More than just another bible study meeting, community groups are venues where disciples of Jesus are made and the family aspects of church – brotherhood and sisterhood – find practical expression.
Q: What can I expect at a community group?
A: You can expect to experience Gospel-centered community, to have a lot of fun, to learn, and to serve! Our groups are designed to implement the New Testament model for making disciples, which is contained in Acts 2:42-44– namely, doctrine, community, prayer, and food. Each community group will eat together, study, and provide some venue for prayer, whether during the community group meeting itself or later in the week. Most importantly, each community group provides a venue for you to “do” life and mission together with other like-minded believers.
Q: How long does a community group meeting last?
A: The exact time varies by group, but the meetings typically last between 2 and 3 hours, including eating time. Contact a group leader for information on the normal length of a particular group’s meetings.
Q: Can anyone join a community group, at any time?
A: Yes! Our groups are “open” groups– membership is not restricted to a certain size or certain individuals. New members are always welcome.
Q: Can I go to more than one community group?
A: You are free to go to as many community groups as you like. However, because one of the primary purposes of a community group is to build community and substantial friendships that nurture spiritual growth, it usually makes sense to pick one community group and stick with it. That way, you’ll be fully invested in that group and the people there. If you have extra time on another night, spend it hanging out with people from your group, or reaching out to others who need God– or both!
Q: Why do we have community groups?
A: The short answer is– to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20)! Corporate Sunday morning worship is very important, but the venue is too large in many instances to allow true discipleship, friendship, and mobilization. Our community groups are missional communities that reach out to the people around us– bringing people in– and sharpen the members within. In short, community groups make disciples. Community groups are not “maintenance groups” for stagnant believers or mere social clubs. A community group that is not actively reaching out both to non-Christians and Christians unconnected to community is not fulfilling its God-designed purpose.
In addition, we recognize that we are a fairly large church with a small vocational staff. It is impossible for our full-time pastor or our elders to be aware of every spiritual or practical need in such a large group of people. Being plugged into a community group ensures both that you are receiving the spiritual and practical care you need, and that you are able to respond to the spiritual and practical needs of a manageable group of people. For instance, if someone in your community group has a baby, it is the primary responsibility of the folks in your community group to provide meals for that family for a while to help them; there is no church-wide “meal ministry” to take care of that need. This helps to ensure that our church doesn’t become overly bureaucratic or staff-heavy, and that everyone, not just the pastor, has the opportunity to obey the biblical command to love and care for one another.
Q: Why should I join a community group?
A: Because you are wired to need community! We know that God is Trinitarian– one God existing in three distinct persons. These three persons exist in loving relationship with one another (John 14:31; 2 Pet. 1:17; Matt. 12:18). If you are made in the image of God (Gen.1:26), you can’t hope to be fulfilled and happy without relationship and community– ultimately, a relationship with your Creator, but also relationships with other Christians whom God has placed in your life. God intends for you to grow together, serve together, and reach out together. Those deep relationships and this intentional mobilization is difficult to do in a large Sunday morning gathering, but it is much easier in a community group. Get involved– you won’t regret it!
Q: Do I need to bring anything to community group the first time?
A: Just yourself! A Bible might be helpful too. Food is provided by the leaders and the regular members of the group.
Q: What do community groups study?
A: We have studied various things over the years, whether it be a book of the Bible, or reading a book or going through a study guide together. Currently, all of our groups are having discussions and application of that week’s sermon. The aim is not merely to increase your knowledge– though we’re sure you’ll learn a ton! The primary purpose of the studying is to love God more and understand the Gospel better so that you can fulfill God’s purpose for your life by carrying out the Great Commission wherever you find yourself. Along the way, you’ll be getting equipped to make wise life decisions in line with Biblical principles and concepts, all as the Spirit sanctifies and matures you through His power.
Q: Which community groups are co-ed?
A: We recognize that although many people value “guy-time” and “girl-time”, others prefer a mixed-gender experience. We want to have a variety of groups available so you can find a place to call home no matter what your preference in this area. These groups always eat and fellowship together. Depending on the topic and schedule, they often separate into men’s and women’s areas for study and prayer time. Other nights, the entire group will study together. For more information, you can contact the leader of an individual group.
We are constantly looking for ways to start new community groups with new people in new locations.
Q: I’m in a community group with [fill in the name of other organization here]. Should I be in an Aletheia community group as well?
A: We hope you consider it! Community groups that are less diverse, and more focused on ministry in a particular specific context (such as a para-church organization) are valuable and helpful. However, we do think that it’s also valuable and helpful to be around people who are not exactly like you– to have a Great Commission/Discipleship/Local Church based model rather live exclusively in a ministry-to-certain-groups based model. After all, we can learn a lot from being around other Christians with different life experiences and experiences in different cultural contexts. Plus, the local church is unique– it’s the one ministry organization with a direct charter and operations manual from Jesus Himself!
Q: Do our community groups serve the community?
A: Yes, we encourage our community groups to go out and do things to make Harrisonburg and our colleges and universities a better place. Our groups have volunteered at local agencies, served a specific group, and even hosted a neighborhood cookout! Contact an individual group leader to see if they are involved in any service projects.