Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Making CU small groups work - part 1: think mission

I've found myself chatting over the past few days to a wide range of people about CU small groups. Some people think that they merely replicate church, others think they are wonderful, others are just left confused.

Over the past few years, I've been thinking about how CU small groups can best function. Here are my rough thoughts:

Think mission

CUs are not designed to be rivals to local churches - rather, CUs serve local churches by uniting members of their congregations to live and speak for Jesus in areas which might otherwise remain unreached (Dave outlines the vision beautifully here). For CU small groups to be really strategic, and to avoid merely replicating church, it's important that we don't just think uncritically about the existence of small groups. CU small groups must fit into the CU's ultimate reason for existence: outreach to students.

Small groups (both in CUs and in local churches) aren't generally outward-looking by default. In CU small groups, mission needs to be threaded into every area of their life. Part of this means ensuring that the group has regular outreach times together. In our area, we tend to use the 1-2-3-Go system where every fourth gathering is an outreach night. This keeps outreach very high on the agenda. However, merely hosting regular outreach events, by themselves, isn't enough. All of the gatherings of the small group also need to be outward-looking. At the very least, prayer for friends and outreach to them should be included, as well as reviews of outreach nights.

The nature of outreach events can vary. Sometimes, CU small groups can organise very effective larger events. (These are particularly worth thinking about if the small group meets in a hall with shared space - such as a bar or TV room - and where access to all rooms or kitchens makes flyering easy). However, I'd recommend CU small groups to focus on smaller-scale events, where those invited have already seen something of the gospel in their Christian friends' lives. Events can be effectively 'tailored' to what's most appropriate, and this is a great way of showing Christian community on a small scale. My non-believing friends can meet with some of my Christian friends: given these Christian friends are then likely to bump into my non-believing friends, I'm no longer left witnessing alone.

Hall-based small groups tend to be most effective as there is a ready-made 'mission field' in existence. This tends to focus the mind of small group members. However, there's no reason why other CU small groups shouldn't remain effective and strategic in outreach, and avoid merely replicating the content of church home groups. This is especially true if the group takes joint responsibility for witnessing to the close friends of other Christian small group members (housemates, sports team mates and so on).

Part 2: coming soon - think relationship


ernie said...

i like. i so often found myself justifying why CU has small groups to different people...! meh.

any problem with using any of this stuff/other stuff in the other 2 posts? (i.e. passing it on to the people who'd actually use it, as my CUing days are over?)

hope you're well :) x

Marcus said...

Great post, Pete. The thing I don't understand is why anyone would ever think that CUs and CU small group strategy (done well) is anything less than brilliant. Maybe because they haven't had good (or any) experience of it, I suppose.

Where I see churches pulling people away from CU or CU small group I want to shout how critical they are for the future of many, many young leaders, let alone re-evangelising the academy, for the sake the the nation. Nobody would dream of suggesting that a small group of Christians meeting for prayer and witness in a bank or civil service department isn't a good idea, however weak or strong it may be. And many CU small groups would have much more potential in their setting.

So can I just say: Keep at it CUs! Keep at it UCCF! And keep at it yourself Pete.

peterdray said...

whoa I had no idea that you guys had commented... whoops!

Rachel: no problem - use and abuse as you like!

Marcus: thanks for your kind comments :)