Discussion Topic

I would like to hear the thoughts of those who are a part of small group ministry on what they think about multiplication.  There seems to be this tension between staying in a group and multiplying them.  I hear some say that they won't break up their group because they have grown a strong and...

June 26, 2013 0 3 comments

The Bible League of Kenya developed a partnership with Coffee Break to share the materials and method in order to encourage small group Bible discovery. Most often, ‘Bible Study’ in Africa means teaching.  People learn about the Bible through teaching in sermons, Sunday School and small groups. 

June 17, 2013 0 0 comments

Planning for ministry is much more complex than planning for a garden and often causes frustration for leaders and participants. Just like in gardening, there is not a one-size-fits-all plan.

May 21, 2013 0 0 comments

If you were going to plant a garden, what would you do? I have asked this question many times at small group discipleship training.  The first answers usually are: dig, plant, water.  What else: weed, fertilize, pick.  What else? Buy seeds.  What kind of seeds will you buy? Oh, we have to decide what we are going to grow!

May 14, 2013 0 0 comments

Growing a discipleship ministry is an ongoing process, much like growing a garden. Good gardeners are aware that they need to cultivate particular practices in order to develop a healthy, vibrant garden. If they faithfully plant, water, fertilize, etc., they will yield a good crop. Maybe.

May 8, 2013 0 1 comments

In my small group role for Home Missions, this is the most frequent question: “Our church wants to start small groups in order to grow community and disciples, what is the best method?”  I can’t answer that question; however I have discovered the process of leading a discipleship ministry that continually adapts to the local environment is more important than finding the right strategy. 

April 30, 2013 0 0 comments

Just before Jesus’ death he prayed, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)  Jesus knew that the gospel was going be spread through relationships. He also knew that it had to start with a loving community ...

April 2, 2013 0 3 comments
Discussion Topic

I'm curious to know if your small group (or someone's you know about) has used the Radical Small Group Study that goes along with Platt's Radical and Radical Together books?

April 2, 2013 0 0 comments

On April 15-17, thousands from the CRC will be gathering to pray for our denomination at the 2013 Prayer Summit and in homes and churches across North America and around the world. Your small group can participate in this growing movement by hosting a “Watch and Pray” event in the comfort of your home or join by using the daily Prayer Guide.

March 4, 2013 0 0 comments

To follow Jesus and become a fisher of men, we need to do what Jesus did. He spent time with those who were lost and needed a Savior. We cannot catch any fish by casting our fishing poles on the ground and we cannot win the lost from our comfortable church pew.

February 5, 2013 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Worship, study, fellowship and prayer are all vital parts of Small Groups. Read Acts 2:42-47. Another important part is service. We need to be open to serving our fellow small group members as well as those who are hurting outside of the church. Currently our Small Groups are studying Under the...

February 4, 2013 0 0 comments

The small group leader was overwhelmed and exhausted. She did not see what she had expected: she was tired and discouraged. She had to do more but she didn’t have a clue what that should be. She cried out to God in prayer.

January 22, 2013 0 0 comments

Some months ago, I gave you a glimpse of the “whys” and “whats” of Discipleship Triads and how they operate at CenterPointe Church, a young church plant in Plainfield, IL. Writing the final report for the Sustaining Congregational Excellence Grant which supported this project for our church gave me the opportunity to reflect on the effectiveness of Discipleship Triads and celebrate how God has worked in and through them in our setting.

December 12, 2012 0 1 comments

So, we are way behind the eight ball in giving our small groups ministry some overdue attention.  While we have had a pretty vibrant number of small groups meeting together for years to study a wide range of topics, it has been sort of running without any coordinated effort or inter-action ...

November 20, 2012 0 6 comments

I am often asked the question, “Why are believers not declaring the gospel?” My firm belief, pastoral experience and observation is that “believers do not declare the gospel if they do not delight in God.” As we all know, people will talk about what they find most interesting or exciting. If you really like sports, cooking, children, etc… you will talk to others about those things or about the relationships that matter the most to you.

November 19, 2012 0 18 comments

If you follow this blog, you know that I often compare a small group discipleship ministry to a garden. A small group creates an environment for spiritual growth. In the small group, we can we spur one another on in growing together in knowing and following God. Hebrews 1:24-25 is a great overview of the purpose of a discipleship small group:

November 13, 2012 0 0 comments

It is easy to get in a rut. Here are a couple of small group prayer ideas. Experiment with them in your group. Share your experiences and other prayer ideas. “Let us spur one another on...”

October 23, 2012 0 1 comments

A quality Koosh ball is my favorite tool to illustrate small group the communication opportunities and challenges.Buy a Koosh ball. Take the ball to your group and throw it around.

