Family, Church, Community, Kingdom

Tyler Hendricks

Six - Small Groups

One of the most important components of a healthy church is active small group life. In this chapter I will communicate what small group ministry is, why it is effective, and that it is NOT a new concept for us Unificationists; in fact, it is the core of what Father has told us to do.

People get lost in a crowd. Leaders burn out when the entire congregation is looking to them for advice and counsel. Just look at what happened to Moses in Exodus 18:18: "Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee," and Numbers 11:14: "I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me." Just as God provided Moses leaders to guide the people group by group, so God provides for every church people with leadership ability. The means to tap this lies in developing small group ministry.

When we were singles, we lived and worked as small groups. Workshops always included teams for group discussion. Deep friendships and personal breakthroughs came about in the context of the team meetings. We organized as small centers, as witnessing teams and as fundraising teams. Our entire life as a church was small group life. What happened? After we started family life, the small group consciousness and structure completely disappeared. With it went a big chunk of our hearts. And with it went the potential to self-organize, develop new leaders and grow as a church. It is time to institute small group ministries in our Family Church once again.

To do so is in line with Father's directions over the years. "You must go through a group-type of family life at some place like an apartment building," he states. "I recommend that you hold home meetings of the trinity unit alternately at the home of each family." Father supports meetings in our homes. This liberates us from buildings. The church is people, not proper-ties. "Educate horizontally related people through home meetings. Newly joined members are to be guided by team leaders, and then be transferred to each region." This is small group ministry 101, something very near and dear to Father. He said, "Have home meetings by local unit. If this is developed more, it should be done centered on the trinity. If this is expanded to 12 people, it should be again divided." (WSL 1, p. 168) All books of guidance on small group ministry agree with Father here. The optimum size for a group is 8-12 adults. Once you go much beyond that, you can multiply the one group into two.

The Power of Small Groups

In his book, Reinventing American Protestantism, Don Miller discusses three "new paradigm churches," also called "post-denominational churches" and "mega-churches." Here is Miller's introduction of the community-forming method in these churches:

On leaving the auditorium one typically encounters numerous tables and displays for various interest group meetings. Perhaps a third of the people participate in weekly Bible studies that meet in members' homes. According to participants, this -- and not the Sunday morning service -- is the real core of the church. There are also groups for parents raising teenage children, those battling drug or alcohol addictions, couples seeking advice on financial management, people recovering from divorce, sports teams, parents investigating home schooling, and more. There is also a full range of men-only and women-only meetings, marriage renewal weekends, family camping outings, movie nights for teenagers, and activities for preteens. What is surprising is how quickly these churches develop a broad range of ministries in response to the spiritual as well as personal and recreational needs of converts....

Mirroring democratic values, clergy encourage members to initiate new programs and projects, which thus reflect the members' own needs and interests. Indeed, so long as these programs fit the values of the congregation, enormous latitude is granted in what ministries are started and how they evolve. The pastor sees his role as facilitating and mentoring members who are doing the work for ministry, rather than attempting to staff these ministries with professional clergy. While having obvious budgetary benefits, the more direct advantage of lay-directed ministries is that hundreds of people become involved in leadership roles, cementing their commitment to the church.

Reflecting member interest, new paradigm churches tend to be filled with programs that deal with the specific needs of those attending them. It is not surprising, then, that small group meetings in homes are at the core of all these movements." (pp. 14-16)

Types of Small Group Ministries

Small group ministry is attractive because it builds upon the dynamics of the original small group: the FAMILY. From this perspective, a small group church is a family church. The original small group is that consisting of my own family and my children's and grandchildren's families. This is the ideal of the extended family and community.

In the era of restoration, we build small groups of non-related people that function like families, but ideally, True Parents' hope is for us to return to our hometown and gather together our extended family that is there.

Whether with our biological kin or our actual neighbors, colleagues at work or friends at school, we can utilize proven methods to express heart and care to create small groups. The church fosters small groups by training leaders, providing pro-gram support and blessing their creativity in finding ways to serve. There are many names for small groups. They are called Hoon Dok Teams and Kodans. Our Oakland Church under Mrs. Durst was organized as teams called trinities. All members' activities were organized through their trinity. In other churches they are called cells, house churches, mini-churches, small group fellowships, care groups, and so forth.

