18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Brad House is on staff at Mars Hill Church in Seattle - a church that is solid theologically, philosophically, and missionally. They are a church that is exceptional in theological depth and missional outreach in impacting their culture for the sake of Christ. The message of the gospel comes through loud and clear, and without compromise in both their corporate and communal contexts. In one of the least churched cities in America they have proven that what took place in the book of Acts, is still possible today - especially through the medium of the teaching of the Word and its balanced application within the context of community groups.
According to the author one study indicates that less than 18% of young evangelicals ages 18-23 participate in a small group, Bible study, or prayer group that is sponsored by their local churches. This book is not only written to combat this problem, but provides ample Biblical solutions and real life illustrations of how to build a solid foundation for building community groups that are healthy and result in personal, corporate, and communal life transformation via living out the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I highly recommend this book for the following types of people:
1) Senior Pastors - It will motivate you to launch community groups in your church and help you to be more strategic and missional in your ministries of in reach and outreach.
2) Existing Small Group Leaders and Participants - It will help give you ideas, tools, and applications that you have never thought of - in order to have a more effective, strategic, and balanced community group.
3) Church Planters - This book will give you a huge jump-start on what you need to launch a healthy church that provides ideas for training, equipping, and providing the infrastructure needed to have a healthy and growing gospel centered church.
Overall, I loved this book because it's Biblical, practical, and comprehensive in scope. Any one who loves Christ and His church will benefit from the study and practical implementation of this excellent resource for building gospel communities that make a huge difference for the glory of Christ.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2011
'Community', with the bold subtitle "Taking your small group off life support" was written with a clear goal to do just that, however unpopular it may be. This book comes at a timely point in the Reformission movement where we have a bevy of churches, leaders and small group attendees who are tired of the old systems and methods of "community" that seem to be nothing more than an awkward social gathering, yet are unsure on how to cross into organic and truly gospel-made community.
Community, broken into three major sections, starts out by laying a theological groundwork for community in the church. This first section does what it was written to do, which is remind the reader of the gospel and the gospel's communal implications, which is essential to building any foundation or vision because "A clear view of God puts life into perspective" (P.37). House uses a host of effective charts, graphs and diagrams to create a clear understand of the church's biblical call to community and the practice of that call. Community is able to successfully avoid being theoretic and successfully springboards into a healthy deconstruction of the current state of the social purgatory that is most churches "small groups ministry".
The Health Plan:
House gets to the root of the problem, which is, community has become an "event, rather than a lifestyle" (P.96-97). So House digs and digs and digs so much so that you will read this and hopefully feel some holy discontentment in this area. House talks about why non Christians do not and would not feel comfortable in the typical `small group' setting in the Church, and where we Christians have built barriers instead of bridges to the culture around us (p.128) by the way we do small group. House deals here especially with `barriers' (defined as `Issues of practice, culture and perception that inhibit the progress of the gospel" P.128) that tend to be legitimized, accepted as inevitable and pardoned in our church, such as expecting minimal time commitment, flipping the conversational switch from "small-talk" to "spiritual" in the after dinner `drum-circle' (P.98), and that unavoidable awkwardness in most small group settings. But within this second part of the book, House does not leave us out to dry, but offers stories, models and insights as to how to practically break the cycle of unhealthy community in both gospel-founded and culturally conscious ways (the exact purpose of this blog!). In this part of the book especially, House says things that I truly haven't heard before that sharpened my understanding and motivated me to action.
Community finishes with a section that cleans up and restores order to everything the first two sections have dissected. This is the part where House clearly articulates practical leadership needs, potential pitfalls in rebuilding as well as lay out the framework that has worked so well for Mars Hill, a 10,000+ person church with networks of intimate community and pastoral care that a church of 150 would be lucky to see. One of the most interesting things about this section is House's detailed layout of Mars Hill's community group leader training outlines, (including homework for leaders, and leadership meeting structure) along with a fantastic appendix that includes a blank outline for those interested in using Mars Hill's model.
By the end of the book church leaders should feel significantly more prepared to train up new leaders, reach out to the community around them and experience more concrete, gospel-centered fellowship in the context of small group community. I would strongly recommend this book to church leadership and those who are not satisfied with the depth of their small group and want to start gospel-change. And while the book was not perfect, some topics were neglected and I was left with a few questions mostly on leadership expectations and discipleship, Community is an exceptional Operator Manuel for gospel-driven small groups that make disciples, build cultural bridges and love people well.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2011
I was privileged to get a copy of Brad House's book Community: Taking Your Small Group off Life Support (RE: Lit), the latest in the RE:LIT series. House serves as a pastor at Mars Hill Church, Seattle, where he oversees community groups for the multi-site church. For me, a good book is built on the basics of God's Word and filled with practicality, or what the foundational truth from God's Word should look like fleshed out.