October 16, 2012 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

The Bible Study group/small group that I am part of has decided to study the book "the Harbinger" by Jonathan Cahn. I have mixed feelings about this book being an appropriate one for use as a Bible Study. In my opinion the passage of Isaiah 9:10-11 is only loosely connected with the book. I am...

October 6, 2012 0 1 comments

Small Group leaders dream of lively discussions with lots of interaction. Here are a few tips for leaders to use in leading small group conversations.

September 25, 2012 0 2 comments

“A couple years ago we built a discipleship and leadership development system for our whole congregation. But when we implemented our new discipleship system, it flopped. Creating and implementing a workable discipleship system for the whole congregation is very difficult.”

September 11, 2012 0 2 comments

We are still in the early stages of this small group experiment, but so far the results have been great. As pastors, we feel the congregation is more involved and interacting with the weekend messages. The format means that we don’t have to create something new – it flows out of what we are already doing. 

September 4, 2012 0 0 comments

With all the choices of small group options, why choose sermon based small groups? Two selling points are: 1) it allows people at a variety of spiritual stages to dig deeper than a thirty minute message, and 2) it takes little preparation for either the facilitator or the group member.

August 28, 2012 0 7 comments

Imagine small group leaders and teams standing as scarecrows over our groups and ministries to guard against Satan’s assaults. Farmers place scarecrows in gardens because the farmer expects birds to go after his seeds. It is naïve of us to not be ready for Satan’s attempts to wreak havoc in our Christian communities.

August 14, 2012 0 1 comments
Resource, Article

Last week I blogged about adding mission and service to your small group. We reviewed some of the benefits that an infusion of mission can provide your group. These benefits included a deeper level of community (communitas) and opportunities for many different gifts and abilities to be used...

August 7, 2012 0 0 comments



Ascending Leaders is GREAT and what growth potential there is for each of us with this course of study.

My first serious introduction to spiritual disciplines was through "Christ Habits", a study produced through Ascending Leaders. Actually, I've gone through it twice with two different groups. I refer back to the materials often as I continue to be "in training" as one of Jesus' disciples, rather than just hoping to be one. The more I practice spiritual disiplines, the more I change and grow. This study was also my first introduction to triads. I have not found a better way to go deeper into the Word and each other's lives.

Thanks for this article, Sam. I'll be co-directing for the second year this year at AACRC and find reviewing the five missional themes of Coffee Break helpful. Five of our seasoned Coffee Break leaders have stepped down in the last couple of years and we've been thinking about how we could recruit new leadership from the women from our church who have been attending Coffee Break for a number of years. After reading Marian's comment below I am wondering if their workshop is open to women of other churches and what city in Ontario they are located and also what resources are available from the Coffee Break ministry staff?

Good to see you!


Thanks Sam,

This is a great summary of the discussion, and of the main themes of Coffee Break.  I've been thinking a lot about the Leadership Development piece, and about how we might continue to grow the Leadership of women, in our churches.  In Ontario, we're planning a Women's Leadership Retreat for the end of September, for any woman who wants to grow in her leadership, and in whatever she believes God is calling her to.  If you're interested in this retreat, please send me an email marian.lensink@gmail.com.

Also, it might be helpful Sam, to post this conversation on the Coffee Break forum as well!  Are you able to do that?  Or I could do it, with your permission.



I love that Ogden uses the term "hot-houses" for these optimum environments for growth. That term certainly applies to the triads and quads at CenterPointe.

Yep! I learned the power of triads by going through Ascending Leaders Christ Habits study. It was a great introduction not only to triads, but to spiritual disciplines. I recommend it!

I cut my small group leadership teeth on coffee break and men's life.  Yes, believe it or not, coffee break for a man.  I was 20 and assigned to lead a Bible Study for people far from God in a national park.  I asked my mother in law, a long time coffee break leader, what she recommended and she gave me a coffee break book. Then I began using Men's Life materials while an intern shortly after they came out in the late 80s and again had the joy of having people far from God in my groups. Coffee Break had within it the seeds that sprouted, more fully developed in other ideas later. For instance, while coffee break and later men's life introduced the ideas of confidentiality and bonding, those ideas have grown up and it is TRIADS/QUADS that create the optimum environment for that to happen.

Thank you Ruth, for this gentle and insightful piece. Yes, comfort and confidentiality are high on the list. We learned so much of  this in Coffee Break and God was the inspiration for all of that. Blessings in your work...stay in touch.

Right on Ruth. You know I have been a believer in triads/quads for years and can tell many stories as evidence of their power. I was in a quad this past Tuesday night with a 30 year old converted Muslim, a 60something man and a 50something man. There is where we get down to the heart of it all. I could tell you some cool stuff from it, except what is said in our quad stays in our quad so I am sworn to confidentiality.

