was quite difficult because I knew it was ground we'd already covered, but was inspired by this advice I found in an article by John Wimber: http://www.mtit.com/mbvine/articles/SevenConstants.htm

What I've noticed in our new groups is that those who arrived at the original group later now feel more valued. They're around more and are finding ways to serve that weren't available to them in a group of 20 individuals.

Jonathan Morgan » 2 February, 2004 9:23 PM

are these new people, new believers or are they believers who are coming from other places? it makes a big difference in how they are integrated don't you think?

George » 2 February, 2004 11:45 PM

I have another question: do all the people of the group share the vision of multiplication as do the leaders? in other words was your fellowship born pregnant?

George » 2 February, 2004 11:52 PM

I think the new people are vital to the growth of your vision. Here's a few things that I can think of: for the first time visitors, everyone (not just the leader) pray for him(her), if you are comfortable, then everyone lay hands on him would even be better. During the week, have one or two people invite him home for dinner to form some friendship, and the next week some other people invite him around. Find out something that will make him feel special, like a suprise birthday party,etc. Offer prayers and actual help. Have him share his testimonies and experiences in the group time....

Susan » 3 February, 2004 11:29 AM

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