What’s Next For Bible Studies at Eagle Heights?
On Sunday Night at Communication Matters I laid out both a justification for and a plan to tweak and change the way we do Bible Study at Eagle Heights. Here are the highlights.
The Need to Tweak and Change
We need to be able to change and adjust, but we shouldn’t change and adjust for the sake of doing so. We must have good reason(s) because change is never easy. Here are some of the reasons that we are changing.
- We are out of room in our current situation on Sunday Morning. We are committed to continuing on with one service until we must add another. But in the one service/one Bible study format we are out of Bible Study room. We believe we will eventually build and add new space but as of right now we must address the problem of space because there is little to no space for us to grow. Our worship gathering continues to attract new people, but Bible Study/Community Groups is what will keep people. We must accommodate the need for room to connect people to the people of Eagle Heights.
- The 400 Barrier. For many reasons Eagle Heights has bumped up against the 400 mark but has never been able to move beyond it. Admittedly, there are many reasons for this. But we can’t continue to do the same thing and expect different results. We must allow for more people to connect with others in a small group set-up and we need to try new ways to connect people that enable them to grow in Christ. We must be able to grow in number and depth and building limitations aren’t our only limitation. If they were then we would have moved beyond the 400 barrier when were in a two gathering/two Bible Study format. (I acknowledge personally that there is no silver bullet, but we must be willing to admit that a different approach is in order.)
- Futuring Team Recommendations. In the Spring of 2008 a team of six people created a plan and goals for the area of discipleship (Bible Studies). The “emerging vision” of that plan was “to develop a structured, effective, and well-marketed discipleship plan that covers all segments of the church body, championed by the elders and church staff.” That is what we are trying to do. We want to create a comprehensive and intentional plan for helping people connect and grow at Eagle Heights.
- Inconclusive surveys. We recently surveyed all of the adult Bible Study classes and we found out some very encouraging things. For instance, we found that those who were attending really liked the groups they were attending. We found also that those attending found some benefit from the group they attended. Additionally, we found that for most people the Sunday Morning time-slot was favorable. However, there was no consensus on the purpose of the groups. That doesn’t mean the groups weren’t useful and helpful, it just means there needs to be a clear and intentional plan for all our groups. We need to know what we are trying to accomplish as opposed to having groups because that’s what we have done or do.
- Other Consultation. I also visited with a couple of trusted advisers who know Eagle Heights and asked them what they thought needed to happen at Eagle Heights and it was suggested that one of our greatest needs was a church-wide plan for fostering Christ-likeness.
What the Elders Did
- We Met and Prayed – We began to pray about what we might do and evaluate how we might better lead Eagle Heights. We all agreed that something needed to change.
- Book Resource – We all read and discussed a small group book that helped us critique our model and method, as well as the models and methods of others. The basic concept of the book is that we must be sticky or able to connect people at Eagle Heights. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how many people come to our church if just as many go out the back door.
- We listened to others – We collectively met with Curtis Cook who uses a similar model to the one we are proposing (as far as being sermon/text driven). We were able to ask questions and get advice on what has worked and hasn’t. I also met with a former small group pastor to get his insight on Bible Studies.
- We listened to Eagle Heights – I really want people to know that our intent with the survey was to listen to people to best address challenges ahead.
I want to be crystal clear from the outset that what we are attempting to do is to craft and mold a plan that best fits Eagle Heights. We don’t want to try to shove a square peg in a round hole. Of course, there is nothing new under the sun, but we are trying to customize a plan that is uniquely Eagle Heights. We tried to be mindful that what we have isn’t necessarily broken, but it needs to have a thorough tune-up.
- Hybrid Model – Instead of scrapping our whole way of doing things, we decided to keep some of what we have in our Sunday Morning Bible Study, but also adding new Small Groups that meet in homes. No one is going to be forced to abandon their Sunday Morning Bible Study. But we are out of room and there are some who prefer meeting in a more relaxed atmosphere. We will be attempting to start a small number of small groups that meet in homes and asking that people do one or the other. It doesn’t help our current situation to have people start a small group in their home only to also come to Sunday Morning Bible Study. That won’t help our room problem.
- Aim – The aim of these groups will be to connect people in a community of believers that know each other personally or face to face.
- Content – This one is the big change. We are going to ask everyone to go with a text/sermon driven curriculum. For example, we are currently going through Galatians on Sunday Morning. The idea is that our Bible Study groups will also be going through Galatians as well so that they whole church is studying one passage at one time. This will require writing curriculum that goes with the sermon but is different than the sermon. It will also require leaders who are good at facilitating and asking questions. Think about how this will help us in grasping and studying the Bible and also making the sermon more relevant on Sunday Morning, among other benefits.
- Tentative Start Date – January 2010. There is a lot of planning that must be done to make sure that this can work and be done well.
- Further Planning – The elders will be working with the leaders and people of Eagle Heights to plan the details. Please be prayerful about this.
- One or the Other – Again, we want people to either choose one or the other (Sunday Morning or Small Group at Home). We know that some people already do both. We will address that in future considerations and planning.
- Leaders and Volunteers – We will need both to start new groups in the spring of 2010. Be praying about whether God would have you stay where you are or start something new.
- There must be a willingness to be all in – Change is hard. Our intent is not upset the apple cart, but there will be adjustments and we are hoping that people will give this a chance and that people will trust that the elders are trying to lead in a direction that benefits Eagle Heights.
- Time to Work – We must give this time to work. We must be patient. With anything new there will be bumps a long the way, but the elders are committed to this and we must give it time to work the kinks out.
Please be prayerful about this. It may seem like a lot to some of you and not so much to others, but the elders and I really have the best in mind for everyone at Eagle Heights. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Many of the details are a work in progress, so we may not have every answer now, but we certainly want to listen to your concerns and advice. My prayer is that this would be a step in addressing some of the challenges that we face so that we can take an unchanging savior to a changing world.