We left our 1st Community Group (and may leave our new one soon)

No, we didn’t have a falling out with the leaders or have any problems with our community group. Actually, it was quite the opposite. We loved our group and had formed great relationships with brothers and sisters that we still cherish today. But, we learned that the church had a need for a new group in midtown, which is where we live, and we felt God leading us to help fill that need. So, we joined with 2 other couples and launched a brand new community group. Less than 11 months later, we are amazed by how God has used that decision to totally transform and bless our lives. Our group is currently planning to plant another new group because we are growing out of our meeting place.

Why we left

    First and foremost, we left and ventured into the unknown, because we knew it was a part of God’s plan for us. God’s heart is always about expanding his kingdom on the earth. He chooses the church to carry on his mission, so obviously growing a strong biblical community is at the center of God’s desire. As our church grows, so does the need for personal discipleship.  
    There are many young professionals that attend our church. Many, especially in the medical field, couldn’t make it to any groups because their work schedules usually kept them too late. To combat that, we decided to meet later in the evening at 7:30pm. Some people can’t do that, especially those with children, but we targeted those who still needed a place to experience real fellowship. We learned a good model for how to cultivate community from our first group, so we simply took that to a new place with new friends.
    Lastly, we left so that more Christ followers could use their gifts to serve the church. God has given each of us unique talents. Having a new group allows more people to exercise those talents for the glory of God. One game changer for our new group is that our friends Tim and Erin host the group at their home. They have an amazing knack for hospitality, so we are glad that they get to use that previously dormant gift. They serve by hosting even though their schedules do not allow them to commit to lead discussion. We lead and facilitate the discussion for the group and neither couple gets overwhelmed by all of the work that comes with starting a new group. Working together with them has allowed us all to maximize our gifts for the glory of God. At the same time, others have been able to use their gifts within our previous group.

We had Fears and Concerns

    It was no easy thing for us to leave a healthy community of dear friends. We had many fears going in. Mostly, we were very comfortable and happy right where we were. We had no desire to disrupt that. We were being challenged and growing in our walk with Jesus.  We did not have any real burdens associated with hosting or leading a group. We usually brought some food to share and occasionally filled in to lead discussion. But, apart from that, it was very easy and satisfying to be a part of a solid group. Not to mention that the group leaders were in our wedding, and I was in theirs, so they are close friends.
    We committed to plant the new group with 2 couples whom we had only met a handful of times. Some of the pastors were aware of their desire to get plugged in for a while, but their simply wasn’t a suitable place for them. Honestly, we were unsure of how to proceed. We sought wisdom from our old group and some of the elders. Through their counsel, God's word, and our prayers, we knew we were being obedient to God’s will in launching a new group. 
    Who really has time to add anything to their plate these days? This was a daunting thought. We would have to spend extra time preparing each week and wouldn’t be able to skip without making proper arrangements. Also, we hoped to just facilitate discussion, but couldn't commit to hosting every week. Fortunately, by God's providence, that's exactly what we do. Thus, we had even more confirmation that God was leading us to start a new group.

How things changed

Leaving one group to start something new necessitated that things would change. That was a risk we understood and have come to embrace. The first change was that we met some awesome new people. People we didn't even know a year ago have grown to be some of our closest friends. This has truly been a blessing from the Lord.

Obviously, we have grown further apart from some members of our old group. But, we still get together with them outside of our community groups whenever we get a chance. We often celebrate birthdays and special occasions with them. And of course, we still see them on Sunday mornings, family day, and other church gatherings. Sunday mornings are even sweeter as we now have more meaningful relationships throughout the church body.

The last meaningful change has been a great one. Since we planted our new group in midtown, we now have strong community right where we live. Biblical community is such a blessing from the Lord, but having it with our literal neighbors is even better. All in all, our lives have changed a lot since this adventure started. By God's grace it has been a great benefit to us, to our new friends, and to the church. We are thankful that God has used us to be a blessing to others. We wouldn't trade our experience planting a new community group for anything. 

How God has blessed

It is hard to even put into words how much God has blessed our step of obedience to launch a new group. Both Emily and I have been forced to grow in our faith, which has blessed us individually and in our marriage. It has been a privilege to witness our new friends and co-leaders growing as well. We get to see their passion for loving others. It is humbling to know that God lets us be a part of his work in our church.

Our group is less than a year old and we have around 30+ active members. Essentially none of them were involved in any biblical community, outside of Sunday mornings, when they started coming. Praise God! Most of them wanted to be, they just didn't have a good place to get plugged in. Had we not left our old group, our new friends may still be missing out on God glorifying community within the church. My wife said it best, “How can we, especially the community group leaders in the church, be okay with the pastors having to tell people, 'sorry we don’t have any group for you to get plugged into?'” That can't be acceptable and would be contrary to the gospel message we proclaim. 

One of the most exciting things about our new group is how we have been able to serve the Lord together. Our group members have unique talents, passions, and resources that are now being used to build God's kingdom. Here are a few examples. A few of us partnered together to help a homeless man get off the street. We, as a group, have prepared meals for a local women's homeless shelter since they lost funding. Our group will be serving the church by feeding the college group on an upcoming Wednesday night. Also, several of our members are personally discipling college students. We are also in the process of adopting a refugee family to share the love of Christ with them. These are only a few examples of how God has used this group of people to serve his purposes. It truly blows my mind to consider that God used our small act of obedience to make all of this possible. 

How will God use you?

Praise God for the awesome opportunity to be a part of his plan. Every blessing that we have experienced has been because of his goodness to us. We are far from perfect group leaders. Mars Hill is probably filled with much more qualified people to lead community groups. All that the Lord requires is that we seek his glory and follow in obedience when he leads. The great missionary William Carey used to say, "expect great things from God, attempt Great things for God." Starting a new community group has been our small way of attempting a great thing for God, hopefully you will consider doing the same.




Brady and Emily King are Community Group Leaders at Mars Hill Church's Mobile Campus.