Author Archives: Rooted Network

The 7 Rhythms of Rooted

I grew up playing music. So, I may be biased here, but there is a section of any band that is more important than others: the rhythm section. The drummer and bass guitarist lay the musical foundation for everything to stand on. 

You don’t know you have a solid rhythm section until you hear a bad one. When the timing is off, or the bassist isn’t in sync with the drummer, there isn’t a melody, riff, or singer that can save the band. The experience is uncomfortable, off-putting, and downright painful.

Small groups are quite similar. We provide a leader, curriculum, and some expectations, but why do so many fall apart? These are good people, trying to do the right thing, but the group just doesn’t move forward. They lack a compelling reason to be vulnerable, develop in their spiritual growth, and eventually just stop showing up. 

What if we could establish a rhythm section in our small groups?

The Rhythms of Rooted provide a foundation for a small group to grow. These spiritual disciplines aren’t the means by which we grow, Jesus is the means, but let’s explore each one to see how they propel a group forward.

Daily Devotion – LifeWay led a significant study that revealed time in God’s Word as the far-and-away leading metric for a person’s spiritual growth. In fact, by developing a discipline of daily devotion, all other areas of our spiritual growth rise as well. More time in God’s Word means you serve more, give more, and are more deeply engaged in the local church. 

Prayer – Learning to “pray continually” as 1 Thessolonians says is no easy task. Through this rhythm, we maintain our connection to God just as “Jesus and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Prayer is well beyond making requests to God; it is living in a stream of continuous relationship by “keeping in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

Freedom from Strongholds – It is a sobering reality that while we have been saved, we still live and are affected by a broken world. Sin is not our master, but it still has an ability to entangle us. Groups can create a recurring environment for honest confession and prayer so that we can continually combat sin and live in the freedom paid for by Jesus.

Serve the Community – A group that only studies God’s Word together has a tendency to turn inward, caring primarily for themselves. Acts 2 paints a picture of biblical community that is both inward and outward focused. Maintaining a rhythm of serving reinforces to the group that we are most like Jesus when we do what Jesus did and are with the people He was with. 

Sacrificial Generosity – God gave generously to us, therefore it is our responsibility to hold each other accountable to respond and grow in generosity. A consistent group conversation about giving counteracts greed, pride, and selfishness, while inviting us to experience the blessing of giving generously in response to God.

Share Your Story – God is alive and active today, writing remarkable stories in the lives of growing believers. Encouraging a small group to share stories with one another builds confidence to share those stories in the workplace, neighborhood or social circles. Mark 4 says Jesus was never without a story, using imagery to paint a picture of the kingdom of God. Our small groups are filled with stories that need to be shared with others.

Celebration – This is an act of worship, fully recognizing God’s presence and power in our lives. When we celebrate we transfer our attention from the story to the Author of the story. Throughout the Old Testament, we see God interact with His people, then they stop and build and alter, and worship God for what He has done. Imagine if our small groups practiced a rhythm of worshipping God together for what He has done in our midst.

These spiritual rhythms established in Rooted aren’t anything supernatural in themselves, but they each have a way of molding us to become more like Jesus. Jesus is the means and the end of our spiritual growth. We practice becoming more like Him and in the process, we are with Him. 

Without a rhythm section, we feel it. The small group lacks momentum and will eventually call it quits. 

What are the natural rhythms already present in your small groups? What would happen if we integrated spiritual disciplines into our groups calendar? How would your groups be different if they stood on a foundation of these spiritual rhythms?

 

 

Jared Kirkwood serves as Pastor to the Rooted Network, a ministry helping pastors build disciple-making churches. He is part of the Mariners Church teaching team and speaks at churches, camps, and conferences. He is an expert in leadership development and storytelling, and uses those skills to guide people towards living a meaningful life. Jared holds a Master’s of the Arts in Global Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary. He and his wife have been married for 13 years and have two ridiculously awesome kids named Asher and Ellie.

Groups That Grow Deeper

“How was your group last night?” I hesitantly texted a congregant. 

After a few moments too long, the reply finally came, “I’m sorry David, but I just don’t like my group. It feels like a waste of time.”  

This was the type of message I dreaded receiving.

Hang in there. God’s got this” I replied back, wishing I had something better to say.  

“Is this working Lord?” I silently prayed. “If small groups are supposed to help people grow, what am I doing wrong?”   

