In HOPE

  In HOPE 8.21 

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David Timms  

Ministry Resource

Joseph Myers' book The Search to Belong (Zondervan, 2003; 180 pages) helps us rethink the nature of belonging and the role of small group ministry within the Church. Contrary to common opinion, Myers does not believe that small groups should be touted as the key to intimacy or belonging. You'll find his book provocative, insightful, and helpful. It will surely open up important discussions for anyone involved in Church leadership or small group ministries.

Hope Happenings

Breaking News:  Hope International University joins the University Center of North Puget Sound in Everett, Washington, offering bachelor's degree programs in Human Development (Education or Counseling concentration) and Management beginning in the Fall of 2008.

Hope International University
Fullerton  CA  92831

Now available
through my website
  www.growingdeeper.com

"The American front porch represented the ideal of community in America ... [an] area that could be shared between the sanctity of the home and the community outside." ~ Cook in The Evolution of the American Front Porch


The Front Porch

Nobody sits on the front porch anymore. Newer homes assign just enough space to wipe your feet before walking in the door. Who has time to sit on a porch? Besides, if we can't hang a widescreen TV from the eaves, why would we want to sit out there at all?

The demise of the front porch represents more than an architectural shift. It signifies a substantial social change for us to consider.

Some socioliogists see the rise of coffee franchises like Starbucks and Coffee Beanery as a substitute for the past practice of "porch sitting." Folk sit casually around tables and re-connect, often about nothing ... simply for the joy of connecting. (The old sitcom Cheers turned a local Boston bar into a "porch experience.")

According to Joseph Myers, we all want to belong and we need to connect at various levels ... at the public level, the social level, the personal level, and the intimate level. When the church continues to insist that the ultimate goal (or the most important goal) is intimacy, it ignores something fundamental about the way God wires us.

Intimacy is reserved for just a handful of people in our lives -- our spouse, our children, and one or two close friends. We yearn for it (perhaps because many of us are not particularly good at it) but we also need meaningful connections at the other levels; the front porch connections.

If Myers is correct, then the persistent emphasis on intimate small group experiences can only distract and discourage us. Most churches enlist 30% or less of their congregation into small groups -- and only a small percentage of those enlisted develop deeply meaningful connections.

Rather than place all our eggs in that basket, we might affirm those who connect with the church just through worship service attendance, or explore the significant and authentic role that social events play in helping people "belong."

The church often devalues anything less than Bible Study and intimate connections. And in so doing, we hurt others and ourselves. We isolate people and diminish our experience of authentic community.

While our homes have room for just a doormat, can our churches create new "front porches"? As we do, we'll have fewer insiders and outsiders, less "us" and "them," and more connection. Perhaps it's time to think outside the restrictive boxes of our own making.

In HOPE --

David

 

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You can find back issues of "In HOPE" (2005-2008) at http://www.hiu.edu/inhope/.

David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. "In HOPE", however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board. "In HOPE" has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.