More than anything else, a community forms people. We know schools educate children, but families shape their character. We know peer groups can have powerful influence on the choices people make and the destinies they reap. In our desire to belong we will change our behaviour and our beliefs.
A Church service or teaching program has its place in helping people follow Jesus, but there is limited impact without the power of community. Consider that a Sunday program has at the most 52 hours a year of influence, a family has 3000 – 5000 hours. Youth Group has 80 hours of influence, school 1200 hours. Given this, if the community we mix with is agnostic or opposed to the things of God, how will our faith fare?
How can we increase the impact of godly community in discipling people? Growth Groups are part of the answer. Meeting with others to follow Jesus together can certainly help. Especially if people are authentic with one another. The advantage Christian community has over other forms is it often goes ‘deeper’. But Growth Groups are still not enough.
I think two areas of community matter the most and neither can be ‘programmed’. The first community is family. When our families follow Jesus, it has the most potent impact on the emerging generation. Parents are the best predictor of whether children follow Jesus. As a church community we can support families, but we are no substitute for what happens at home. The second community are friends. When our close friends are followers of Jesus, we are more likely to thrive in faith.
We can each take responsibility for these areas. How is my influence in my family? Am I a good friend with followers of Jesus? I think we will notice when we cultivate the communities of family and friends, it helps.