Very interested in looking into this strategy for discipleship.  Looking forward to next week's article.


Sounds like a great plan for your discipleship garden. I noticed that you started with the blessing of your council and that your leaders participated in the first group. I'm wondering if this is a key principle to the success of any discipleship strategy that a church develops. When the elders, deacons and key leaders own the strategy it will more likely take root! Next week's guest blog from Dave Huizenga will have more about this idea.

Thanks for your input in the conversation! 

Hi Sam (and Allen), in a few weeks, we will be completing one year of foundational gardening... hoping that a process of intentional discipleship/disciplemaking can take root in our suburban racially diverse garden/congregation. This process slowly took off with the full blessings and knowledge of the pastors and Council. (I replaced my previous contributor's photo/portrait with that of our first discipling group, aka DG-1.) Except for two, the group is composed of elders and deacons. To get started, we used Greg Ogden's Discipleship Essentials workbook. We slightly amended and wrote our own "My Discipleship Covenant" to which DG-1 members responded with increasing faithfulness, commitment and passion to help disciple others. Through the 8 months when we met Wednesday evenings, group members were convinced Biblical discipleship was not simply acquiring knowledge as important as it is BUT to more so obey and live out the essence of Matthew 28:18-20. In February, DG-1 members "graduated". To date, we have a second group of senior high schoolers plus two new adult members. DG-1 members were willing to help others in the discipleship process but only a few stepped up. With the few, we're trying to be faithful and diligent with what we need to do.

After almost a year of foundational work for our chruch's discipleship garden, I and my DG-1 friends had learned a lot. Most of these lessons are nothing fancy nor new. We simply returned to the elemental ways how Jesus made disciples. When we met as a small group or in our triads, we said we were at the feet of the Lord listening with intent and purpose. For my friends and myself, the 8-month process (which we firmly believe could have only been led and blessed by the Holy Spirit) brought us into a host of life and character changes, notably the passion to help others become disciples.

Having been myself discipled through the Navigators ministry in the Philippines, a heart and vision for intentional discipleship and disciplemaking had taken root, and had not been lost. For years, this was not the main thing for me. These days, may this be for me and for the others in our church. May the Master Dsiciplemaker be honored as we labor together!!

Sam, I'm looking forward to more in this forum. Thanks for your and Allen's work.

Thanks Sam,

I look forward to reading more and hope to hear more about how other churches are making disciples.



Thanks Allen for taking us along for the ride.

Tim Brown... wow!  lots of interesting  controversies about grace, gospel, faith leading to sanctification, assurance, etc., etc..  in the links you provided   but the bottom line for me is simple.   Saved by grace through faith.   and then, "shall we sin more, so that grace may abound?"   Christ talked more about obedience, than He did about grace.   Although He exhibited grace in his life and actions.  And in his death and resurrection.  

Lately, I've heard the quote, "judge not, that you be not judged", used as a way of muting the commands of obedience.   It is a way of neutering the authority of elders and pastors.   It is often used as a way of reducing the commands of Christ in our daily lives.  

We can debate the theological precepts forever, but the bottom line is that our desire to follow Christ is always fighting with our sinful nature.   We are sinful saints.   When we stop fighting against that sinful nature, then sin wins.   Pray for the Spirit to fill us, to win the victory over the daily sin in our lives.  Scripture says that no one who follows Christ continues to sin.   Don't make excuses for it, and don't try to justify yourself in your sin.    Believe it and do it right.   

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

For what it's worth, "Sonship" teaching has been somewhat controversial within Presbyterian circles, not because of its name but because of its theology.  Number 19 in this paper by John Frame gives some of the background: http://www.frame-poythress.org/frame_articles/2003Machen.htm  An account of a conference on "Sonship and Sanctification," which included presntations "for" and "against" is: http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/news/2001/06/greenville_conference.php

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

Thanks for a good review Diane! The ten months my wife and I spent going through the Sonship material with Drew Angus was one of the most profound experiences in our spiritual growth. As a pastor of 15 years and student of discipleship and leader development, I highly recommend this course. The material is solid, reformed in its approach, and carries out its goal of personal transformation. I wish more CRC folks were aware of this rich resource. As Drew pointed out, WHM's more recent "Gospel Centered Life" is also an excellent course and more user-friendly for small groups and newer Christians.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I have tried to send this as a pesonal email through the network site, but it won't go through, so I'm posting it here. . .

