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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

From Benevolence to Small Groups

Small Group Ministry Series - From Benevolence to Small Groups

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading the second of a three-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on small group ministry and biblical counseling. You can read Part One, Transformational Small Group Ministry and Biblical Counseling, by Ken Long. Tomorrow’s post in this series will be by Garrett Higbee.

Counseling and Small Groups… Kind Of

This post may be unique in that it is an “in process” document rather than a completed one. At the SummitChurch we are currently trying to discern the most effective ways (intentionally plural) to connect our benevolence ministry with our small groups. We want to care for the people to whom we provide financial aid or service through the community life of our church.

In this effort, the counseling ministry is serving an advisory role for the two primary ministries involved: small groups and benevolence. The role of the counseling ministry is to help answer questions such as:

  • As a transition is made from a private ministry of benevolence to a community ministry of small groups, how should we handle confidentiality which is likely to include financial and other personal information (i.e., injury, job loss, emotional distress, etc…)?
  • What forms of benevolence care are better suited to be provided by the church-at-large and what should we ask a small group to provide (which may vary from case to case)? How do we communicate these expectations to those we are serving and those who are leading on behalf of our church?
  • How do we advise our small group leader and member on how to care for individuals or families with chronic needs; people with whom they have no pre-existing relationship when ministry would be happening in their living rooms? In these situations good intentions can often result in either enablement or burnout; both of which impede future generosity and service.
  • How do we care for our people as they get more involved in caring for our community? We realized afresh how important this question was after asking our members to serve an intensive after-service care team role when we focused our weekend services on sexual abuse

Questions As Much As Answers

As you read this post and the accompanying policy draft, we invite you to ask questions as much as look for answers. Place yourself in the position of each person giving care and receiving care. Allow yourself to be challenged by the awkwardness and motivated by the opportunity of these conversations.

Your church will have different titles and roles. We are a multi-site church with 300+ small groups and our attempt to answer this question reflects that. This gives us the blessing of pastors with more specific roles. It presents the challenge of replicating any policy in at least seven locations.

Don’t allow our differences to become a distraction. For a policy like this to be effective it should be able to be implemented anywhere. It is likely our levels of ministry specificity may be the very thing that gets in our way of being as effective as we want to be.

If you are interested in this type of ministry and are wondering where some of the core concepts come from, our benevolence ministry (and, really, church as a whole) has been strongly influenced by the book When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. We would highly recommend it to any person or church wanting to be more intentional in their benevolence ministry.

Introduction to the Policy (Current Draft)

This document is meant to describe the process by which we encourage those seeking benevolence help through the Summit Church to get connected with our small group ministry as their source of encouragement, evangelism (if needed), healthy relationships, discipleship, and accountability for implementing recommended life skills.

This process is one tool available to the benevolence team when the individual seeking benevolence is willing to participate and a good-fit small group is available in a viable proximity to the individual or family seeking assistance.

This document outlines the process of assistance and communication in four stages:

  1. Stage One: Initial Request(s) – When an individual or family requests benevolence assistance from The Summit Church they will be directed to Pastors of Pastoral Care  who will get to know the individual/family, assess their need, and provide assistance in the manner they deem most wise.The type of information they are seeking to gather and the forms to be used are found on Appendices A and B of this document. “Stage One” may last for more than one request before the Pastors of Pastoral Care decide it is appropriate to progress to “Stage Two.”If this model of ministry has the potential to be a good fit, the Pastors of Pastoral Care will contact the “campus champion” closest to the individual seeking assistance (without using names) to determine whether there is a good-fit small group available.
  1. Stage Two: Recommendations and Connection – Once multiple requests are made and the Pastors of Pastoral Care can assess primary life skills or action steps needed for the individual or family to move beyond the need for continued benevolence, they would use the form in Appendix C to walk through how The Summit would like to be involved in their life.As a part of that conversation, the Pastors of Pastoral Care would also review how we advise our small groups to care effectively for these individuals (summarized in Appendix D). If the individual or couple is willing to accept this assistance-involvement, then they would be connected with a small group.
  1. Stage Three: Small Group Advisement – After an individual or couple walk through the recommendations in “Stage Two,” a small group would be contacted about the benevolence need. This recommendation would be made based upon proximity to the person requesting assistance and other factors as advised by a member of the small group’s team.Using Appendices C and D, the Pastors of Pastoral Care would walk through three key pieces of information: (a) what The Summit would continue to do as a corporate church, (b) the type of assistance and accountability the small group was being asked to provide, and (c) the principles that help prevent assistance from becoming enabling, and generosity from becoming codependency.
  1. Stage Four: Advising and Caring for the Small Group – The campus champion for benevolence ministry will serve as the primary coach for the small group participating in this form of ministry; advising the group on how to discern the line between assistance and enablement, and how to assimilate someone into the group who may have experienced the give and take of healthy, balanced relationships. When additional guidance is needed, the campus champion will consult with the necessary Summit staff and community agencies to grow in his/her ability coach other small groups in this ministry.

A copy of the current draft of this policy is available here.

Training of Small Group Leaders and Campus Champion

This part of the implementation strategy is most “up in the air” because it is difficult to develop a training strategy before the process is defined. However at this point, our general plan would be to:

  • Finalize the ministry policy.
  • Extend the “10 Keys to Ensure Caring Is Helping” appendix from a single page to a brief article.
  • Identify the campus champions to serve as the ministry voice at each campus.
  • Offer a training based upon this policy outline as a breakout at an upcoming small group leaders’ training event.
  • Create a video of the leader training, so that campus champions can use this in their orientation of new small groups who are interested in participating in this ministry. The video would be comparable in style and length to this training on responding to reports of sexual abuse for our after-service care team.

Join the Conversation

Because this is a work in progress document, we would appreciate your feedback even more than usual.

  • How would you feel as a small group leader implementing this ministry model?
  • How would you feel as a recipient of care in this ministry model?
  • Are there other models or approaches to this type of benevolence to small groups transition you would recommend to us and other churches trying to refine this area of ministry?
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