Community at Elim: Seven Guiding Principles

by Larry Short

Larry expands on each of the following principles in “The Last Word,” Elim’s blog. Read the entire series here.

  1. Groups are an incredibly important part of life at a local church such as Elim. They should be one of the key places where people truly connect to God and one another. A lot of life change (for the better!) happens in the context of small groups. Because groups are so important, we seek to:
    • Encourage as many friends and members at Elim as possible to be a part.
    • Recruit and raise up as many leaders as needed to lead as many groups as needed to accommodate all those who should be in a group.
    • Pray for, support, and help equip those leaders in whatever ways we can to be effective in using their gifts in group leadership.
  1. God is the One who raises up groups, and He does so by speaking into the lives of leaders and laying a vision on their heart for the group. Every group is different, and the group leader(s) are responsible to manage the group in accordance with God’s leading. Hence, it is unlikely any two groups will be the same, and our goal should be to encourage, exhort, and grant a great deal of freedom to group leaders to lead in a manner in which they feel called. We will resist any cookie-cutter approach to creating groups at Elim.
  2. We will prayerfully consider what recruiting, equipping, and encouraging group leaders should look like. But here are some early principles we will seek to live by:
    • “Three Hands” and leadership pathway principles must play a key role in raising up and training new leaders. Group leaders are encouraged to pray about and seek to identify a potential leader or leaders they could mentor. If you would like to become a leader, your first step should be to get connected to an existing group and mentor under its leader.
    • All group leaders should also themselves have mentors who can encourage and help equip them. The Community Ministry intends to help connect leaders to mentors.
    • Group leaders also need Barnabases in their lives–other leaders they meet with for encouragement and prayer. This can’t be accomplished without spending time together, which the Community Ministry intends to facilitate. Part of that process will be group leaders sharing their stories, their successes, their challenges, best practices, and dreams with one another.
  1. In the most effective groups, people “live life in proximity.” That means they spend a lot of time together. They get to know each other beneath the surface. An effective group is a lot like a village. They don’t simply come together for “yet another meeting” one, two, or four times a month; rather, they truly live their lives together, in many contexts beyond simply a regularly scheduled group meeting. They stay connected. That’s what creates community. We will encourage this among Elim groups.
  1. One of Elim’s strengths is that it is intergenerational. There is a lot of wisdom and other benefits that flow across age and life-stage boundaries. We believe this should be encouraged and maximized for the benefit of all. On the other hand, we also believe that some of the most effective groups revolve around life-stage affinity. Young parents with kids in diapers can definitely benefit in many ways from being in community with other young parents. If our Community Ministry is to be healthy, we need to figure out how to raise up and grow both types of groups … and also connect them to each other, for maximum benefit.
  1. The Community Ministry will seek to strategically equip and encourage groups to not simply be places of community and fellowship, but also to be the point of the spear for our church reaching out into the community and world around us. This will look very different for different groups at different times, but we will challenge each group leader to be interacting with his or her members with outward-reaching ministry in mind. We will ask them, “What is God placing upon your heart(s) to do to impact the world around us for Jesus?” We will encourage them to listen to God and work toward whatever vision He plants in their hearts. Perhaps not every group will be reaching out, but it should be an important value to do so and to support those groups that do.
  2. Groups are a key place where certain things vital to the life of the Church can occur very effectively. For instance:
    • Small groups are often the place where a believer’s spiritual gifts first float to the surface. We will work with group leaders to hone a process for helping their group members discover and use their spiritual gifts effectively to minister to others.
    • Groups play an incredibly important part of the prayer life of the Church. This ministry will exhort, support, and encourage a vital prayer life within small groups.
    • Small groups are the place where the best care and shepherding occurs. In a traditional church model, the “professional” pastors are responsible to visit the sick and bereaved. But when tragedy strikes someone who is involved in a small group, many times the best care comes directly from other group members who are in community with that person. We will work with group leaders to help them develop as wise and caring shepherds of the little flocks God has entrusted to them.

Have a question or concern about community groups at Elim? Want to get connected? Contact Larry Short for more information at (253) 906-9676 (mobile) or LarryShort@gmail.com.