Hi Allen,
Read your last post and wanted to take it "off-line", so that the back and forth between us doesn't get circular :)
I understand your final post and appreciate that you have a responsibility to moderate that thread. I also agree that the issue will not be "resolved" in any text-based, on-line dialogue. However, your previous post (at 3:02) gave me the impression that my comments were not welcome, that they "distracted" from the "real" conversation we should be having, and that I should take them somewhere else.
Your further post clarified in a more effective way, for me. They were less personal (i.e. not directed specifically at me) and I understood that you heard my comments, not just that you wanted them to stop.
The conversations did not seem circular to me, as they were responses from different people, with different emphases.
It's difficult to have a real conversation online. I bless you in your role. I trust, in general, it's more 'fun' than 'friction'. :)

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I get that and I think your point was clearly made early on.  And I have no problem with dissenting dialogue, but that issue won't get resolved here but has been highlighted. Points were made and stated and it looked as if it may continue becoming circular or ad hominem in nature.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I believe that the conversation about language and how we tell the story should be part of every thread, so that we think carefully about how we use language and how we engage with those who may not know the story, or may feel that the story doesn't apply to them.

I commented on this thread because of both the language/wording of the title of the material and because of the content of the recommended study.

But, you have made your point and I will agree to disagree. However, if we can't have a dialogue with dissenting voices, it's not much of a conversation.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I think we should be shouting that God loves people.  I'm afraid that the focus of egalitarianism is side-tracking any discussion regarding the quality and content of the curriculum that others -- as have been vocal here -- have appreciated, both male and female.  To dismiss a curriculum strictly on the title being perhaps "outdated" would be a grave misfortune and perhaps suggesting one's own passionate agenda is more important than the value in the progam and the main point; discipling others into a closer walk with Christ and thus reaching others for the kingdom.

While I agree words are important and how we use language, the nature of this thread is in regard to the content of the curriculum and not "words" per se.  I believe the discussion on the use of language in our denomination belongs somewhere else on the Network but not this particular thread.  It is becoming clear that that discussion is not going to be resolved here.  And as the current guide I do not want the thread to stray from its intent.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I agree that we can argue about words until the cows come home. We are not talking about the word 'man', we are talking about the word son.

And quoting a list of scriptures does not prove your point.

The english word 'son' is exclusive and does not reflect the witness of the whole story of scripture or of the life and witness of Jesus.

If we agree that God loves the female that he made and there is no distinction in his love between male and female, then we should shout that story from the rooftops. We (those who have the responsibility of telling this great story) should not make those who don't know the story work so hard that they have to twist their language to fit in. They should not have to learn a secret code about what we "really" mean by the word son. . .wink wink. . .in order to get the point.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

We can argue about words till the cows come home.   Fact of the matter is that "man" is often used to mean mankind,  which includes boys, and girls, and women, and men.   When the term is used, it implies an equality in significance of all of the human race, genders, ages, colors, languages, ethnicities.   Trying to remove that meaning, is simply highlighting the differences rather than the similarities (which is the exact opposite of your intent).  

It is quite obvious that "sons" refers to both males and females.  See below. 

Matthew 5:9
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Romans 8:14
because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Romans 8:19
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.

Romans 9:26
and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

Galatians 3:26
[ Sons of God ] You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,

Galatians 4:6
Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

Hebrews 2:10
In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
   Hebrews 12:1
[ God Disciplines His Sons ] Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

Are you advocating that we take whatever words we find in the modern english translations of our bible and make them mean whatever we like? Son means male. Sonship means relationships between parent and males. Adoption is more inclusive and applies to both male and female.

Sonship is exclusive, not inclusive. And regardless of whether you would like it to be inclusive, or not, it speaks to inequality, not its opposite.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

An interesting concept, Greg.  More bible based than "self-based".   That both men and women can be "sons of God" seems to be much more egalitarian than our present day concepts of gender equality.  It leaves no room for distinguishing any kind of difference between sons of God and daughters of God, in terms of God's love and salvation for us.    Thanks for your words. 

posted in: What is "Sonship"?


Really?  The concept of adoption including the full rights of sons for male and female is offensive?  For Paul, the awesome news of the gospel was that all of us, male and female, could share the full rights of sons (Romans 8:14, 19 etc).  This means we get the full inheritance!  It is a concept that needs to be explained, but not forgotten in a struggle over language.  Sonship describes and defines the incredible love given to us in adoption.

This  discipleship course is about understanding God's love and grace in Christ so as to apply it to every area of life.  In other words, it has nothing to do with "lording it over others."   It emphasizes humility brought about by repentance and faith.  I struggle to see how such biblical concepts are out of date.  

I can positively affirm that the Sonship material has been an incredibly powerful tool of transformation in my life, in the life of my wife, and within my congregation.  It has opened the hearts and minds of many to see the radical, life-transforming power of the gospel.  It has changed the language of our church to be focused on repentance, faith, forgiveness, reconciliation, and gospel-inspired evangelism.  In other words, this discipleship program has brought authentic revival and renewal to a congregation that desperately needed it.  