Uniform Small Groups

In Korea, the small groups in Paul Yonggi Cho's church center their meetings on study of his Sunday sermon. They now have a school that trains pastors to preach and teach exactly like Paul Cho. The Pentecostals of Philadelphia, led by Rev. Jesse Edwards, fosters "friendship groups." They meet for 40 minutes, once a week. They all have the same weekly Bible reading and agenda. They have a prayer, the Bible reading, and give each person two minutes to offer reflections about the verse. Their groups grow quickly, in part because the meeting is short and leave people wanting more -- and so they come back.

Multi-form Small Groups

Another method, which can develop side-by-side, is where groups develop according to interests and purposes of the participants. Consider the following partial list of small groups present at a typical new paradigm church.

Vineyard Fellowship in Columbus, Ohio (kinds of small groups):

Dale Galloway, in The Small Group Book, calls these two types "geographic districts" and "specialty districts." The latter includes the Task district (ushers, parking lot attendants, etc.), Positive Singles district, Children's Ministries district (includes all children nursery age through sixth grade as well as the staff who serve these ages), New Life Victorious district (rehabilitation oriented), Youth district (like Children's district for teenagers and the staff who serve them), Young adults district, Creative arts district (includes choirs, orchestra, drama, staging, lighting and writing), Restoration district (recovery from family crises, illness, etc.) (p. 47)

Unification Church Examples

We have all kinds of small groups. As singles in America, we fundraised as small groups, witnessed as small groups, created bands, did restoration and ran centers as small groups. In Korea small groups are called Hoon Dok Hae teams. In my experience, they meet in members' homes, read Hoon Dok Hae, sing, pray and fellowship and have a meal. In Japan they are called district churches. The Family Federation in America has varying degrees of small group activity in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Jersey, Chicago and other cities. Often we call it a community system. In New Jersey we call them Hoon Dok teams. We have the traditional name "home church," as well as a name Father gave, "Kodan."

Father has given encouragement to organize as small groups on many occasions, including at True Children's Day, November 20, 1998:

True Father:

People have followed the moral way and the moral way is rooted in the family. All the problems of the world should be solved through the family level. This is the blessed family's responsibility. So we emphasize the grassroots organization. This is not my word but God's word.... I want to make the Korean system universal.

Reverend Sun Jo Hwang, President of the Unification Church of Korea:

Our headquarters staff are visiting our local Unification Church ministers and inspiring them. We made a pamphlet to explain the detailed content of a 40-day condition, including prayer, Hoon Dok Hae, bows, chain fasting and coming to church. This is in order to create the heartistic community of the church. Our ministers call and visit each member, especially elder members, and hear their testimony.... We are building our grassroots organization. We made a national Hoon Dok Hae organization. We set up at least 3 teams of 12 families in each village.... Our goal is to create 12,000 Hoon Dok Hae teams. So far we have 7,210 teams.

True Father:

Do your best for this grassroots village organization.

Rev. Jeong Og Yu, Director of Family Federation, Japan:

(on the Japanese "horizontal leadership structure" ) In 1994 the Family Federation started, so HSA and the Family Federation each existed with separate hierarchies. Father wanted to reform this centering on the church beginning in January 1998. The church tradition is like a family. Tradition of worship means Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday services. ... This should be transferred to Japan and worldwide.... In the Completed Testament Age the mind and body should unite centering on the mind, so the church should take the leader-ship creating a unified system....

True Father:

The church system is based on the family.

The FFWPU and KODAN as Small Group Ministries FFWPU

The FFWPU, as set up originally, is a small group ministry, pure and simple. The direction was to make small groups that meet twice a month to do Hoon Dok Hae, beginning with one's own family. Put out the Family Federation flag. Invite your relatives, friends and neighbors. At least have your own children there. Build from a foundation of love. Adjust the for-mat it until it works for you. It doesn't need to be a long meeting.

On September 7, 1994, Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak shared that each blessed couple is the family-level church leader based on the tribal messiah providence, and that each family-level church should grow to include 160 families. Soon thereafter we received the following statement of purpose for the Family Federation:

  1. Education in True Parents' tradition and realization of the ideal of blessed families; guidance for the fulfillment of the Family Pledge.
  2. Education and guidance for tribal messiah activity.
  3. Tribal messiah meetings (twice a month).
    Time: Evening time every first and fifteenth of the month.
    Place: Members' homes. Content: Guidance through reading Father's speeches and Divine Principle.
  4. Witnessing through tribal messiah activity.

The Family Federation is the same, in many ways, as home church. It is local and decentralized, relying on lay-leadership. There are no requirements for buildings. Everything begins in a house or apartment and builds from there. Success comes not through bureaucracy but by service. It is personal, adaptable and responsive to local concerns. The authority to do ministry is given to us as parents. The overarching providence still factors into our lives, but our context now enables us to unite our attendance to True Parents with authentic local ministry.


