In recent weeks we have announced a new pattern and fresh expressions of how we meet as a church. On weeks 2 and 4 of each month, we will meet in a whole church gathering but we will also meet as Tri-Connect groups and mid-size groups.

There is always a danger of talking too much about doing things before, or indeed instead, of doing anything, but we need to make plans, and also to communicate those plans and then let things settle down into a pattern. Understanding comes by practice not just information. One thing emerging from all of this, is that as Connect Christian Fellowship, we need to improve communication about what is happening. We need to have better communication, and not necessarily more communication.

We now turn to the issue of mid-sized groups and the questions which people have been asking. What they are? When are the happening? Who will lead and organise them? Where will they happen?

The ‘why’ of Mid-Size Groups relates to our purpose which is to keep rediscovering what it means to be church as Jesus Christ intended, and in the power of His Spirit to make disciples of Jesus Christ in our context and culture. A disciple is one who is being formed in the character and mission of Jesus. We want mid-sized groups to help us fulfil that purpose.

So then, what is a mid-sized group? The first clue is in the name: they are not small groups (like discipleship cells or home-groups as we have understood them) or large groups (like whole church gathering), but something in-between. It is likely when they are formed and well established, that the name will change to something better than MSGs.

But describing their size doesn’t explain their purpose! A mid-sized group is a group of 20-40 people joining together for the purpose of ‘community and mission’. It’s as simple as that. But we must not get caught up on the numbers here. There is good research which suggests that groups of 20-40 have a certain dynamic which is good for our purpose. But mid-sized groups could be 10-20 also. Let’s not get hooked on the numbers.

The issue is the dynamic of the connections within groups. The issue is their intent – a group of people joining together for the purpose of community and mission. We might easily substitute ‘fellowship’ for ‘community’ and ‘evangelism’ for ‘mission’. It is also vital to recognise the importance of the word ‘and’ in saying ‘community and mission.’

It is also important that we don’t over-define what a mid-sized group will be because that may limit their potential and what they are about, but here are some examples of what mid-sized groups could do:

3 generation church- family church.
Alpha course
Parenting course
Specific Bible study or readings
Fresh Start course for addicts
Cafe-style church
The Prayer Course
A group which supports certain missions
A group which supports our persecuted brothers and sisters

A mid-sized group meeting is not intended to be a reduced version of a whole church gathering unless that is what a particular mid-sized group wants to do, with the same practices of singing and sharing and teaching. That raises the question, ‘Are these mid-sized groups actually small churches?’ The answer to that is no, but they could become churches. Churches could be planted because of these groups, with their own unique identity and flavour. The ideas for mid-sized groups must come from within the church, and therefore we all need to pray and think, not just wait for ideas to come from those in leadership positions. Those of us in leadership desire to hold things up, not hold things up!

In previous times, mid-sized groups might have happened in addition to the ‘normal’ Sunday Service, but we are doing it this way so they can happen instead of a Sunday Service. Mid-sized groups will be on alternate weeks to the whole church gathering, so on weeks 1 and 3.

I have said before and will keep repeating, that we want to build margin and capacity into all that we do, not least so that people can commit fully without becoming overwhelmed. We especially want to help families ‘live on mission’ all of the time, but we want to enable families to commit to serving, without harming the integrity of family life. So, if mid-sized groups are on Sunday or Saturday, then people do not have to be out at another meeting in the middle of the week.

Let me speak to an issue here, which seems to be pertinent to ‘Generation X’ and ‘Millennials’, in other words, people of my generation and the next one following. It seems there are issues with commitment and sacrifice. This is why Romans 12:1&2 needs to be reheard. It is easy to get caught up in the drive for upward mobility in socio-economic terms, and being part of a church in this generation doesn’t stop that, indeed, it often fuels it.

Being part of the church does not lead to becoming richer, or indeed poorer, but it should lead to us becoming more hospitable, more generous and even to become more sacrificial. We are blessed to have so many young families. We want to help them thrive in every way, and we also want to empower them to ‘do life on mission’. We want marriages and families to thrive without falling into an idolatry of marriage or family.

“Seek first the kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added until you” Matthew 6:33
There is a tension here; believe me, I’ve walked it.

This is one reason why we pulled back to two whole church gatherings in the month, and are starting these mid-sized groups. We want to organise in ways that enable young families to be involved.

But church is not just for those married and with children. We want those who are single or those who are older to be involved in both leadership and facilitation of mid-sized groups, and other things as well.

Mid-sized groups will be seasonal, and will run for specific periods, perhaps between now and Christmas, Christmas to Easter and so on, rather like school terms. If mid-sized groups are being fruitful, they will keep going, but if they are not, we should pause and find out why?

The answer to that is wherever enables the fulfilment of the purpose of a specific mid-sized group, however, the Connect Centre has been refurbished with mid-sized groups in mind, and both buildings could be used for such groups. In any public space there are always minimum Health and Safety requirements that must be fulfilled, and the Core Serve Team want to make it as easy as possible for mid-size groups to use these facilities. Some of the detail of how to do this will come out in the next stage as we meet with the co-leaders and co-facilitators of the new mid-sized groups.

Potential co-leaders and co-facilitators have, and will be identified and invited to round table meetings. A mid-sized group will therefore have both leaders and facilitators to help the leaders.

On 17th October those mid-sized groups which are starting now will be announced and you will be able to sign up. There may be some turbulence in getting things going, but hopefully order will come out of chaos.

People come to Connect Christian Fellowship for a variety of reasons. If you come to Connect to consume some ‘goodnews’ because you are weary and worn out, sick and sad, you are welcome, and we will try and give you something worth consuming. If you come to Connect to participate, that’s even better. We want your contribution. Remember, church is a family and like every family we have our own way of doing things and that should be honoured. But if you come to Connect wanting to be a disciple of Jesus, you are in the right place.

But remember that disciples make disciples. And also remember, there is always cost to discipleship. However, there is an even greater cost for non-discipleship. I think mid-size groups could be an integral part of building a discipleship culture.

Tri-Connect Reboot.
Another reason to build margin into the calendar is to create the opportunities for Tri-Connect groups to develop their purpose of being discipleship cells. We need to reboot them. Some are really thriving while others are not. But the term ‘reboot’ implies machines, and we need to remember we are dealing with people, so we need sensitivity and patience as they re-start.

Paul Paynter