The tension in a book on a particular facet of ministry is that while a broad cross section of evangelicalism may agree that something is important and even rooted in God's Word, we may disagree on its practice. I thought House did a great job of helping us see that what Mars Hill Church has chosen to do, how it has come out of Biblical conviction, but isn't meant to be replicated by every church. We are responsible, however, to flesh out community in our midst and this is the real strength of the book.
In Part 1, the foundation (or as he calls them, Building Blocks For Life) is unpacked. This lays some biblical footings for how the book will flesh itself out in the later chapters. Why do we need community? How did God create us for this and other truths.
Part 2, health plan, helps to lead us in a positive direction by helping us see the different facts of community that need to be considered. How should groups function, how often should they meet, where should they meet, what should they do? Are you getting a feel for the practical side yet?
Part 3, treatment, gives us ways to effect change in our groups. In other words, I'm given practical tools in this section to go about changing things from the way we've always done them. This includes not only changing the past, but equipping leaders for the future.
Positives in this book include getting a great feel for what the Bible says about community, how those are fleshed out in a local church taking those commands seriously, humility in communicating what has been pursued, stories of how pursuing this has helped, as well as what I've already mentioned: practical things.
Negatives for me were that it is a longer read. At times I felt the book drag. This might have been my fatigue or the time of life when I'm reading this (3 kids under 5), but as I pressed through, it proved to be time well spent.
House has definitely thought deeply about this issue. And if community is something you would like help in applying or tweaking in your particular ministry, then this book would be a book worthy of your time and investment.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Dare I say it? He's associated with Mark Driscoll's church. I thought this would be a quick fan through and done sort of current day I-am-so-dang-hip we call our Bible studies "community groups," and we do not have churches, no backwards way! we have campuses sort of book. You know? long on words and sayin' nothin'. It's not. It's good. I took notes. I am ready for real community now.
What would it take for small group, aka Bible Studies, to be life giving instead of that mid week event we all kind of dread attending? And it won't help to just change the name aka community group.
"Ironically, for a 'holy nation, a people,' we are comically pathetic at community." Small groups will thrive when they become the place where we experience life-giving information. The question is, are we willing to count the cost, repent, and receive the blessing of community?
The first thing that needs to be determined is WHY have small groups not, how do we get more people; but rather why have these groups at all. The answer needs to come from scripture; the purpose is to display the love of God for the world. (Eph2) Community is essential because we are image bearers of God who exists in eternal community within the trinity. If we do not place a high value on community, then we are disconnected from the conviction that community pictures the trinity. Christianity is not an individual sport; isolating ourselves is a response to sin, community is a response to reconciliation.
Pragmatism will lead to failure; always accommodating excuses lowers our expectations, it causes us to accommodate apathy, cultural priorities, and sin.
When there is a disconnect from the gathered church on Sunday to the scattered church the rest of the week it will be death to the church. If a church has been transformed by the gospel then it will show in the community life of the group.
We live in a culture of quick fixes and community takes t-i-m-e. Committing to each other and to a collective group, requires that we see ourselves as 'a people,' not just a gathering of people. It means seeing the church as 'our church,' not 'the church that I go to on Sunday.'
Brad House has a terrific guideline for getting your small group off of life support and get it breathing living on its own. He makes sure to say it is a guide, they are examples not a formula. Which is a good thing because I just can't see myself sticking a human size bright orange fork in my yard to announce to the neighbors, 'breakfast here for anyone who wants it.' But there is a way for me to know my neighbors and become a part of their lives, and I need to work that out. That's his point; to open our eyes to the opportunities around us to expand community, in our church, in our neighborhood, in our city.
I thought this book was going to be the sort where I quickly skim it, get the point and done. No. I took pages of notes. House is both practical and theological; he writes over and over that "if you want to change the culture of community within your church, you are going to have to count the cost. But the result- a Jesus-glorifying, transformational community that is a source of life- is well worth the price."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2014
The writing of this book was inspired by the many who have inquired about the success of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wa ([...]), which holds community groups as their heart of the church.
