1. Why are we changing the small group process after less than one year?
Please consider this an enhanced version of the original plan rather than a change in direction. Many of the changes are a natural evolution. Some of the modifications were on the drawing board from day one and needed more time to develop. Some became clear based upon our experience to date. In either case, here is a summary of reasons and benefits for adding the new features:
- The intent of this new format was to make it possible for more small groups to form by making the facilitator role much simpler; more emphasis on hosting fellowship with the video directing the discussion. This plays to one of our singular strengths. Our people know and embrace fellowship as a cornerstone of their New Apostolic Christian lives.
- Likewise, we want to support our small group facilitators with their preparation.
- Finally, we need to bring these groups to where our people live; outside the walls of the church building. At the end of the day, we want many more of our people to experience and participate in a high quality small group in many more locations as we feel it is the most transformational mid-week experience.
2. The new format will be helpful for starting new small groups but what about our existing small groups that are working well?
The existing groups are being led by a facilitator. The new content should not replace the facilitator but instead make their job easier. They may opt out of the video and lead the group as they currently do, however they should use the content supplied by the NAC-USA. Here are the reasons why:
- All the content material and resources that we are currently using will be “woven in” to the content supplied by the NAC-USA. It will include Biblical and Catechism resources, excerpts from our Chief Apostle’s services, and Perspectives from the Vision newsletter. The only difference will be the fact that all congregations will address the subject matter together based upon the themes of the DSG.
- Even the most advanced small group facilitator will find that their preparation time will be shortened via the new content packaging. The intent is not to stifle their creativity. Quite the opposite, their creativity should be enhanced as less time will be needed compiling resources and materials. It is important to note that we are simultaneously preparing additional training materials to assist our small group facilitators. This will be released in early 2015.
3. Is this new content mandatory?
The new content is strongly recommended by our District Apostle. Here are his reasons:
- “I think it is very important to be in unity with the International New Apostolic Church. There are strong Biblical reasons for this oneness that are described in Acts 2:42 and I think they are still relevant today.
- The midweek experience is still the New Apostolic Church’s “space” or structure within which to create Christian community for its members. The Chief Apostle is giving the NAC-USA District alone the latitude to try this format. We must make every effort to make this space transformational and provide the highest impact content. It is incumbent upon us to make sure that this initiative succeeds. There is an abundance of material that could be selected, however, not all material will create the experience that the church needs. It is up to us as leaders of the church to provide the source of this teaching.
- It is important that the apostles take a strong and visible role in the teaching of the Gospel (please see Matthew 28:20).”
- Outside the Midweek Experience space, small groups may meet and use broader content.
4. The new small group format encourages us to meet in homes outside the church building. How will this affect our larger congregations where groups meet within the church building?
In a general sense, the new content and format is designed to add new small group locations in places where we currently don’t have them and to assist current small groups in enhancing the quality of their experience. We are not looking to dismantle existing small group experiences that are working well. Special care will be needed in planning to avoid disrupting the core group that meets in the church buildings, especially when different members of the same family gather for different groups.
5. Likewise, how will this affect our children and youth?
- Our children should continue to meet using a “children’s church” setting where possible. If teachers are not using the Divine Service Guide, additional resources have been approved by the Children's Work Group and can be found here.
- When meeting during the midweek, our youth should also use the new content and augment with materials from the Youth Companion website.
6. How does this new content affect the Group Devotionals?
The new content will also work very well in this setting.
7. We sometimes feel pressured to rush through the questions to make sure that we fit them within the time allotted and that prevents us from going into depth at all. How important is it that all the material get covered?
We should start with the assumption that there will always be more content and discussion than can be fit into the time allotted. Please do not feel required to finish every question but rather allow the discussion to develop out of the direction of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, the questions are designed to inspire deep discussion, therefore they intentionally ask the participants to provide their personal feelings and experiences. There may not be one right answer. The discussion is made richer by the diversity of our personal experiences.