So what does it teach?

1.) Cheer up, you are a lot worse than you think.  The first third of the course deals with our need for the gospel.  This message is not merely the key to heaven, but the key to authentic Christian living.  Theologically speaking, the first third of the course deals with the topic of total depravity so as to pastorally affirm our current need for the gospel.  It points to repentance and faith as the true marks of faith.  It focuses on how we do so many things to change the subject so we do not have to deal with our need.

2.) Cheer up, God loves you more than you think.  The second third of the course deals with the good news of the gospel.  It pastorally applies the concept of justification by faith to every area of life.  This section continues to probe deep within our hearts to illuminate how the Love of God allows us to give up the idols of control, addiction, anger, and lust which are nothing but cheap substitutes for God's grace and love in Christ.

3.) Cheer up, God can use you more than you can imagine.  The last third of the course deals with application of the gospel.  The material includes the topics of forgiveness, how to engage in constructive gospel-centered conflict, and gospel-centered evangelism.  

All of these topics are firmly within the Reformed faith, but so often we forget them.  This discipleship course is a reminder of what adoption is all about.  

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

Thank you for the background - I did understand the biblical reference and the emphasis on adoption and the freedom that comes from being united with Christ. I'm not surprised that a study on this topic, with the intensive, mentored approach that you mention would be effective.

Yes, there were many books published before and during the years when gender equity issues were nascent and beginning to be better understood. That is no reason to continue to use this kind of language. Books and print materials of all genres are regularly re-issued with new and/or edited material, with new covers and imagery and with different titles and by-lines. This is a common and effective method of updating material that has become out of date.

If the publisher wants to continue to promote this material, they should change the title. And we should not purchase or promote material that is insensitive to this issue. We should, instead, be telling the publisher that, no matter how good their material, we won't buy it with that title.

While it may be only one instance of demeaning language, it points to the still deeply imbeded use of words that hurt and disenfranchise. We could strive to do better. We should take every step possible to lift up the radical insistence of the gospel - we are all one in Christ, and none should lord it over the others.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

Some responses have confirmed my fear that individuals would reject the material based on the title. Words matter, and I should have be more sensitive with my explanation.  It is also true that actions speak louder than words. I can only speak to my experience, but as a woman I have found that those who have been discipled by and who live out the principles of this material have not been demeaning toward me. In fact, they have encouraged me to use the gifts that God has given me.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I agree that adoption does include everyone and that the title `Sonship' is not inclusive. My ministry for 18 years was with the organization, World Harvest Mission, that created the `Sonship’ discipleship material. I have been discipled and deeply impacted by the material and have also had the privilege of discipling many others with the material over the years. A little history might help: The 'Sonship' curriculum was created over 20 years ago and in many ways is dated.... and is certainly not at all slick. The title is based on Romans 8:15. When the curriculum was created the NIV and many other translations of Romans 8:15 said: "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of Sonship. And by him we cry, "ABBA", Father." Since that time World Harvest has created newer discipling curriculum such as `Gospel Transformation' and `The Gospel Centered Life' that do not use `Sonship' in the title. The thinking was that the `Sonship' curriculum might eventually be retired and replaced by these newer excellent curriculums.And indeed these newer curriculums are becoming very popular as discipleship tools. However, people keep using the 'Sonship' course. Even though it is somewhat quirky and could use revision, the gospel applications it contains are  profound and practical for walking daily with the Lord. Many lives have been positively changed by the focus on adoption, learning how to repent of sin and what the righteousness of Christ means in day-to-day relationships. On a personal note It was during my time of using the `Sonship' course that i became convinced  and convicted to adopt an egalitarian position on women for church leadership.  The `Sonship’ course is best used one-on-one in a deep mentoring relationship and takes almost a year to complete.  The ‘Gospel Centered Life’ curriculum is easier to use in a small groups, is user friendly and also has more current language and sensibilities.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I agree that adoption does include everyone and that the title `Sonship' is not inclusive. My ministry for 18 years was with the organization, World Harvest Mission, that created the `Sonship’ discipleship material. I have been discipled and deeply impacted by the material and have also had the privilege of discipling many others with the material over the years. A little history might help: The 'Sonship' curriculum was created over 20 years ago and in many ways is dated.... and is certainly not at all slick. The title is based on Romans 8:15. When the curriculum was created the NIV and many other translations of Romans 8:15 said: "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of Sonship. And by him we cry, "ABBA", Father." Since that time World Harvest has created newer discipling curriculum such as `Gospel Transformation' and `The Gospel Centered Life' that do not use `Sonship' in the title. The thinking was that the `Sonship' curriculum might eventually be retired and replaced by these newer excellent curriculums.And indeed these newer curriculums are becoming very popular as discipleship tools. However, people keep using the 'Sonship' course. Even though it is somewhat quirky and could use revision, the gospel applications it contains are  profound and practical for walking daily with the Lord. Many lives have been positively changed by the focus on adoption, learning how to repent of sin and what the righteousness of Christ means in day-to-day relationships. On a personal note It was during my time of using the `Sonship' course that i became convinced  and convicted to adopt an egalitarian position on women for church leadership.  The `Sonship’ course is best used one-on-one in a deep mentoring relationship and takes almost a year to complete.  The ‘Gospel Centered Life’ curriculum is easier to use in a small groups, is user friendly and also has more current language and sensibilities.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I took it as referring to "Son" as in Jesus and not referring to male children in general. I have to admit I did roll my eyes a little bit though - reminds me of singing "A Sonbeam, a Sonbeam."

