Leadership Book Interview: Eddie Mosley on Connecting in Communities
Eddie Mosley is Executive Pastor of GroupLife at LifePoint Church in Smyrna, TN. He gives direction to adult ministries, but spends a lot of his time focusing on small groups. He has recently released a new book titled Connecting in Communities, Understanding the Dynamics of Small Groups.
The book is essentially a hands-on guide in which Eddie takes you from conception to implementation of a small group ministry. Eddie is a great practitioner, and I think this is a very helpful resource -- not just for understanding the thoughts behind small group ministry, but for executing the details as well.
I'm glad that Eddie was able to stop by today and talk about this new resource. He'll be checking in to answer questions and interact.
Ed Stetzer: LifePoint is experiencing amazing growth. How has the small group ministry been able to influence the numeric and spiritual growth there?
Eddie Mosley: God has been blessing LifePoint for several years. Our growth in adult ministry was beginning to be limited due to the size of our building and the rapid growth in the Next Gen division. Adults continued to give up their meeting space to accommodate this growth. In addition to space concerns, we were seeing the lack of community increase as more and more people packed into the building, but did not have the opportunity to get to know each other.
With the addition of off-campus small groups, we were able to continue to grow numerically and at the same time increase the spiritual development via community. The result has been increased spiritual growth seen by more people serving in various ministries of the church and multiplied our leaders.
Assimilation has increased as people are inviting friends and neighbors and connecting them in their small group.
ES: One of the things you are focused strongly on is a small group taking on their street, cul-de-sac, even the entire subdivision. What does that look like and what are some of the big payoffs you've seen because of that strategy?
EM: We are uniting LifePoint members and attendees by their neighborhoods for community impact. They serve their community with events and through ministry opportunities. Some have even developed into neighborhood small groups. There is an excitement among the neighbors as they reach out in ministry to neighbors, schools and even their city's recreation opportunities. In response to a crisis situation in our community, we are now able to mobilize small groups for emergency response. This impact has given LifePoint a reputation of being a vital part of the community, here to serve the community not just receive from her.
ES: What are some specific things you ask your small group leaders to do so that the groups are making mature disciples?
EM: One of the keys to keeping small group leaders focused on making disciples is having a clear vision for success. This is so important that I gave an entire chapter of Connecting in Communities to the importance of having a clear vision and how to keep this vision before your small groups.
LifePoint clarifies what we want people to do: live out five characteristics of a disciple (There are many more characteristics, but we have named five on which we partner with an individual to help them grow in these areas). The five are Worship, Biblical Community, Service, Influence and Generosity. To help small groups grow in these we developed a Curriculum Guide that suggest a core curriculum for each of the characteristics.
Small groups have three objectives which they are to continually live out: Discipleship, Community and Service. We repeatedly celebrate groups who are practicing these objectives. Individuals, as well as groups, begin to see a path for their life that will help them be more like Christ next week or next year, than they are today.
ES: How do you keep you groups focused on more than the social aspect?
EM: We continually communicate the three objectives of small group ministry: Discipleship, Community and Service.
Having clear objectives and communicating them often keeps the focus on more than just community, although community is vitally important. Through community we build relationships. As these relationships grow, the trust grows. As the trust grows so does accountability. When we are in community to the point we will allow someone else to walk with us at this accountability level we place ourselves in a better position for growth.
Small group ministries that clearly place equal emphasis on their objectives, that include more than just "having a meeting," see small groups as an avenue for spiritual growth, not just social gatherings.
Allowing your leaders to own the ministry will also increase the discipleship and growth of small group ministry. Leadership enlistment and development has always been a large task. As you increase their ownership, their interest in the success of the ministry increases. To better enable pastors to increase the leaders' ownership, each chapter in Connecting in Communities has a section for the small group leader.
ES: A lot of churches are hearing about small groups and several of them are considering starting small groups -- what advice would you have for them?
EM: Ed, this is a very important question which I am asked almost weekly. Some pastors have found themselves in chaos by trying to implement something they have heard at a conference or read in a book. We have to view Small group ministry, not as a program, but as an organic ministry.
My advice is to first pray for God's plan for your church. If you are not the pastor, take your pastor to lunch and discuss the idea of starting your own small group as a pilot project to see where God is at work. Gather some friends and/or neighbors together a couple of times a month for Bible study, community and service in your neighborhood. Tell the God stories of your group often to those around you. Share what God is doing in and through this group.
Establish clear objectives for what this pilot group is about. Share these objectives with your group often to keep them focused.
Small Groups, like any other ministry you consider launching, should be discussed with your Pastor, staff and leaders. Having the expectations of this ministry along with where it aligns with other ministries in the church will be crucial to its success.
Eddie will be stopping by today, so feel free to weigh in and discuss.