Community groups (small groups) are not easy to execute successfully. Most churches tackle them incorrectly, like they are just another program or a once-a-week Bible study without much depth. Brad House has written Community, an amazing book outlining how not to do small groups and much more on how to do them in a way that keeps Christ the center of everything. Best of all, the book is barely 200 pages long, meaning you can easily finish it in a week or so and still take away great and godly wisdom on how community groups function in light of the Gospel.
How do you stay in the Gospel when practically talking about groups of people? Moreover, how do you even define a broad term like “community?” Luckily, House simplifies this by anchoring the definition of community primarily in 1 Peter 2:9-10. He revisits that passage as he underscores different issues within a community all throughout the book.
The author points readers into a new direction for small groups unlike most people have experienced before, a direction that requires organization, discipline, and authentic repentance. He spends good length outlining what both leaders and simple laymen need to repent of in a community; how else will people grow if they don’t repent of the sin directly in the way first? I feel that many Christian, practical books call for new methods in various fields but fail to talk about repenting of specific and relevant sins there.
In dealing with depending on the Lord to defeat sin that clouds true community, House also beats the drum on mission and how integral it is for Christians in small groups to passionately grasp it in their lives and neighborhoods. This is one of the heartbeats of the Gospel that can’t be missed (of course none can be missed). He also comprehensively covers what sorts of events and projects community groups can undertake in their neighborhoods, what a true small group leader looks like, and how churches should rally their groups together in an organized way without making them just another church event. Instead, the venue Christians should use to live out the Gospel each week should be their small groups.
The honesty in this book is powerful. House calls on leaders to take time to research the needs of the areas where small groups meet and readily admits that differing groups will reach out to places differently based on demographic factors. Also, he’s not afraid to name the sins that disqualify leaders and community groups from being effective for Christ. He provides statistics to reveal just how much the church has failed with community in recent years, and he displays many graphs and charts to visually lay out what he is saying. While the material is not complex at all, lazy leaders and readers should probably stay away from this one.
Another evident feature of the book is resources. At many points while reading leaders will wonder how in the world they will be able to integrate everything House is saying into their own communities, but he literally acknowledges that hurdle and generously gives a plethora of tips and valuable methods along the way (not to mention there is plenty of extra content at the back of the book to assist leaders further). Towards the end of the book he tells the story of community at Mars Hill and takes the time to talk about the lessons they’ve used for leaders and community groups over the years. It is humbling to see just how much House has poured what the Mars Hill team has learned and tried with community into this book. In short, there is plenty of inspiration here to help any leader brainstorm and seek the Holy Spirit in nurturing true community where they’re at.
The one thing I will say is that Community is pointed at a specific audience. I believe the best audience for this one is higher-up pastors, elders, and small group leaders (I say this being a community group leader of three years and a first-year CG coach). But even if the standard layperson purchases this, the impressive blending of practicality, theology, and motivation will not be easily missed. To be honest, this is one of my favorite books I was able to read in 2011. Thank you so much for this, Brad House. I have walked away from this book with so much insight that I’ve already been able to pass down to my leaders. It’s already making an impact.