The Kodan system is a small group ministry. Their structure of lay leadership, education and communication is similar in structure to strategies used in the fastest growing Christian churches. The Kodan nationally is a network of small groups. In 1997 or thereabouts, True Father clearly stated that he wants to make the Kodan system universal in America.

Some Americans object to the name Kodan, which means "platoon" in Japanese. I was sympathetic with this objection until I read Bill Hybels, founder of Willow Creek Church, use the term "little platoon of believers" to describe the small groups at Willow Creek! Truly, the name is secondary. The heart and commitment are primary.

Characteristics of the Kodan System:

Presently the Kodan under Mr. and Mrs. Hiroshi Inose is gradually trying to include American members in their groups. I heartily support this and I think that as long as it is under the auspices of the church leadership, it should include all members, including Koreans. Eventually, small groups are our infrastructure, our only real organization, serving multi-dimensional purposes.

"We Did Not Feel Like Leaving Each Other"

Through small groups we can develop our hearts as brothers and sisters by creating communities beyond race, nation and culture. But they have to develop through local initiative. The underlying dynamic -- if it is to endure -- is joy in fellow-ship with God, True Parents, our families and our community.

A small group can be people who work together, organizing by office or company. Our building manager is doing that here at 43rd Street. Or a small group can organize by interest or friendship. One small group in Manhattan Family Church is all brothers from South or Central America. Teams can be composed of people from a specific background. In Chicago there was a group of people with a lot of resentments. It was a big group. But they still prayed and started with Father's words.

The real essence of small group ministry: becoming a part of each other's lives and allowing God's loving presence to melt hearts. The small group is where we practice True Parents' four points for a leader to take care of with the members: 1. Resolve their dissatisfactions; 2. Embrace and care for them; 3. Provide solutions for their difficulties; 4. Give hope for the future. (see WSL, part 2, p. 25) Here are two testimonies I picked up recently.

A Kodan Meeting

I recently encountered two couples coming home from a Kodan meeting. They had such a feeling of life that I asked about their meeting. Their Kodan is made up of the families of one office. Their meeting started after work. At 7:00 p.m., spouses arrived and they spread out the light refreshments that they snacked on throughout the evening. They had an opening prayer and 5-10 minutes of Hoon Dok Hae. The leader then presented some points from the recent leaders conference. The seven families in the group had recently held a joint garage sale, and they discussed how it went and reflected on other ways to fundraise. They are considering sharing a booth in a mall. The leader told me, "It is surprising how the activity encourages everyone to think for the sake of others." No one criticized others for not donating so much. They evenly divided the result of the garage sale ($900 gross for seven families), even though the contribution of materials was different per family. The focus was very much how they could help each other raise funds. They have not met much in the past, but now want to meet twice a month. Some brought children and one wife took care of them. They closed at 9:30 p.m.

A Manhattan Family Church Small Group Meeting

In Manhattan Family Church, a new small group shared a testimony about their first meeting. "As we entered the Chibuisi's residence, we felt a very heavenly and holy spirit in the room. Mr. Theophilus Chibuisi offered the opening prayer after he read a section of Life in the Spirit World and on Earth. Then Mr. Christian Nseka read the first paragraph of Level 4. We spoke about the relation between husband and wife, God and us, God and the big figures in human history, True Parents and us, the group and the church, the group and us.... Then we concluded that the purpose of the group is to help each other revive the hope that our True Parents have brought to humanity.... (Dinner time) Let me tell you that this was a delicious meal. Maybe that's why we could have the energy to hold the meeting very late.... John Magoola shared his life experiences of 21 years in the church, referring to God's Will and the World, p. 440.... We watched the heart-rending video tape of the Little Angels in North Korea. At moments, this video brought many of us to the point of tears.... I read the names and prayed for all the Manhattan Family Church members, and then we prayed together....We did not feel like leaving each other that night."

The Small Group Book

If you are at all interesting in developing small group ministry, I recommend that you read Dale Galloway's The Small Group Book: The Practical Guide for Nurturing Christians and Building Churches. Kevin Thompson gave it to me, and it is by far the best book I've read on the subject. To get you started, I'll pass on a few tidbits. The following is the checklist for the leader of a new TLC ("Tender Loving Care") group.

Plans For Forming And Building Your TLC Group

The first three positions, group leader, assistant group leader and host/hostess are equally essential for each small group. Galloway provides the job descriptions for each position, emphasizing the need to avoid burn-out.