The idea is simple. Small groups make disciples.  Help a congregant join a group and they should grow as a disciple of Christ. However, should is a dangerous word.  What about when it doesn’t work? What about groups that look healthy, but don’t produce spiritual growth? 

These questions led me on a journey to dig deeper into what actually makes growth happen in a group. What I discovered was this: the relational dynamics within a group determine the discipleship that occurs.  While curriculum is foundational, how a member experiences being with God, others and themselves, shapes everything about their relationship with Christ.  Let’s look more at how these dynamics affect our spiritual growth:  

1. With God | Growth begins by recognizing that transformation is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus instructs us in John 15:5, “apart from me, you can do nothing.” A group who desires to grow must first awaken to the presence of the immanent God who resides in their hearts.  Dallas Willard wrote that spiritual growth “is neither active nor passive, but interactive.”  All transformation comes from growing in our attentiveness to God and being with Him in all things.  Agroup who is walking in an interactive process with God will continue to grow spiritually together.  

2. With One Another | Tim Keller writes, to be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.”  When we experience relationships with others who know us deeply, yet love us as broken sinners, we get a taste of God’s love.  God’s love transforms our hearts when we move beyond superficiality and into a group experience where brokenness is not only accepted but expected.  1 John 4:12 says,No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” When the truth of ourselves encounters the truth of God’s love for us, we are inevitably changed.  Through vulnerability our shame is broken, fears are overcome, sin is defeated and we experience real transformation in Christ.

3. With Ourselves | Spiritual growth involves looking both upward to God and His Word and downward in examination of own hearts (Psalm 139:23-24).  John Calvin writes, “The whole sum of our wisdom, which is worth calling true and certain, is practically comprised of two parts: that is, the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”  In order to put off the old self, we must know the old self. This requires being aware of the areas in our life where we are weak and struggle. It involves knowing our own story and understanding where we have come from and where we are going (Gen. 16:8).  Groups made up of individuals who know their own hearts are continually interacting with what is beneath the surface and in doing so follow Christ’s instruction to “first clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (Matt. 23:26). 

Today, I no longer fear text messages that reveal the lack of spiritual growth in a group. Instead, these acknowledgments are an invitation into a deeper level of honesty with God, others, and ourselves.  Imagine the people in your church not only participating in groups but also being deeply transformed by them. As we cultivate and care for the relational dynamics of a group, we will see discipleship that goes deeper and truly transforms hearts into the image of Christ.  

 

David Krall is a Life Groups Pastor at Rolling Hills Covenant Church. He has served at RHCC for seven years and is passionate about creating transformative communities that experience spiritual renewal and the depths of life with Christ.  He holds an MDIV from Talbot School of Theology and loves being a husband to his bride Kelsey and dad to his two-year-old Jaxon and newborn son Zander.

Chasing Two Rabbits

Confucius is credited with saying, “The man who chases two rabbits, catches neither.” It is a statement about focus, and it is true. If you chase two rabbits at the same time, you won’t catch either one because they will pull you in different directions. Right as you are close to catching one, you will need to stop and chase the other. But you won’t catch that one either because you will realize the other is getting away, so you will have to change focus again. The cycle will repeat until you are exhausted and have no energy left to pursue either rabbit.

Chasing two rabbits is no way to live and no way to lead. Yet ministry leaders, and leaders, in general, are constantly tempted to chase two rabbits (or more). Here are three common places where an unfocused approach often manifests itself in church ministry:

1. Leadership Development

One set of desired leadership development competencies for volunteers and an entirely different set for staff is an example of two rabbits. Or an approach to leadership development in one area of the church that is completely different in another area.

2. Programming

People only have so much time. If there is a plethora of programs in a church, the programs compete with each other for the attention and time of the people the church is designed to serve. This is why we’ve made Rooted the front door to our church. It’s one very clear next step for everyone who walks on our campus and is looking to get connected to our church. 

3. Communication

When a church bulletin feels like a Sunday paper slammed with advertisements, there is a good chance none of the “this is the most amazing thing ever” will get much traction. As the length of announcements increases, the attention to them tends to decrease – no matter how amazing the person speaking is. The more rabbits in your weekly announcements, the less will be caught.

It takes great discipline and focus to not chase multiple rabbits.

The pushback is: “What really, though, is the struggle with two rabbits if both are ‘good rabbits?’ And what if we prove, because we are so awesome, that we can catch them both?”

