Church Goes Casual

For members of First Baptist Church in Burleson, church has gotten a lot more casual.

That’s because home-based gatherings, known by church members as Life Groups, have been growing in popularity among the congregation. Consisting of anywhere from six to 15 members each, Life Groups meet at church members homes on just about any day of the week and enjoy food, fellowship, prayer and discussion about Bible topics.

The intimate settings of the meetings is a departure from the traditional, on-campus Sunday school. And First Baptist Adult Minister Josh Rose considers Life Groups a good way for members to grow closer together and reach out beyond traditional worship venueus.

“The church decided to do this to provide an alternative ministry to those who for whatever reason decided not to come to church on Sunday, and so through this home-based groups, these Life Groups, we’re able to get a whole different audience rather than those who attend on Sunday and go to an adult Bible fellowship. Rather, we provide these Life Groups, and they’re able to meet during the week, and there’s a lot of flexibility, and the response that we’ve gotten so far is positive—people just love them,” Rose said.

The church began organizing Life Groups in 2006 with approximately 40 participants meeting in five groups. That number has now grown to more than 160 meeting in 16 different Life Groups.

Church members say their lives have improved in many ways since they’ve begun participating in the program.

“It’s a great time for us to get together with other women that you’re friends with. The guys have a time that they can hang out together, and so I enjoy that fellowship aspect of the Life Groups,” said Life Group participant Suzanne Hembree.

“We really considered Life Groups because we were struggling with felling a part of the church. We were enjoying Sunday school but we were struggling truly being connected in the church. Life Groups have provided us an opportunity to be connected and to develop these deep, significant relationships that we’ve struggled to develop otherwise,” said Allison Haralson, another Life Group participant.

“We are a group of four to five couples that come together. And the first hour is just fellowship: eating together, sharing what happened that week, sharing the concerns that are going on in each person’s life. And the last hour to hour and a half, sometimes two hours, is just sharing God’s word, sharing what we’ve learned, going through a lesson,” said participant Greg Haralson.

Rose says the Life Groups are not intended to replace the traditional Bible study format. Rather, they are meant to spur friendship among members and to provide another way to keep spiritual development a part of the members’ everyday lives. To this end, Rose says it’s easy to qualify to attend a Life Group.

“We only have one requirement to be in Life Groups, and that is you have to be able to breathe,” Rose said humorously. “We accept everyone. Sometimes I like to use the phrase, and I’m careful when I use it, but, radical acceptance. We don’t care what your past is. We want to come and love on you and connect with you; anyone’s welcome.”

— Written and produced by Marshall Hinsley.