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I would never use it and am surprised that you are recommending anything with the title "Sonship".

Seriously. . .do we still need to have the conversation about how language "speaks", and how this title disenfranchises and demeans half of the population?

I'm sorry if this seems antagonistic, but this kind of thing matters. And it matters because of the Gospel! It's not a side issue, something - despite the Gospel - to which we can continue to turn a blind eye. Adoption means everyone. Sonship means only those with a. . . male anatomy.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I just checked out Faith Alive Resources and found many books on sale.... thank you for posting the link.

Each church has a fellowship or welcoming committee I think?

When people are welcomed weekly, the committee should focus on identifying members and visitors areas of interest and actually keep a running list of where folks might want to serve or be involved. Especially with new members and visitors this 'first impression' makes a tremendous difference psychologically and is living our call to be a welcoming church.

The sooner people can be involved at the small group level the more 'at home' they will feel.

posted in: It's Your Page

Good one.  I know there are a lot of churches out there with such groups or churches that started many groups under the formerly supported small group model of Principle Based Small Groups.  In that model anything could be a small group as long as there were a few people involved.

posted in: It's Your Page

That's a great topic, Jan. In my own church, we've often remarked on the same phenomenon. What are the similarities between those groups and what we more typically think of as a small group? And what are the important differences? And what can each type learn from the other?

posted in: It's Your Page

I do think small groups are at the heart of successful church life -- I'm wondering about how already existing groups can and do function as small groups even though they weren't established with that in mind, a church choir, for instance.  What do you think? 

posted in: It's Your Page

Good stuff here,

One thing I would suggest is that your SG Coordinator get some coaching.  And since you're in Jenison MI I would suggest contacting  Sam Huizenga at the CRC Home offices who can set your director up.  I would also encourage the church to expand the library to include some of the books -- or all of the books -- suggested in the Forum discussion Small Group Resources.  If your director was very involved in Coffee Break I would suggest some broader reading to deepen a SG philosophy for the whole church.  

I'm also available for consultation with her online, by phone or skype.  Just let me know.


Yes! Very, Very familiar with Jenison....In fact, I volunteered at Community CRC before coming to Calvin in the late 70's. The pastor there, PAstor Dave Struyk was my roomate at Calvin and we still keep in touch. The small groups definitely works better in a suburb to rural area where there is an extreme amount of disconnect throughout the congregation due to distances. 

And now that I'm rested, the authentic community thing is something I don't have to tell you, but it's because 2 things primarily. 1) Due to our fallen nature we daily regress toward our selfishness and wanting to be our own God, meaning we become independent and don't need other and 2) because society as a whole is marketing in a way that continues to drive us to be impersonal beings in relation to others (eg social media, online education, computer marketing) Anything and everything that entices us to not speak, see or relate to other people.

However, the biggest way to combat that (and don't set your goals to high, because it is a slow uphill process) is realizing, accepting and understanding it is happening and consciously and intentionally planning ways that bring people together. OK, there's something to chew on for a while....PS I'm in PEI, Canada....presently at a CRC.

We're in Jenison, Michigan, a suburb of Grand Rapids.  Lots of CRC's around here-- some of which are still isolated from their broader communities.  Glad to hear that you're being nurtrured in your home faith community and that God is blessing the work there!  


Not sure what the make-up of your church is; since I came from a CRC background, 40 yrs ago we were still in isolationist mode....however, the small groups that was started in a small evangelical church I attended after we moved to an area where there was no CRC. (I know, hard to believe, eh?) so the hesitancy was all mine, most likely from my upbringing.....but having married a dynamic non-Dutch CRC person, I was dragged "kicking & screaming" - sort of how God does it to us selfish sinners who love our sin like a pig in the mud -  and I am a better person because of it. As an aside, our church grew during those years from 125 members to over 800 members. I'm not saying that it was due to the small groups, but I'm sure it was an critical ingredient to it's success, in how we formulated our relationships amongst a core group of family ties.