The kind answer: stewardship. The opposing directions are funded and they are funded with the generosity of God’s people. Both require energy and time, which are also precious resources to steward.

Another answer: No one is as good as they think they are at catching two rabbits.


Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. He has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball. Read more blog posts like this on his website.

Stepping Into Freedom

Every year on July 4th, I get together with family and friends and celebrate something I honestly don’t fully grasp the weight of; freedom

While it certainly is an overused American cliché you’ll usually find on t-shirts bearing the statue of liberty riding a Harley-Davidson (yes, I used to have said t-shirt), freedom has taken on new meaning for me.

Over the last three years, our church has watched in awe as Rooted has impacted the lives of over 1,200 people who committed to the 10-week experience. LifeBridge has seen people choose to step into freedom by breaking addictions, mending relationships, and putting an end to the generational cycle of family brokenness. I’ve seen so many people find freedom when they found that the Savior they believed had long forgotten them was actually chasing after them the whole time.

In the midst of all of the amazing things I’ve seen God do in our church, I think the clearest change I’ve witnessed has been in my own life. My Rooted experience helped me identify the patterns of brokenness I had been afraid to confront. God used it to lead me – step by step – into freedom from strongholds next to others who were seeking the same thing. 

Rooted even helped guide me and my wife to step out in faith and become foster parents. Foster care has turned our world upside down. We said yes to two boys having no idea how long they would be with or how challenging this journey would be. We also had no idea how much God would use that simple step of faith to grow us and reveal more of Himself to our family. 

While the step itself is different for each of us, I think the movement is consistent for everyone.

Steps of faith lead us to greater freedom from strongholds which then inspire us to take more steps of faith. I don’t see people who break strongholds running away or living in fear of the darkness. I see them step directly into the darkness with great faith and ready to bring the light.

And in the end, isn’t that what freedom is all about?

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. – Galatians 5:13

 

Sean Badeer is the Connections Pastor at LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, CO. He is passionate about Jesus, people, guitars, and loves investing in the next generation of church leaders. He and his wife Averi are Nebraska natives who are living the dream in Colorado with their dog Kanye.

Leading Through Change

Imagine your supervisor comes to you and says, “Get ready! Things are about to change around here.” What thoughts or emotions instinctually rise to the surface? Are they positive or negative?

If you are like the majority of the population, the first thing you will probably feel is loss. Meaning, no matter the change about to take place, the initial emotions most likely to be felt are confusion, frustration, fear, anxiety, or even betrayal. Change comes at a cost and losing something we care about, even in exchange for something great, is emotional.

The reason so many transitions fail is that people fail to recognize loss.

This leaves us with only two routes to success in transition: never change, or learn to lead through it. And we all know one of these is more realistic than the other. In his book Transitions, William Bridges outlines three phases for effective leadership during a season of change:

    1. Letting go of the old thing
    2. Going through the transition
    3. Coming out the other side.

Reality is, there is anxiety where there is no clarity. There is frustration where there is no vision. There is fear where there is no hope. As leaders, we cannot gloss over people’s emotions in the midst of loss, but we also cannot let them wallow in negative emotions. We have to help them let go and move through to the other side.

So, once you recognize your own loss in the transition, it’s time to shift into your pastoral gear. How would you come alongside someone feeling the powerful negative emotions stirred up by losing something important? When you create a safe environment for others to recognize and grieve their loss, you show empathy, build trust, and cultivate the soil in which your “new thing” can grow and flourish.

A great leader is able to acknowledge the pain of loss while building bridges to the positive emotions that come from the new thing.

As you move forward, your role is to help your team cross from negative emotions to positive ones by painting a vivid picture of what is next. Bridges uses the following framework:

    • Purpose: a compelling ‘why’ for the change to come
    • Picture: a vivid picture of what the future will look like
    • Plan: a simple, strategic action plan to get us there
    • Part: a role for each person, in relationship to others

Change is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be dysfunctional. If God is doing something new, we are responsible to lead our teams into that new thing well. When you implement Rooted at your church, you initiate change. And we are here to come alongside you and support you as you build bridges for your staff in the midst of transition. Join us at the next Launch Intensive and our team will help you contextualize this for your church. We hope to see you soon!

