Last week I wrote a bit about our desire to start a church in Dublin that is “Reproducible & Sustainable.” The comments that came helped me realize how difficult something like this is to clarify in a few blog posts.
I believe one difficulty is the perceptions many of us carry when someone says “plant a church.” We immediately start thinking about the building where this church will meet and how the Sunday services will be structured. I know that’s how it worked for me most of my life.
But as we’ve thought about church planting in Dublin, we’ve had something very different in mind…I wouldn’t say original…but maybe a bit of a hybrid. When we went over there last summer, the phrase that we used to convey what we were thinking was “parish model.”
It actually came out of something that I’d been thinking about our church here in Ithaca. Let me explain…We have been, like a lot of contemporary evangelical churches, a “regional” church. While we have had people at times drive from Bath, or Auburn, both over 50 minutes away, that has not been the norm. However, we regularly (& currently) have people come from Trumansburg (15 miles from the church’s facility), Aurora (25), Cortland (20) & Sayre, PA (41).
While I’m glad people have decided to travel to be part of what we are doing in Ithaca, (many of the people who’ve live in these outer areas have been leaders at our church,) I’ve wondered more and more lately about the impact of that.
While I do think there is a lot of positives to having people come in from all over, in the 13 years that I was the lead pastor at the Ithaca Vineyard, the number of outreach/service events that I’ve planned/organized for Cortland, Tburg, Sayre, or Aurora would be a grand total of 0. Why? Because I believe God called our church to serve/lover/reach out to Ithaca. And that’s where I’ve focused…that’s where our church has focused. At the same time, it has meant that many those who are driving into Ithaca have not been able to be as involved as they would be if their church was right where they lived.
So here’s what I’ve been thinking as far a Dublin. Rather than building something and expecting them to come, our family is going to focus on serving, relating to & loving people in Clontarf. As we start to see people come from other areas, we’ll invite them to join us, have them learn alongside us what we are doing there, and then send them out into their neighborhood and communities to begin doing the same thing.
(If you’re familiar with Alan Hirsch, this is pretty similar to the hub/network model he writes about.)
Now, this probably means smaller groups of people meeting in any one place, but the potential for many more of these small groups spread out throughout the city & beyond.
So with that said, what would be the first question that would pop into your head? What concerns? Or what opportunities. Love to continue the discussion.
Speaking of getting to Ireland, we are still trying to raise an additional $2,000 in monthly support, to put us over the top. If you would consider making a monthly financial commitment to our church plant in Dublin, please visit our online giving page, or contact me.
So, maybe you could lead 3 small groups each week, then raise up a leader in each group. Which would free you up to lead 3 more small groups… You’d have a lot of people “doing life” together, but I would encourage you to think about how/if you’d build community among all three groups.
Patrick, when you say build community, what are you thinking? Say you have a community on the west side of Dublin, & one in the south east…what type of community would you think they should experience with each other? I guess I’m thinking they’d be connected to this larger congregation throughout the city, but their community would be with those in their local community.
Let me rephrase: if you are leading 3 small groups throughout the week, what do they do on Sunday morning? Do you envision all 3 groups getting together in one larger group? And if not, are there other opportunities for the 3 groups to get together? It also depends on how folks define “local” community . Dublin is roughly the same size as Indianapolis, but someone in Fishers (a burb to the northeast of Indy) may consider their “local” community to be the entire north side of Indianapolis. I wonder if that is similar/different across the pond.
Actually, I’m thinking in a neighborhood there would be a number of small groups that would interact during the week…beyond just a small group meeting. On Sundays (or saturday) the groups would meet together for corporate worship. Perhaps on the 4 5th Sundays each year all the local communities would meet together in more of a celebration type gathering. Does that make sense? Raises more questions too I’m sure.
Yep, makes sense to me. I just have no idea how Dubliners perceive the concept of “neighborhood.” But God is behind all of this so I’m not worried about it…
Thanks for asking the questions…helps me understand what I’m not being clear about as well as assumptions I’m making.
Isn’t there the potential for neighborhood based groups to feel a bit homogeneous?
Perhaps…what are you thinking?