I found this book to be very insightful with healthy conviction and practical application. I would recommend this book as a must read for anyone who wishes to lead missional community and grow disciples of Christ through their church. For those without a hard copy to browse through, here is a brief rundown of the book:
PART ONE: Building Blocks for Life
Chapters 1-3: Image, Body, and Ownership
This section lays out the foundational building blocks for life-giving community in your church. Why is it that we even have community groups/small groups in church? House does this by building on three biblical principals: we are created in the image of a triune God in perfect unity, we are the body of Christ with different gifts to help the other parts of the body, and we are called to own the mission of Jesus to make disciples.
PART TWO: Redefining Community Groups
Chapter 4: Community
Intended to display what community groups that are inspired by the Holy Spirit can look like, he encourages you to start by resetting your expectations of what community means based off your previous experiences. Instead, what would community look like if you started from scratch, based off what you find in scripture? A big highlight of this chapter is that it calls us to develop our groups with vision and purpose, rather than a product of reaction. When commenting on how we often design community groups to meet the needs of the church (a desired product), "we can achieve that goal without pointing to Jesus." He contends that our aim in community groups should have intentional purpose "to receive the grace of God and respond by imaging him and lifting up the name of Jesus."
Chapter 5: Neighborhoods
To mobilize the body for the advancement of the Kingdom of God into your city by advocating for building groups around specific neighborhoods is the discussion in this chapter. House points out how in the present trend of a transient culture, building life-giving groups based of geographic location is increasingly difficult and therefore needs to be done with considerable care. Building groups based off a neighborhood approach allows your groups to be accessible, inspire ownership, be effective, and are scalable to provide "a place for everyone exercise his or her gifts for the advancement of the gospel."
Chapter 6: Spaces
Building on the use of the "neighborhood approach," this chapter focuses on preparing the group (disciples) to engage their neighborhood and culture through what other authors call spaces. Simply, these are the different aspects in which we engage our culture through different spheres of belonging (intimate, personal, social, and public). He states, "To move from passivity to activity for the gospel, we need to repent of our apathy, commit to the missional work of the gospel, and learn how to engage." House adapts the concept of spaces to community groups engagement by developing four basic spaces: fellowship, hospitality, service, and participation.
Chapter 7: Rhythms
Because community is supposed to be "living life together," House proposes that small groups should not be considered an event. Rather, we should "hear the beat" of our neighborhood and organize our groups with different times, places and substances to meet the natural rhythms of life. These different structures will provide opportunities to build bridges for the gospel and alter the mindset of an event-based group to an opportunity-based group of people living life together. "Opportunity-based community is the idea that we are always a community group whether we are together or apart."
Chapter 8: Structure
In this chapter House lays out the structure that is used for community groups at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wa. He advocates for this structure but recognizes that it may look different. "The structure of community groups should be the outflow of your biblical conviction on community and the ecclesiology of the church." While many want community that is unstructured and free from expectation, he claims that structure is necessary, like a gardener who creates a structured environment that will produce the most growth and health of his garden. "...I advocate for natural, organic community...that has enough structure to support the healthy expression of the gospel without stifling creativity and authenticity."
PART THREE: Effecting Change in your groups
Chapters 9-11: Repentance, Boot Camp, and History; Appendix
This section covers the practical applications for the content of the book. It includes a guide for organizing training for your church to implement change in your groups as well as lessons learned from the history of Mars Hill Church's evolution of community groups.
Hope you found this review helpful.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2011
"Community is an instrument of worship, a weapon against sin, and a tool for evangelism - all for the exaltation of Jesus."
This statement from the Introduction to Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support is both Brad House's bold thesis for the book as well as his vision for what healthy small groups can and should be in the life of a church. House is a pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, where he oversees community groups (small groups) for the multi-campus church. In Community, House lays down a solid foundation for healthy groups, prescribes a "health plan" for redefining groups and making them life-giving (instead of life-taking), and sets forth a treatment plan for effecting change. Wherever your church's small groups are on the spectrum, from nonexistent to thriving, the suggestions and encouragement in this book can help you take them to the next level. The groups pastor seeking to make groups more effective will find tested and scalable strategies for enhancing the worship, discipleship and missional aspects of group life, regardless of church size. Small group coaches and leaders will find plenty of ideas and techniques for deepening group life and breaking out of the awkward and uncomfortable circle.