 

Jared Kirkwood serves as Pastor to the Rooted Network, a ministry helping pastors build disciple-making churches. He is part of the Mariners Church teaching team and speaks at churches, camps, and conferences. He is an expert in leadership development and storytelling, and uses those skills to guide people towards living a meaningful life. Jared holds a Master’s of the Arts in Global Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary. He and his wife have been married for 13 years and have two ridiculously awesome kids named Asher and Ellie.

3 Ways Rooted Combats Individualism


“I’d love to do Rooted! Do you offer it every night of the week, and can I pick and choose when (or if) I show up? If so, then I’m in!” –  Fortunately, no one has actually said this to me, but it’s what I assume every person in my congregation is thinking when I talk about Rooted. I recognize that committing to a 10-week experience, being required to show up every week and spending hours with people you might have never hand-picked for your group can feel like it’s infringing on your personal space. In our self-centered culture, it can feel a bit daunting. Rooted requires sacrifice and risk. It is counter-cultural. And yet, I think we would all say that the community Rooted creates is well worth the effort it takes to step out of our individualistic mindset. So, for those of you who need the reminder (myself included), here are 3 ways Rooted combats individualism and creates communities of committed disciples:

Individualism says: I’ll grow on my own time – don’t pressure me.

Rooted says:  We are better together, so let’s do this together!

Whether or not it’s on-campus, Rooted is a centralized model that creates sticking power. Everyone who wants to get into a life group must go through Rooted first because it sets the tone for how we do community in our church. We come as individuals and we grow together. People share and rally around a common language, the 7 Rhythms, and experiences. This is especially helpful as our Rooted groups transition into life groups. As groups take risks, share and listen to stories and engage with vulnerability, everyone learns how beautiful it is when we’re all in this together.

Individualism says: It’s too hard to be vulnerable. It’s easier (and safer) to be closed off.

Rooted says: Vulnerability is easy when you feel safe.

The best way to build authentic community is to create an environment where it’s safe to be vulnerable. While it doesn’t feel safe to join a group of complete strangers, the format of Rooted, especially the sharing of stories, immediately creates a safe and gracious environment. As the facilitators share their own faith journeys on the first week, it lets people know “none of us have it all together – and that’s ok!” The group begins to feel like the safest place to be just within the first few weeks. My suggestion: Building an environment of safety should be your number one priority in the first couple of weeks.

Individualism says: Discomfort is bad and must be avoided at all costs.

Rooted says: Being out of your comfort zone is good – it’s where God tends to do His best work!

No one likes to be forced to do anything but people do like the reward of doing things that are hard and good for them. For instance, I hate working out, and no one can force me to go to the gym. But when I commit to showing up, I always feel better afterwards. Rooted is our way of asking people to make a high-risk commitment and show up for ten weeks. And with each session of Rooted, we’ve seen that they can’t get enough of it! The life change that takes place during those ten weeks is worth all of the risk, sacrifice, and vulnerability. This is why we encourage our groups to make the effort to do the Prayer, Serve, and Share Your Story experiences. It’s hard work, and it can be uncomfortable, but we truly have seen God do His best work during those experiences.

Honestly (and don’t tell anybody), my favorite life groups are the ones that develop fresh out of Rooted. Why? Because they are the ones who are typically more committed to one another and invested in our church community, the ones who are more sacrificially generous with their time and money, the ones who step in to serve our church and get excited about serving their world. In just ten weeks, these individuals have learned the basics of sacrifice and commitment in and for community. They are more pumped about what God is doing in and through their group, and they are open to direction as they transition into life groups. As a pastor, this is what excites and encourages me most about Rooted!

What is one way that you can leverage the benefits of Rooted to inspire the disconnected individuals of your congregation?

Jonathan Reider serves as the discipleship pastor at Friends Church Orange, in Orange County California. He has been serving at Friends for over 12 years, and has been a part of both their main campus and multisite congregations. His heart is to help people experience the beauty of life with Jesus, lived out in community.

