How The Journey in St. Louis seeks to build disciples
The Church: The Journey, St. Louis
The Challenge: Help people connect with the mission of the church
One Key Idea: Offer a shorter small group option that allows newcomers simply to build connections without pressure to “get involved” right away.
Outreach magazine spoke with Groups Director Justin McLaury, who says a path to membership helps people connect. Here are highlights from the conversation.
The Journey offers Connect groups for newcomers, which are shorter (four to six weeks) small group experiences. How are these groups different from your Community Groups?
With Connect groups, the goal is always to get attenders connected with something else. The goal isn’t to “get them involved.” The goal is that they are known and that they are getting cared for. That can happen on a serving team, in a community group or any number of ways.
How does The Connection Point [an informational kiosk in the lobby of each campus] help people who aren’t ready to jump into a Connect group?
The Connection Point exists to give people who are not yet connected a physical place where they can go and talk to a real person. That person can help them get on The City [The Journey’s online member/attendee care system], and advocate for them so that the person doesn’t get lost. Having a physical space that is predictable, reliable and helpful is a very good thing.
You encourage attendees to serve in two areas—at the church on weekends and in their communities beyond that. How do you follow up with people when it comes to serving?
We pretty regularly audit our membership to make sure that all of our members are actively engaged in serving. We do that not as a “big brother” type of activity, but because typically when somebody stops serving, it’s because something has happened in their lives. Did they just have a baby? Are they being cared for through that? Did they have a job loss? Are they depressed? Is there something going on that we need to be bringing care to instead of making a demand right now? Serving is a good indicator of where a person’s heart is. When we know that something’s off, we can either bring a challenge or bring care.
As with serving, membership is a very strong value for The Journey. How do you move people toward membership?
As part of our membership process, we have a newcomer dinner, [where guests] hear from our leaders about the mission, vision and values of our church and how they can be involved. The next step is getting involved in one of our two vision classes, and we have big turnouts for both of those.
How are membership, serving and community integrated at The Journey?
With membership, we invite people to decide “are you in or are you out?” If you don’t want to be a member, you can still be an attender, but we want to know who is really on mission. That drives our community groups. When people come in through community groups and then want to lead and serve, we encourage them to get into membership. It’s all very interdependent, and we do it that way on purpose because we are really only doing one thing. We are building the Gospel into our people so that they can be disciples of Jesus who are making disciples of Jesus. That’s what we do on Sunday mornings, what we do when our worship bands are playing, and what we do in our community groups—all aiming at the same thing.
MORE ABOUT THE JOURNEY
Weekend Attendance: 6,200
Key Connection Points: Five locations with 10 weekend worship services, newcomers dinner, The Connection Point, Connect groups, Community Groups, The City, service, membership
The Journey is a 2011 Outreach 100 church (No. 41 Fastest-Growing)
This article originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2011 Outreach.