One of the most common questions I have gotten about class and band meetings since I first started writing about them is some form of this question:
Can you point me to examples of churches that are doing this and are bearing fruit?
This is an important question and one that I admit I have felt frustrated by my own inability to answer well. At one level, I know that many churches are being blessed by a return to Wesleyan small group formation. I know this because I hear stories from people of what God is doing in their churches every time I speak somewhere. But I hear most of these stories in quick conversations at times when I am not able to stop and write down the details.
So, I want to ask you for help capturing stories of where these groups are being used. And I want to share one recent concrete example of a church that I have seen returning to something like the class meeting with initial success.
If your church has implemented something like class meetings or band meetings recently and seen fruit, would you please share that below? And if you know someone who has done this in their church, would you please pass this on to them and ask them to share what they have seen God do?
Here is my example: On August 25, I got to preach in a sermon series on “Relational Revival” at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile, AL. The series was aimed at teaching about the importance of community for the Christian life and the way that small groups have been of particular significance for the Methodist/Wesleyan tradition.
This is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had preaching. It was such a gift to me to be invited to preach the week that they invited people to sign up to join what they refer to as “Life Groups,” which are basically Wesleyan class meetings.
You can watch the sermon here:
Rev. Bobbi Lassiter, the pastor of Discipleship at Christ United, told me that 229 people signed up for groups within the first week of signups. 229 people! This is a testament to how healthy this church already is. It is also a credit to the leadership at Christ UMC for coming up with such a thoughtful on-ramp to taking a risk in faith to try something new. The four week sermon series gave the congregation the opportunity to hear from their pastors about why they were convinced that this is a key step that the people in their churches ought to take.
This is one of the best launches to a class meeting drive I have seen.
I wanted to lift this up to you as a concrete example of a place that is seeking to launch these groups in a thoughtful and bold way.
God has changed my life through Wesleyan class and band meetings. Seeing others experience similar blessings through these groups has been the highlight of my ministry.
I hear from pastors and lay leaders of these groups all the time that they would like to be able to hear from people who have already started these groups. I need your help. The Class Meeting has been more successful than I had dared to hope when I wrote it. My intention was for the book to be able to be a tool for starting these groups. But I haven’t done as good of a job of capturing stories of where God is using class meetings to bless people as I would like.
Are you at a church that has implemented something like the class meeting and is finding success? If so, would you please take a moment to leave a comment?
If you are willing to be contacted by people who are just starting to implement these groups and have practical questions about what you have done, would you please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, the name and address of the church where you are serving, and a very brief summary of your experience with these groups.
I hope this can be a small step towards building a network of people who are committed to returning to real Methodism and learning from each other as we go. So, please, no false humility. Will you please take a moment to share what God is doing in your church so that others can see examples of where this is happening?
Thank you for your help!
Kevin M. Watson is Assistant Professor of Wesleyan & Methodist Studies at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. Want to know more? Click here.