Preparing For Spiritual Battle

How To Equip Rooted Facilitators For The Reality Of A Spiritual Journey


Rooted, Hiking and the Spiritual Journey
A few summers ago my wife and I invited some of our close friends out to the mountains of Colorado for a week-long vacation. Our family owns a beautiful cabin in the mountains just outside of Colorado Springs, and we thought this would be an excellent way to spend time together, while also getting to relax and enjoy life. After a few days of being in Colorado, our friends wanted to go on a hike. 
Due to my physique and overall disinterest in exercise, I was not looking forward to it, but I obliged my friends and my wife, and off we went. That hike revealed to me the nuances of leading people through the Rooted Experience. It is a spiritual journey, which means a few things:


1. The best facilitators serve as tour guides.
As we started our hike I realized something: none of us had ever hiked on these mountains. Early on in our journey, I began asking, “Does anyone know where we are going?” The answer from everyone was a profound, no. Here we were, a group of people who didn’t know where they were going, didn’t know where to go and had no idea how to get home. 
If Rooted is a spiritual journey, then everyone needs a guide. Someone who can walk alongside their group and encourage them. The best facilitators are people who move with people through the journey, but also help them to recognize God’s presence as they grow and move forward. The beautiful thing is that a tour guide doesn’t have the limited knowledge that the rest of the group has, they have more. A great tour guide can direct their group because of what they have already experienced and seen. They have knowledge of God’s presence in their own spiritual journey. 
As you can imagine, our group was lost that day on the side of a mountain. It took us hours figure it out. We had no idea where we were going. I imagine if we had a guide, someone who was prepared to navigate us through our journey, we would have found our way home much more quickly.


2. People have baggage — it is your job to help them set it down.
I left out a small detail in this story — my wife, and I had recently adopted a Labrador retriever puppy, and we thought it would be a good idea to take him with us. His name is Chance (yes, like Chance the Rapper), he was a few months old at the time, and he was also not very interested in this hike. Within 30 minutes of us hiking, he decided he was done, laid down, and would not move. I had to carry him. This additional baggage made my hiking experience worse than I initially expected. Who knew how hard it would be to walk along the side of a cliff with a 25-pound puppy in your arms? 
When people choose to be a part of a spiritual journey, they bring every part of who they are with them — their past, their present, and their future. Unfortunately, for many of us, our past contains baggage. For some of us, that baggage looks like sin. For others, it could be trauma, or abuse, or fear, or depression and anxiety. The best facilitators — or tour guides — know how to help people set their baggage down.
As you train your facilitators, specifically for Week 5 and the Stronghold Experience, think about these few questions: Are our facilitators aware of what Care and Support ministries the church offers? Is there appropriate follow-up and care for our facilitators as they encounter their group members’ baggage? How can we better implement the rhythm of Freedom from Strongholds into other areas of our church?
Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t able to leave my dog on the side of that mountain. However, my wife and the rest of our group shared the load of carrying our dog down the mountain. The best facilitators can remind their group members that they are on this spiritual journey together, and if for some reason, they can’t set their baggage down right away, people are present to help them carry the load. 


3. The spiritual journey can be exhausting — how well are you resting?
After we made it home, our group was exhausted. Between hiking for hours, carrying a small animal, and arguing over how to get home, we had no energy left to offer to each other. The hike was beautiful, and the journey was worth it, but we were done. 
I love the people who want to facilitate year round. Rooted has become their ministry. It is the way that they serve God and His church. However, it is our responsibility as church leaders to make sure that those facilitators are not only cared for, but they are also being allowed to rest and prepare for another journey. 


As you prepare for the next session of Rooted, I would challenge you to ask this question: Are there any of these facilitators that need a break? Not because they aren’t great at what they do, but because a break will actually revitalize their spiritual journey and make them better facilitators in the future?


It can be tempting to so heavily rely on facilitators that we forget to give them appropriate time to refuel and rest. At Compass, we rely on volunteers at all of our campuses not just to facilitate rooted, but to also lead and train all of our facilitators. If those leaders have been actively leading people on a spiritual journey, they too need time to rest and refuel consistently. 

 

Rory Green is the Rooted and Teaching Pastor at Compass Christian Church, a multi-campus church in the Dallas/Ft Worth Metroplex.  Rory and his wife, Brooke live in the suburbs of Ft. Worth and have a chocolate lab named Chance.  He is a graduate of Lincoln Christian University and is working on his Masters Degree in Organizational Leadership from Hope International University.

5 Benefits of a Centralized Prayer Experience

Few things sound as overwhelming to Rooted Participants as the Prayer Experience. Two to three hours of praying during Week 3 of Rooted? Let’s be honest, most people don’t spend 30 minutes a day praying, much less a few hours seeking to hear from God. For many, the thought of the Prayer Experience conjures up fear, anxiety, and sounds just about as exciting as watching paint dry. However, it is a beautiful experience, and it is one they will walk away from feeling encouraged and reminded they can do this every day.

