Small Church Community
Saint Stephen Small Church Community
What is Small Church Community?
Small church communities include elements of shared prayer, mutual support, reflection, learning, and participation in the mission of Jesus. Typically small church communities are groups of 8 to 12 people who gather regularly to reflect on scripture, to pray, and to talk about how their lives and their faith come together. They also discern how they are being called to act on their faith in their families, jobs, neighborhoods, and communities. See the History of Small Church Community.
About St. Stephen Small Church Community
Every week we attend the Mass and celebrate the Eucharist together, but with whom exactly are we sharing the Mass? How can we connect with our neighbors seated three pews in front of us? There is a desire among christians to develop meaningful relationships with each other. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Sister Angela, Deacon Frank Laws and his wife, Duffy, desired to meet that need, under the support of Father Larry Kolson.
A core small church community was established by pastoral facilitators being trained to take on one of these groups. Little did they realize the growth of relationships that would occur. We live in a very independent society, but the hunger for relationships in faith still exists. Small Church Communities have been re-established to satisfy that desire for spiritual growth with other members of the body of Christ. In the Early Church, it was about fellowship, helping each other out, and discipleship. St. Stephen wishes to follow that apostolic tradition of faith community, open to all within and outside of St. Stephen Parish.
It's a place to build a family, faith share, encourage each other in our faith walk, and use the spiritual gifts God has blessed us with. Feel connected to the larger community by joining a small church community. Don't let fear keep you from experiencing the freedom and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. This is an experience that will leave you changed for life.
How is it defined in the Scriptures?
The idea of community has been around since before creation. God was in community with himself, which is portrayed in the trinity, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each aspect of God acted interdependently. It was through the Son that we get to the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Each part had a separate function, but when put together, they were fundamental in God's purpose for His people.
Then we move to Genesis 2: 18 which states, "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him. " It was no longer just God anymore; he created human beings to be in communion and fellowship with Him. They were also created as two who became "one flesh." Together they were part of one body.
Due to the fall of sin, the first humans destroyed community with God. They chose to be independent, after once being dependent. That choice led to isolation, separation, and alienation. To this day, human beings still choose to separate themselves. You see it many times throughout the Scriptures, that disobedience and hardness of heart. This is not what God wanted for us.
God didn't give up on us. He started fresh with Noah by wiping out everything on the Earth, except what was on the Ark. God then developed a new nation through Abraham. Genesis 15:5 says, "And He took him outside and said, 'Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.' And He said to him, 'So shall your descendents be.'" Through Abraham's example in the Scriptures we can learn that God desires dependence, trust, and faith in Him, not faith in our ability to please Him. The key word is "dependence." We need God, and we need each other as Christians. This society of independence is what leads us to that isolation, thus separating us from God.
In the Old Testament, the people of God built their community through the old covenant, however Christ came to bring us the new covenant. Community with Christ was different from community with the world. Christ left us with the hope through Him and the Holy Spirit that the Church would become one.
During Christ's life, He formed his own community with his twelve disciples. He did more than just teach them. He lived with them and lived his teachings daily. He set the example. Jesus was in large group settings, teaching the multitudes, however, he spent a majority of the time instructing his disciples. By training his small group, He had an impact on the world for centuries to come. He sent out his disciples to form other small groups and do the same thing.
The beginning of the Church is defined in Acts 2, particularly verses 42-47. "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved."
Small groups make it easier to form relationships. Each and every one of us has a purpose to be used for the common good in community. Ephesians 4: 11-16 gives a beautiful description of this. "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love."
Small church communities are important because that's where relationships are established. As we build these relationships, we realize the needs of everyone in the church and we share in each other's joys and sorrows. Once we are strong internally, then we are to go out into the world and make more disciples. Matthew 28: 19,20 states, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and 10, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Jesus says this to his disciples (small church community). We are all called to the ministry of others, therefore making us all ministers. We are to continue this tradition.