Establish Family Support Groups for Transformative Churches

A picture of a group of people holding hands
A picture of a group of people holding hands (photo:
By Zhang AihuiMay 6th, 2024

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, churches have undergone organizational fission, shifting to small groups (including family support groups) simulating the early church, from the past model that all believers worship inside the sanctuary together.

I have visited several medium and large-sized churches over the years, which have undergone diverse organizational reforms. There is a G City Church in Chengdu, which has three to four hundred believers, who attended services in the main building. During the epidemic, they gradually divided into six to eight branches, each with about 30-50 people; and under each branch, three to five small groups were established, each consisting of 5-10 people.

In the following two years, newcomers of this church felt the venue noisy with chaos. Later, whenever the number of new believers exceeded 30 people, an independent church would be established. During the fission process, there were strong internal tensions and conflicts due to the financial management and personnel management of the church headquarters. Later, the groups returned to the model of the early church, establishing family support groups and moving from chaos to tranquility.

X Church in Chongqing has been rooted in rural areas and also engaged in urban church planting for over 30 years, with a membership of over 2000 people. When the organizational structure fissioned under the epidemic, the church went deep into urban areas, counties, and even rural areas, with roughly over 200 small groups, each consisting of five to eight people. The central church sends core workers to each area every month to train and support staff workers, with unstable group membership. But they have also returned to the model of the early church during the transformation, establishing two or three family support groups. However, they lack staff workers during the transformation, so each group can only organize a weekly Bible study and sharing session, unable to host Sunday services.

R Church has been established for over a decade, with about 400-500 people. During the epidemic, half of their core workers and believers left, and some even fell into cults. According to my visit, the church lacked in pastoral care, resulting in the instability of the foundation of Biblical truth in small group pastoral care. Some old Christians have not even read the Bible once, easily deceived by cults. The remaining believers are divided into 10-20 small groups, each with five to eight people. Now they reintroduce systematic training in Bible study to help them root in truth.

During the epidemic, I also visited a dozen of small churches, with about five or eight neighbors, colleagues, or friends gathering for Bible reading. For example, a few teachers from a university spontaneously gathered together to read the Bible once a week at home, organizing worship activities and love feasts on Sundays. There are also groups formed by a few people breaking away from larger churches, organizing their own family gatherings. In addition, a few Christians in rural areas gather at home to study the Bible together and take care of each other when they are sick. Unfortunately, due to the lack of training and equipment among the group leaders, guidance on specific issues in the lives of believers is also very limited.

In order to pastor the congregants with balance, I believe that it is very important to build two or three family support groups. For example, children's groups need parents to accompany their children's growth and conduct parent-child activities; youth groups need lively worship styles which attract them again; elderly groups need companionship and care, especially for sick elders; middle-aged groups like stress-relieving activities such as playing ball, swimming, outing, and drinking tea, as well as work skills training and marriage counseling.

(The article was originally published by the Gospel Times and the writer is a Christian from Sichuan.)

Translated by Abigail Wu

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