Meditations (Web)Church

A year (and a bit) in the life of NewSpring's first Web pastor

Considering seeker-sensitive small groups for the online church

with 2 comments

I read the book Simple Church over the course of my recent trip to

My biggest takeaway was the critical importance of designing an online ministry process that moves attenders along the journey of discipleship, perhaps even more so for Internet campuses than our physical campuses.

We need to have an excellent live worship experience. But if we’re going to be a true church, the “next steps” have to be clearly defined, and we have to show that a reasonable number of our attenders are continually progressing toward a more complete faith.

As with many other Internet campuses, our plan from the beginning was to strongly encourage participation in online small groups to provide a more intimate community and a pathway for deeper discipleship.

But I have wondered about more radical possibilities based on a remark by Online Community Pastor Tony Steward that the web church movement “could have the form of an attractional church and the expression of a house church movement.”

Maybe the traditional small-group model — reading and encouraging response to scripture or scripture-based topical studies after “churching” has already happened — is too linear and too closed, and actually underplays small group ministry potential?

What about structuring the discipleship process around a model the Internet seems built for: movement and causes? What if the model was supposed to be more explosive rather than immersive? And set on a spiral rather than a straight line?

What if a 12-week project to dig a well in an African village was itself a complete, self-contained, scripture-saturated discipleship journey of its own? It would serve as the way to introduce Jesus and his teaching to the spiritually seeking or spiritually growing, offer a method for new believers to demonstrate Jesus love for the world, and offer a non-threatening opportunity to engage the lost by soliciting financial support? There’s no more authentic relationship than one forged in mutual action toward a common goal that everyone can buy into from an ethical standpoint, regardless of your spirituality.

The attractional live online worship experience could be the starting point for commitment to a discipleship spiral. Or the discipleship spiral could be the way to point people to the start of a committed spiritual journey. 
This kind of discovery model is potentially self-replicating. And it can be progressive if a new practical focus is used to spur growth in each of the various aspects of the Christian life.

By comparison, forcing everyone to start the spiritual journey with a commitment to Christ might strike seekers as backwards. And the “next steps” philosophy — bring in then equip then send out — makes it too easy for spiritual formation to remain incomplete or compartmentalized.

The spiral pathway just seems to fit the DNA of the social web, which allows for “communities of interest” to self-organize and constantly form and re-form without paying much attention to traditional leadership structures. And it recognizes that our real audience should be the lost, not the time-crunched Christian who wants a convenient church option.

What say you?


Written by NickCharalambous

December 16, 2008 at 6:07 pm

2 Responses

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  1. “starting point” reminds me of North Point Community Church’s strategy… is very applicable…!

    John (Human3rror)

    December 16, 2008 at 9:37 pm

  2. Interesting thought Nick. I’m convinced that there is a different, better, more “form-fitting” way to do small groups online. I think you’re on to something here….the social web offers an entire new opportunity for people of all backgrounds to connect. Far from the traditional model of small groups that combines like minded people in a small area.

    Bobby Williams

    December 16, 2008 at 11:09 pm

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