“God, we are not growing, shall we close this group down?” This was the question we were asking God in the same year that we started the Friday night youth group. Earlier that year we had started a connect group in our home on Thursday evenings. This group however was not producing the same results that the Friday night group was. Connect groups were exactly that, small groups of people from church getting together during the week to connect with each other. Bible study was not the focus on these evenings but building deep and meaningful relationships was. We enjoyed a meal together, chatted and laughed together and then closed with a time of prayer. Our hope was that when we invited people who weren’t Christians that they would feel comfortable and have fun too. Many times Christians try to invite people who aren’t Christians to Bible study groups, which doesn’t always work out too well. Perhaps in the past it may have worked but in England in 2007 this was not a good strategy, which is why the connect group approach was adopted.
Eric and I had always loved going to a connect group in London and in our new church in Wales, so we volunteered to start one at our home as soon as the church asked for connect group hosts. We laboured in prayer for our neighbours, baked them cookies and did whatever kinds deeds we could to win their favour but not one of them ever accepted our invitation to come to our connect group. Getting to know the parents of the youth group children proved difficult too and they also never came to our connect group. From time to time we had a couple from our previous connect group join us on Thursdays and occasionally one of the mothers of Jordan’s friend from school came along too. Dave, however, came every single Thursday without fail!
Dave was from our church in Wales. He lived even further north than we did and so it made perfect sense that he should join our connect group rather than travel an hour and a half to meet up with people. Some Thursdays we would have a lovely time with five or six of us and other Thursdays it would just be Eric, Dave and I. After about six months, we began to question whether God was with us and why we were not growing. Dave continued to join us every Thursday even though it was just the three of us.
Eric and I had made a firm commitment to each other shortly after starting the connect group, saying that no matter who turned up or who didn’t turn up, we would NEVER cancel connect group. True to our word, we never did. In the end it was only Eric, Dave and I every Thursday but we never cancelled. We continued to meet with Dave, we ate together, prayed together and got to know each other really, really well.
Soon Dave started joining us on a Friday night too and helped us with our youth group as he had many years of experience in this area. It wasn’t long before we realised what a treasure Dave was. He was the most amazing person we had ever known. There was nothing that was too much trouble for him and despite his own personal struggles at the time, he always seemed so positive. Knowing Dave was such a joy and our friendship grew from strength to strength.
Thursdays almost seemed like Dave night and not connect group, which is why we questioned what God was doing. Connect groups are supposed to grow and then multiply into two connect groups and then grow and multiply again. Our group was not growing at all so we asked God if we should close it down and focus on doing things that would bear more fruit. God’s answer seemed to be ‘no’! Eric and I did not have peace about stopping our meetings on Thursdays and so we continued to meet and we continued to invite people in the hope that our group would grow. It never did grow. And we never cancelled. Dave, Eric and I continued to connect week after week.
Yes, there are times when things that don’t bear fruit should be closed and yes there are seasons for everything. But if I were to write here in this book a rule or a step that you should take when planting a church then I would fail you. You see, you can’t replace being lead by the Holy Spirit! There is no recipe for building a church and there is no growth formula for Christian gatherings. For our connect group, for that season of our life, we knew not to close it, there was no logical reason, in fact it didn’t seem logical at all, but we never cancelled.
Saying that we never cancel helped us to push through when we were tired and helped us to pitch up when we didn’t want to. It got us through dry seasons and it helped us stay focused. Again, it all boils down to trusting the Holy Spirit. We say never cancel because we are prone to laziness as human beings; this is our safeguard to make sure we keep going. There are no rules; there simply cannot be rules when building a church, if God didn’t give them, then neither should we.
This is a part of a chapter from The Tale of a Church Planter
, more chapter snippets will follow in the meantime find out more about this book here