When Steve Gladen began the Small Group Network, his goal was to connect other small group point people with one another to learn and enter into dialogue so that none of us in this role stand alone. What started as a few people has grown to a network of thousands, expanding beyond the borders of one country to now include people from five continents.
Not only are people from countries around the world participating in the Small Group Network, they are finding support with one another in the form of huddles. By God’s grace and care, there are now active huddles in South Africa, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, Bulgaria, France, UK, Poland, Switzerland, Guatemala, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Indonesia. Some of these huddles meet in person, and some are online.
Many of us recognize that our ministries grow in effectiveness as we serve and collaborate together. In many countries, collaboration can be fairly easy as in many communities there are multiple churches doing small groups. Not to mention, many ministries do not have to face governmental or even cultural pressure on any consistent basis.
Small group point people in some countries, however, are not as fortunate. In those places, churches are small and dispersed throughout the country. Part of the reason for this is that in many regions the Christian population continues to be in a steady decline. In other countries, the small group movement is alive in expat churches because of an almost complete lack of Christian nationals. And God forbid we ever forget, many fellow Christians around the globe still face government or cultural persecution.
In spite of these immense challenges, God continues to raise up leaders within His church who have an irrepressible desire to see their church body in great, disciple-making community. These leaders are increasingly finding their way to the Small Group Network, looking for hope and support. Ron Wilbur, who is the International Connection Director with the Small Group Network, writes, “My dream (and that of the Small Group Network) is that pastors and ministry leaders that are geographically or positionally isolated, or that feel isolated, will discover the incredible relief and joy of being in community with others doing the same ministry work” [from a personal email exchange].
The Small Group Network desires to serve the global church, to be a global community of small group leaders, so that no one, wherever they are, stands alone. Ron Wilbur also writes, “What separates good ministry from great ministry is the ability to see beyond the practices in a local community to the work that God is doing globally. When we can do that, we gain transferable principles that transcend the boundaries of culture, context, conventions and conformity; and God inspires us with ideas that we would never have tried.”
Because of the ease and accessibility of Skype and FaceTime, not to mention Facebook, we are able to connect globally. If you are part of a huddle, what would it look like to schedule a time where you could Skype with another huddle in another country? Does your church have partners that they already support in other countries that would benefit from learning about the Small Group Network?
As we are all able to not only think globally, but be able to connect globally, we will recognize and have a deep appreciation and love for not only our local church but God’s global Church.
If you are interested in learning more about the international reach of the Small Group Network, please contact Ron Wilbur at firstname.lastname@example.org.