Authentic Community is tough, because it takes time and that's the one commodity that we guard. That would be another lengthy conversation and I've been up since 1:30 am PEI time, so I'm signing out.....Ok, I admit it, I'm guarding my time ....LOL wishing you lots of luck with your small groups...jsut curious where the church is located?

Thank you Albert!  Your comments on the skepticism you had initially leads me to wonder:  Why is it that we are so often leery of the very thing that God created us for:  Authentic Community?   That's a conversation that I'm having with our new Small Groups Ministry Coordinator-- hoping to uncover some insights and some ways to overcome that hesitancy in the people in our church who aren't involved in SG's.  


OK....so I didn't read everything....sorry!

You're Coordinator is a she, so I messed up there, and I see someone else suggested this resource also.

I was very skeptical 20 years ago when we begin small groups and my wife even had to drag me kicking in screaming (in typical Dutch stubborness....but I survived and I must say it was probably the best experience I and my family have had!!!

There is a great resource called, Seven Steps to Effective Small Group Ministry;

BY David Stark

If he's never had any experience with small groups it has some great tools for structuring a program.

Just remember to tell him SMALL GROUPS WORKS....but make sure you give it time for the relationships within the groups to develop.

Perhaps also marriages often fall apart because of a lack of understanding of sacrifice and love in general.   If sacrifice and committment are not modelled by parents and the church, then we should not be surprised that children will not learn what those things are.  Our society, including christian society is often more influenced by a humanistic (self-directed) attitude towards marriage, as towards life in general.  In fact, this humanistic philosophy tells us that sacrifice is absurd and ridiculous, and that self-fulfillment is the answer.  We demand to be happy;  it is our right, or so we say.   If we are not "happy" then we start to look for a way out.   A way towards happiness of our own making.   Self-fulfillment.  Which at a certain level is not much different than selfishness.   The irony is that in our search for happiness, we usually lose it.  Even if we were to sacrifice for others, merely to make ourselves happy, we would still not find happiness.   Only our pleasure in serving the God who made us, the God who redeemed us, can really be lasting and whole. 

The other influence or accompanying factor with so many failed marriages is the lack of respect for "marital relations".  By stealing these relations from the institution of marriage, and treating them as mere experiments and trials and testing periods, we have created an atmosphere of trialling that carries over into marriage itself.   Here the irony is that premarital sex is a really good indicator of failed marriages (although there are exceptions).   Premarital sex, including cohabitation prior to marriage was supposed to reduce divorce, but it seems to actually increase the level of divorce and marital insecurity.   Of course, it does not do this by itself;  it is really the attitude that permits stealing sexual activity out of marriage, which continues its battle against marriage later for those who do get married. 

God is greater than the mistakes we make before marriage, and in our time of marriage.   Therefore these trends and our mistakes do not have to determine   our future behaviour, provided we understand forgiveness, sacrifice, and committment. 

While it is true that we are not perfect as our Father in Heaven, yet God asks us to be holy (every Christian), and so we are to try to model our marriages after the love and grace that God shows to us sinners through his mercy, love and forgiveness  through Christ.  If we did that, our rate of successful marriages would be much higher than the present rate.   And it starts with us, with me, not with the "other".   And when we pursue obedience, we will often find   unexpected happiness. 

Great post Allen, and certainly a topic highly deserving of our communal attention. If married couples who attend church divorce at rates similar to the general population, our witness to the world is badly damaged. And has been.

My wife and I attended "Reformed Marriage Encounter" in Oregon decades ago. Was great. I don't know if that is done anymore. I've been involved in divorces over the years from the lawyer side of things. That, plus my own marriage of course, produces this two cents.

Every bit of help couples can get with "how to live together as husband and wife" is helpful. And to that extent, seminars, studies, etc. are all worth it. Still, at the end of the day, the key to keeping married couples married (and married well) is that both of them take seriously their vows to remain married, no matter what. Our nation is now a "no-fault" divorce nation. Thus, it only takes one to divorce, and that means one of the two can divorce for whatever reason. Were I making the laws, I'd go back to a "fault divorce" system (which has its own difficulties, and that's a big subject of its own), but I'm not and so we live with the no-fault system which allows one marriage partner to unilaterally demand and receive divorce (and half the assets, etc).

Beyond that, I think it's helpful for couples to distinguish between "liking each other" and "loving each other." "Liking each other" refers to the feelings couples have that gave cause for them to marry in the first place.These feelings will come and go, sometimes because of "internal" things we can do something about (just not doing the many things a good spouse should do), and sometime because of external things (financial, health -- stuff that happens to couples that are largely unavoidable).

