Andy & Sandra Stanley's Story
For the last few weeks, I have been putting posts and videos up on this blog about GroupLink and Community Groups. On Sundays we’ve played videos, passed out reminder magnets and made anouncements about our upcoming GroupLink event. We even put a GroupLink table in the lobby for people to get more information and to sign up for a group.
Then, this past Sunday, Rich clearly laid out the plan for our church. He explained the idea of the Foyer, Living Room and Kitchen. One of the things he said was, “The foyer isn’t for us. It’s not for the volunteers. It’s not even for you. The foyer is for your friends. For this community. And mostly for God, who deserves their worship.”
Small Groups are for you! They are not an appendage to our ministry; they are our ministry. This is why it is so, so, so important that you get into community. It is our church!
Andy Stanley tells this story…
“In 1993, Sandra and I joined Bill and Terry Willits, along with three other couples, to form a small group. At the time, I was working for my dad at a Baptist church. There was no small group ministry in the church. Like most Baptist churches, adult education happened within the context of Sunday school, and as a staff member working with high school students, I was not able to attend an adult Sunday school class. Sandra and I felt that something was missing.
We had lots of friends. We both had older people in our lives to whom we looked for advice and accountability. We weren’t having marriage problems. Everything was great. But, we were keenly aware that nobody was tracking with us as a couple. We weren’t praying together with any other couples. We weren’t sharing our lives with other couples going through our same season of life. And for some reason I still don’t completely understand, we decided this was something we needed.
I shared our frustration with Bill. He and Terry had some of the same concerns about their own experience as a couple. So, we decided to form a small group. We each invited other couples to join us. Then one week before we were to begin, I met a family at church that was new to the area and needed a place to plug in. What I didn’t know at the time was that the husband was not a believer.
What’s important to understand at this point is that our group was not part of a church program; this was not a means to any preconceived end. We were just a handful of couples who sensed a need for community. We didn’t use the term community back then. But looking back, that’s exactly what we were missing. We all sensed a need to bring a layer of structure and intentionality to our otherwise random and unstructured friendships. We needed a predictable environment. We needed to “do life” together with other couples.
During the year we were together, several remarkable things happened. We celebrated the birth of a child, while at the same time locking arms with another couple in the group as they struggled with the pain of infertility. One man lost his job. Another couple almost lost their marriage. And toward the end of that year, we wept together as the gentleman I mentioned earlier shared that he had finally crossed the line of faith.
Those twelve months marked us. Sandra and I have been in a small group ever since. Our lives have gotten much busier. The demands of ministry have become heavier. Our three children require more time than ever before. But being in a small group is a non-negotiable for us.
We are about to begin our eleventh group. We have two couples from our former group and three couples we met through our boys’ involvement with baseball. Most of these new couples have been attending North Point Community Church for less than a year and cover the gamut in terms of spiritual maturity. Sandra and I can’t wait to get started.”