The last three points, building, praying and working the prospect list, is very valuable. The leaders, together with their supervisor, build the list from friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, new visitors at worship service, and other church members who are not part of a TLC group. Once the list is made, serious prayer is invested, and on that foundation, they call, visit, write to and by any means invite the people to the first meeting of the group. Galloway goes on to discuss the design of the first meeting and of all the meetings thereafter.

Commit yourself to attending the training session every week where your pastor will teach you and help you develop and where you will be accountable to your pastor with written reports and assignments.

Galloway answers questions I've had about small groups.

Give people a choice or assign them to a group? I think one of the worst things you can do is assign people to small groups. We have had much better results offering any help and guidance we can to assist people in finding the group best suited to their needs and then allowing them to choose the group they will attend.

Provide lessons or leave leaders on their own? Years ago we just let leaders do whatever they wanted to in their groups. We have since found that we see much better results when we provide a lesson for them. Also, these lessons are based on what's being taught in the Sunday celebration services, so everybody is heading in the same direction. Providing lessons also keeps the leaders coming to weekly training to pick up their lesson plans.

Include children in the groups or keep them separate? Again, we allow each group to decide whether to include children, have a separate program for them (in another room of the house, or at an entirely different location), or get babysitters.

Goals of pastoral care or evangelism? Our groups see both pastoral care and evangelism as their objectives. Although each group may fulfill those objectives differently, both are being accomplished.

These may or may not be your questions. Whatever your questions are, I would bet that this book answers them. One more bit of advice from this excellent resource:

Begin with a model group or groups. We've had churches of every denomination and size come to us and ask, "How do we start?" We always tell them to start small. The rule of thumb is to have one model group for about every one hundred members.... The pastor should lead the model group, setting the pace for the rest of the congregation. Out of the model group, the pastor trains new leaders who then go out and start new groups. The multiplication process begins immediately and continues on indefinitely. Once enough new leaders have been raised up, it is time to start an initial training time, and to institute ongoing training as well [of the group leaders and leaders-in-training]. This type of beginning is much more effective than announcing from the pulpit one Sunday morning that you are starting a small-group ministry in the church and then asking people to sign up. Start small, build a strong foundation, and then go from there.

It's hard to stop copying text from this book. Again, I recommend it highly.

Local Motion

Small group meetings can happen any time and can do anything they feel confident to do, with the pastor's blessing. If a church has a very effective small group, it even could run its own half-day workshop or two-day workshop. Thus, education can be delegated to small groups. Some Christian churches rarely have workshops. They provide their advanced education in evening classes and weekend half-day sessions.

Small groups can serve as an environment to help each other economically. It is up to each group, as it is up to each family, to decide how to approach this. In building God's kingdom, we have several request/opportunities for offering donations, that we can balance as God guides us. The first offering is our local church tithe of 10% of our income, off the top, so that God might bless the other 90%. When our life as families and communities are one in tune with God, our financial house will prosper. As I write this, a small group called "FAITH" is expanding in WestRock Church. FAITH stands for Fourth Adam Investing and Trading House. All profits go to members' personal ministry of tithing. Gail and Gary Veith, the founding couple, explain that when they meet they pray, read Hoon Dok Hae and then talk about the stock market. This is the hobby life approach to the small group ministry.

You value the vertical relationship with God but often ignore the relationships with people. (WSL 2, p. 203)

Why Should It Work NOW?

The strategy of small groups and home church is not new for us, but when we have tried it after starting our families, it has not brought membership growth in America. Why should it do so now? Having done some research on this, I'll put forth some characteristics of successful small group strategies.

Seven, in this way, small groups nurture spiritual leader-ship. A person intimidated at the idea of leading a church can learn to lead a small group.

If and as our community develops our spirituality in these directions, we too will have success in small group ministry. Plus, we need training, ongoing training.

We can integrate all kinds of projects and events through small groups

The ideal is that more and more happens within the small groups, and less and less is controlled and organized from above. Paul Yonggi Cho is the leader of a church with hundreds of thousands of members in an effective small group system. He said that he had to rummage around his office to find something to do.

In the future, making a decision as to certain matters should be done within the proper environment. For example, if it is concerning the trinity, it should be resolved within the district, the team, and the region. Headquarters have jurisdiction over the district of neighborhood, team and region.... If possible, the trinity should live together and die together, without needing to depend on its upper organization." (WSL 1, p. 168)

Action Steps:

It is absolutely imperative that we make the same transition. It is proven historically. It is the way we succeeded in the past. It is the mandate of the Family Federation. And it is the essence of our Kingdom theology.

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