To "love each other" means to commit to what is best for the other (your spouse in marriage), regardless of what you feel. And in the marriage, it also means to stick with the marriage, regardless of whether you "like" your spouse or not.

Certainly, "liking" your spouse makes it more easy to "love" your spouse, but "liking" doesn't guarantee "loving."  The converse is also true: "loving" your spouse will make increase the odds you will "like" your spouse (and eventually almost always does in the long run) but again, "loving" doesn't guarantee (at least in the short run) "liking."

Were a poll taken (and honestly answered) of all married couples who "made it," I doubt even 1% would say (honestly at least) that there weren't times when they disliked their spouse. What carried them through, I would suggest, is that they both were so committed, had so meant the vows they said, that their dislike for eachother was simply trumped by their "love," that is, their commitment. To express it in a cliche, "divorce wasn't an option."  In time, that commitment (unconditional decision to "love") was again rewarded because they found themselves "liking each other" again (what the world calls "falling in love").

This is one of those places where our society's morphing of the meaning of words does us harm. If new couples regard the words "like" and "love" the way our population uses them, the trouble starts immediately because those words will be repeated far more often than the wedding vows.  1 Corinthians 13 is a fantastic dictionary for the word "love." It never mentions feelings.

Great!  Many thanks for pointing me in some good directions.  

Hi Dave,

Congrats to you and your church on your new s.g. coordinator!  A great decision!  I believe firmly that every church should make small groups/community life a high priority...to really see true discipleship and care for one another happen.  I was a s.g. coordinator at my church for a couple of years (and then resigned when my baby arrived).  I will say to check out www.faithalivesresources.org --go to small groups and then scroll down to last one called "program support--s.g. tools".  The red and yellow books were overpriced at 22.99, but I see that they are on sale now for 5.99, so at that price, they are well worth the money.  The books are called "Launch adn LEad YOur own Small Group"  and "Seven Steps to Effecive Small Group Ministry".  Talk to your local home missions reps.  They should have s.g. ministry experience or recommendation.  Coffee Break conventions (now called Small Group conventions) are always a blessing--not sure how often they are offered.  Saddleback Church had some decent stuff 6-7 years ago, but I haven't looked at it lately.  A big thing to keep in mind is that small groups are more than just a Bible study group.  Small group goals can be formed with many different types of groups formed.  (The books listed above will explian more.)  I could go on and on.  You or your  coordinator can write me if interested. 


Thanks Freda, for opening up this discussion!  And thanks to all of you for giving such great ideas. 

I am doing a workshop on this theme, this Saturday (Oct. 15) at our Day of Encouragement, in Hamilton, ON.  I look forward to an open dialogue about Women’s Ministry, to wrestle with the dynamics of our changing cultural context.  I am excited to read of the interest and enthusiasm from the rest of you as well!  Perhaps I’ll see some of you at my workshop.  It’s important to keep the dialogue going as we seek to do relational ministry with women to bless the neighbourhoods and communities in which we’ve been planted.  I look forward to more comments & posts.

Blessings to all of you!

Women absolutely need women!

I got an idea from a group of friends in Pittsburgh to start what we call a Soup Group. A small group of women I collected from different spheres of my life meet for prayer and a simple meal of soup and bread. It started off as a once-per-month event, where we'd meet in a different person's home each time. During the summer, since attendance was much more sporadic, we had pot-luck hors d'eurvres and focused on building relationships. By the end of the summer, we'd decided we'd rather meet twice per month! It's been such a blessing to see the friendships blossoming over the dinner table, between women who were strangers one year ago. 

At first we started out sharing over the meal, and then praying after. However, starting this fall we felt we needed more structure and guidance, so we're learning to pray through the Psalms. We covenanted to practice what we learn from our reading each week, and to pray for one other specific person in the group. 

One thing I loved about the neopolitan themed retreat was the ages and stages mix. Our group certainly meets a need: we often fall through the crack between college-and-careers groups and small groups at church made up of young families. We're almost all between 20 and 30, newly married, no children, university friends have scattered, and we're building communities around our new situations in life.  However, we plan to have some "guest pray-ers" join us for a meal to tell us about the power of prayer in their lives, and the different stages their prayer lives have gone through (read slightly-older-women!). 

That passage from Hebrews could be our Soup Group slogan! I think women's fellowship needs to be so much more than coffee break and our churches need to develop ministries that address that. However, women can and do often build these circles of Christian support around themselves all on their own! So I would encourage anyone out there reading this to look around, find leaders or develop your own leadership potential, and listen to the Spirit's prompting about what kind of group you could create. It could have any kind of focus: one that I've thought of myself is fellowship amongst first-time women office-bearers. There is so much potential!