It has been awhile since I have added to my series on the class meeting for the 21st century. (If you have missed this series and want to learn more about the relevance of Wesleyan class meetings for the 21st century, click here for the last post and an outline of the entire series.) I recently received a great question from a reader about my post on the class meeting for the 21st century. The basic question was, Are there Methodist churches that have class meetings? The question is so good, I am going to dedicate a post to it.
The short answer is Yes!
In the Dallas-Fort Worth area I have worked with several ministries about starting something like a contemporary version of the class meeting. Here are three different ministries and the way that they have implemented a 21st century version of the class meeting in their unique contexts:
Munger Place Church is a congregation that was relaunched by Highland Park United Methodist Church. Public worship began at Munger Place just over a month ago. Munger Place has adopted the class meeting as their basic approach to small groups, which they call “Kitchen Groups.” In the first month as a worshiping congregation, Munger has already had a small group launch that resulted in starting five Kitchen Groups. The leaders for these five groups came from a previous small group that began meeting last spring. My family has been part of the leadership team that helped “relaunch” Munger Place and we have been blessed to be involved with Kitchen Groups as well. I am excited by the way that Andrew Forrest, the campus pastor, has embraced the class meeting model and renamed it. When Andrew talks about membership at Munger Place, he always mentions that part of the expectations of membership include involvement in a Kitchen Group. (One caveat: The link to the Kitchen Group page on the Munger website contains a video that is not specifically about Kitchen Groups. The video was actually made by Cornerstone for their small group ministry, which has a bit different emphasis.)
This is an example of a way that a United Methodist campus ministry is implementing a Wesleyan approach to small groups. This year, the Wesley Foundation at Southern Methodist University has started both class meetings and band meetings. Every time I meet with the director, Andy Roberts, and intern from Perkins School of Theology, Robert Perales, I leave energized and excited by the ways that both Andy and Robert are pouring themselves into the students at S.M.U. From the conversations with them, I am coming to see campus ministry as a context that is particularly ripe for Wesleyan forms of communal Christian formation. Andy has recently invited me to speak with the students leaders at the Wesley Foundation over a few weeks in the Spring – I can’t wait!
3. Nexus Community, A Church of the Nazarene
Finally, I was invited by Nexus Community, which at the time was part of Richardson Church of the Nazarene and has since become a new church plant, to share with them about the history of Wesleyan small groups and their contemporary relevance. The last time I spoke with them, I broke the congregation up into small groups and we did a “speed class meeting.” This gave everyone a chance to experience a very abbreviated form of the class meeting and dip their toes in the water of talking about their lives with God. Nexus has since started three class meetings, one meets at the church and two meet in the leaders’ homes.
These are just three examples, and I only know about them because of the ways I have been invited to walk beside them as they begin to reclaim the Wesleyan practice of “watching over one another in love.” Do you know of churches that have 21st century class meetings? Have you been in one? Please leave a comment and share your experience!