On June 9, 2017, I spoke to the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church on small group formation in the Wesleyan tradition. The theme of the conference was “Revive Us Again.” The title of my presentation was “Revival through Wesleyan Small Group Formation.” Check out the video below to get my take on why small group formation is the key to the renewal of contemporary Christianity.
The presentation was divided into three main parts. First, I summarized Wesley’s use of Christian conferencing and clarified ways in which the phrase is used and misused in our current context. Christian conferencing, for Wesley, is one of five instituted means of grace. I defined Christian conferencing as the practice of cultivating growth in holiness in community through conversation about our experience of God. I suggested that the best examples of Christian conferencing in early Methodism were the class meeting and the band meeting.
Second, I situated the class meeting and the band meeting within Wesley’s understanding of social holiness, where we seek to become more like Jesus in community and not in isolation. I then defined and described the class meeting and band meeting in more detail and took the Annual Conference through a sprint through the theology that informed this method.
Finally, I described the importance of the class meeting in particular for early American Methodism and its explosive growth from the late 1700s through the first half of the 1800s. I also described the decline of the class meeting from the second half of the 1800s throughout the 1900s. The class meeting was the most important factor in the explosive growth of American Methodism and continues to be an essential practice for contemporary Christians.
If you are interested in starting a class meeting but would like some practical guidance for starting a group from scratch, please check out my book The Class Meeting: Reclaiming a Forgotten (and Essential) Small Group Experience.