I particularly found helpful House's chapters on "spaces" (which provides a missiological discussion on breaking barriers to the gospel and building bridges into the community) and "rhythms" (transforming groups from event-based communities of once-a-week meetings to opportunity-based communities that align our use of time with gospel-centered priorities). I don't know of a group pastor who would not appreciate House's inclusion of a 7-week, 14-hour "boot camp" curriculum for implementing the concepts in this book. Members and leaders of churches of all sizes will appreciate and enjoy the history of community groups at Mars Hill and see how group life changed as the church grew through various levels of attendance.
Brad House has also packed Community with charts and diagrams that illustrate and help apply the book's proven concepts and an extensive appendix supplies helpful planning resources such as a group plan, a neighborhood plan, a group replication plan, and job descriptions for leaders, coaches and group pastors.
I highly recommend this book for those who aspire to group leadership, those who are already leading groups, and those who coach and shepherd group leaders.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2011
Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support
by Brad House
What images does the word community bring to mind? Is it simply a group of people living in the same neighborhood? Or is it a group of people choosing to help each other out, to think of each other when doing daily tasks, choosing to bless others with their actions? What about when a church is made up of community groups? Are they just awkward small groups of people living in the same area? or are they people who are intentional about getting to know and being there for each other and sharing God's love with those outside their group?
The purpose of community groups is to help the church better do discipleship, pastoral care, and missions. Each of these are things that are not easily done in just a large group setting. It is the small group that fosters an atmosphere for these very things.
Having community groups means more people have ownership and rise up to the challenge of a community group. The church leadership is not spread out as thin as there are leaders under them caring for people, and the people within a group are caring for each other. Instead of 1-2 people caring for 100, you have several group leaders caring for a small group of people, and then leaders caring for the group leaders. So if one coach, was over 6 small group leaders, who each took care of 15 people, you could have 90 people in groups. If you went out another level and had a person over 6 coaches, they would have over 500 people in groups. This quickly multiplies the ability to disciple small groups of people.
Written by some of the leadership of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, the purpose of this book is to get leaders to rethink the awkward small groups and to challenge leaders to have a vision for community groups that are intentional about discipleship, pastoral care, and missions. While this book does just that and does a good job of it, it stops short of helping leaders to create leaders underneath them who are intentionally trained just for that purpose. This is a good book to get started with the idea of community groups and gives the nuts and bolts of what one needs to think about, but some other books will be helpful afterwards (such as The Pocket Guide to Leading a Small Group: 52 Ways to help You and Your Small Group Grow by Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, and The 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders by Dave Earley). I would recommend this book to start a leader thinking in the direction of community groups, but I would not recommend this book be the only book they read.
I received the galleys of this book from Net Galley for the purpose of this review.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2012
After 44 mostly-positive reviews, I think if you're reading this and you are:
-involved in leading a small group or bible study
-are a community pastor
-are a senior pastor
-are frustrated about community in your local church on any level
This is a good book for you. I appreciate Brad's 'pulling the curtain open' for us all to see what the "secret" may be at Mars Hill. Truthfully, it's very simple, and I am excited to possibly have my own 'waffle outreach' in our city.
I've been plagued by questions inside about how to reach my city in a way that has real impact in joining man with God, and now I have many ideas that will serve as tools as I move forward.
If you're simply involved in a small group or bible study and you read this, you're a rockstar. Share what you learn with your group leader in love, and begin to change your city.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2013
Fairly helpful book on small group structure in the life of a church. Mostly aimed at larger churches, but applications can be made to churches of all sizes. Most helpful for me was the section on scalability, making sure that your structures are in place with room to grow so you don't have to overhaul everything later on.
The question I'm still left with is the best way to offer on-going training and support to community group leaders. House offers a model for this, but it seems to be me to be rather time intensive. Additionally, if everyone were to "do community groups" in the ideal fashion presented in this book, it's hard to imagine how ordinary lay people would have much time to serve the church or the city in any other ways.
Still a book worth reading for church leaders seeking to revamp and improve their community group structure.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support:by Brad House. This book is a must read for all churches that want to grow and keep healthy Christ-centered groups. Brad House provides enough vision and problem-solving in his book to be really helpful. The book is loaded with step-by-step instructions on how to build, keep healthy and grow small groups in the church.If you are looking for a book that inspires as well as instructs, then Community is for you. This is a great resource for pastors and leaders of small groups. In the past churches grew through evangelism with Sunday school classes on the church property. Now the church focuses on small community groups in homes of the believers, scattered in neighborhoods all around the church's region. This book has the power to redefine small group ministry