Thursday, August 12, 2010

Care Groups

Care Groups

"... to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood."
Acts 20:28

Dear Church Family,

This Sunday (August 15), DPC will be launching our Care Group ministry.  You might be asking, "What is this Care Group ministry stuff all about?"  I hope that this letter of Questions & Answers will serve as a helpful introduction.  In addition to this letter, we'll further consider some of the thinking of Care Group ministry in the sermon this Sunday.  And on Sunday evening, we'll kickoff the Care Groups with a church-wide fellowship meal at 5:30 pm.  The meal will be provided by some of the Iron Men of DPC.  Come and enjoy!  And feel free to invite a friend.

What is a Care Group?  
Care Groups are about to become a very important part of the life and ministry of DPC.  This will be the framework from which your pastors and elders and deacons will seek "to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood" — as the Apostle Paul charged the officers of the Ephesian church to do in Acts 20:28.

In ministering to a church (as in most other things in life) one quickly discovers that if you aim at nothing in particular, you will hit it almost every time.  Furthermore, you will discover that if something is simply seen as "everyone's responsibility," it quickly becomes (practically speaking) no one's responsibility.

Your officers are unwilling to let their care of you and your family fall into either one of these traps.  Our Care Group ministry will provide an infrastructure to ensure that:

1. We are not aiming at "nothing in particular" when it comes to the church's care for you.
2. The church's care for you will not be overlooked.

Who is this for?  Am I supposed to sign up?
It is for you.  And you are already signed up.  We've divided the entire church family (members and consistent attenders) into different Care Groups.  Each Care Group will have two officer families leading it.

But what if I'm not an official member of DPC?
For Care Group purposes, that doesn't matter.  Your being a part of a Care Group is not a commitment to church membership on your part.  It merely represents our commitment to take our care of you and your family more seriously for as long as you choose to fellowship with us.

Whose group am I in?
Come to church this Sunday and find out!  There will be an insert in the bulletin letting everyone know which group they belong to.

What if I wanted to be in a different group?
You will one day!  These are not permanent groups.  Rather, group membership will be completely reshuffled from time to time in order to cross-seed the richness of the church's fellowship — with respect to member-to-member fellowship and officer-to-member fellowship and officer-to-officer fellowship.

We're still figuring out how often we'll reshuffle the groups.  Maybe every year or maybe every other year.  But every time we "renew" Care Groups in this manner, we'll revisit the importance of this kind of ministry within the body of Christ and enjoy another big kickoff.

What is the purpose?
This question was largely answered by the first Question & Answer above ("What is a Care Group?").  To unpack it a bit more:  we hope to see this ministry be used by God to edify and encourage and "connect" members of the church.  We hope the quality of our fellowship will be enriched, for God has not called us to merely be a part of a crowd on Sunday morning... he's called us to be a part of a genuine community... a family.

We pray that your Care Group will help the church better know and meet your needs.  And we also pray that your Care Group will be an avenue through which you discover more ways that you can use and grow in the gifts that God has given you for service to the body Christ and to the world in his name.

Basically we want to grow in our pursuit of all the blessings of community:  fellowship, love, accountability, service and ministry to one another, hospitality, prayer, identifying with one another, walking with God and being his people in creative ways together, etc.  And we want to grow in our pursuit of these things with planned intentionality.  

Whose idea was it to use a structure like this?
Roughly 3,456 years ago there was a priest of Midian (specifically the tribe of the Midianites known as the Kenites; they lived in the Sinai desert) whose name was Jethro.  Moses married one of Jethro's daughters.  Dividing up the people of God into manageable groups for ministry was basically Jethro's idea.  See Exodus 18.10-27.

What will being in a Care Group look like?
At the very least, you should be invited to four Care Group meetings per year.  Those meetings may take a variety of forms, so I won't try to describe a meeting here.  But the common denominator of the meetings is that you'll be sharing life and prayer and fellowship with your brothers and sisters in the church.  You'll also have an elder and a deacon who you will come to see as "your" elder and deacon for the duration of that particular Care Group.  Of course, all the ordained officers of the church are your servant-leaders, but this will be a great opportunity to enrich your fellowship with particular officers while you're identified with their group.

What are some of the goals for these Care Groups?
Care Groups will serve many goals in the life of our church.  This will be a primary training ground for future church officers.  Care Groups will also facilitate the exercise of different ministries within the church.  For example, each Care Group will eventually have one of our supported missionaries assigned to its care.  That Care Group will have the privilege of staying in touch with that missionary, encouraging that missionary, praying for that missionary, keeping the rest of the church in touch with what's going on in the life and ministry of that missionary, etc.

The Care Groups will also be the vehicle in which we continue to minister to DPC's college students, as they begin to take ownership of their faith in a new way in the midst of the complexities of the university years.  The Care Groups will also be the place where meal ministry organization will take place... for those moments when delivering a meal to someone (who's just had a baby or had surgery, etc.) is a lovely way to demonstrate the care of Christ to them.

There are many other ways in which Care Groups can creatively help us be the body of Christ to one another... too many to attempt an exhaustive list.  But we'll have the joy of discovering more and more of these things as we walk this path together.  

Will Pastor Lee have a Care Group?
Yes.  All Care Group leaders and their families will be in my Care Group.  I'll make sure that none of our officers' families are being overlooked by the church's ministry, as they will make sure that your family (and my family) are not overlooked.  Of course, I am still your pastor, and I am available to you at any time.  Establishing Care Groups will not eliminate pastoral care; it will enrich and deepen it.

How can I be a faithful, fruitful, helpful Care Group member?
Thank you for asking this question!  I encourage you to start with the following:

  • Offer the hospitality of your home to your Care Group leaders sometime.  Don't force them to host all the meetings that take place in homes.
  • Pray especially for your Care Group leaders and members, as you get to know more of the needs and concerns of their lives.
  • Make it a personal goal to know and love and "own" the members of your Care Group.  Put yourself on the front-line of the church's care for your fellow Care Group members.  When one of your Care Group members or leaders needs encouragement, knock down everyone in your way and show that person the special honor worthy of a being made in the image of God.
  • When your Care Group leaders begin their search for a Meal Ministry Captain in your group, consider taking that role.  In the past, this role has been overwhelming because one person was serving the entire church in this capacity.  That's not the case any longer.  You'll only be serving the needs of your particular group.  Needs won't come up that often.  And when they do, you can recruit meal-givers from the entire congregation -- not just your group.    

What's the next step?
Pray that this ministry will be a true avenue of growth in the love of Christ for all of us (officers, members, adults, children, those who feel burnt out, those who feel marginalized, etc.).  Pray that this will be a means through which God will teach us more and more of what it means to "be" the church to one another (and not just "go to church together").

Come to church on Sunday expecting God to begin a great work through this ministry.  Be ready to listen and ready to worship and ready to love and ready to hope.  And make sure you come to the Fellowship Meal on Sunday night at 5:30.  After the meal, the different Care Groups will meet (briefly) for the first time.

And encourage your leaders in this endeavor!  Remember that God commands you to honor them because "they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.  Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you." (Hebrews 13.17).  They are sacrificially investing themselves in this ministry for the sake of Christ's ministry to you.

When my group is meeting & doing something cool together, can I invite a friend?
Please do.

Grace and peace to you in the Name of Christ — who purchased the church with his own blood,

Tommy Lee

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