After the pilot rounds (please don’t skip these), our campuses made the shift to start hosting and centralizing the Prayer Experience. This may not work for everyone in every context, but below are five of the reasons we made this shift.

Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That | Participants don’t skip the experience.

Participating in Rooted is a big ask. Tack on a two-hour experience and we found pilot groups felt like they didn’t have margin. So, we flipped the ask: join us for two and a half hours for the Prayer Experience and then, find additional time (such as breaking the fast and eating dinner afterwards) to debrief that week’s daily devotions. Basically, if you are going to skip something, skip discussion, not prayer.

Get Woke with Lectio Divina | You can stretch your current prayer culture.

Every church has a liturgy, but ours is not a historically liturgical church. So, we wanted to stretch our Rooted participants through Lectio Divina (pages 108-109 of the Facilitator Guide). We also designed a prayer labyrinth and other experiential elements for the experience. One of our joys has been seeing people grow in comfort with these ancient practices and desire to use them.

It’s a Big Big House (without the football) | Larger spaces were less intimidating for people.

You probably know this, but it rains a lot here in the Pacific Northwest. Add the short days in fall and the cold of winter, and the ability to host a Prayer Experience outside is hit and miss. The logistics of sitting in a living room for two hours or asking a leader to open up every room in their home for people was a barrier. A centralized large space allows for people to move around independent of the weather. As an added bonus, it is absolutely beautiful to see every corner of our space used for prayer during the experience.

Leaders are People Too | Leaders get to participate more in the prayer time.

By centralizing, hosting, and using the Lectio Divina guide, leaders do not have to watch the time or carry the responsibility of creating the perfect prayer environment. Instead, they are able to guide their group and immerse themselves in the experience. Freeing their minds from the logistics of the experience frees their hearts to engage with God.

Bowling with Bumpers | You can develop younger staff in a safe environment.

Leadership development is a priority of our church, and yet finding great opportunities to let young staff lead is sometimes difficult. The Prayer Experience is one of the best environments to empower the people you are developing to lead. With a set structure in place, it gives them opportunities to learn how to set the tone for the experience, guide the participants through it and debrief with their group at the end.

There you have it, five reasons why we centralize our Prayer Experience. Doing this may not be for every church context, but it has worked well for us. And one of my favorite things about it is that the Prayer Experience is not just a Rooted event. We invite our staff and existing Home Communities to join us each round. It has become another tool for us to use as we pursue building prayer into the foundation of our culture and make it a rhythm for our whole church.

J. Grant Hickman is a Teaching Pastor and Rooted Champion at a multi-campus church in the greater Portland, Oregon area. He enjoys woodworking, surfing, and Texas, but mainly spending time with his wife Jenna and their five kids. Outside of exploring the PNW with his family he is working on a Doctorate in Ministry from Denver Seminary and loves equipping others to love like Jesus.

A Tool For Cultural Change

Over the last ten years, the Latino culture has changed drastically in the United States – especially in its perspective and involvement in the Church. The majority of people with Hispanic heritage come from a Catholic background. They’ve claimed Catholicism as their religion because it’s what their parents did and it was what they should do. But in the last decade, people have started craving real answers to real problems. They don’t just want to sit through a sermon; they want to be fed with practical wisdom they can apply in their day-to-day lives. They want to be discipled by the Church, rather than just attend on Sundays. They want to know God and live with purpose. As a result, we’ve seen a lot of Latinos move away from churches that hold their traditional, Catholic values and begin opting for Western-style churches. They are moving away from cultural Catholicism and morality and choosing to cultivate a real, live and active faith. We started picking up on this shift in our culture and felt God was giving our little community a great opportunity we didn’t want to miss.

LifeBridge En Español is the Spanish campus of LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont Colorado, which has been serving the city of Longmont for more than 125 years. When our mother church piloted Rooted, they invited us to join them. We launched Rooted within the same time frame and, as a small campus serving a specific community, we learned a lot:

  1. We learned the importance of a pilot. We joined our mother church in their pilot with key leaders from our church and it made all the difference. That time gave us clarity in the steps we would need to take to lead our church through change and integrate Rooted into our culture with intentionality, rather than diving in head first. We were able to work out the obstacles that might have stood in the way of a successful launch and a figure out how to contextualize Rooted for our community.
  2. We learned to be resourceful. As a small community, we didn’t have all the resources our mother church had when they launched Rooted. So, we learned to ask God to provide in our areas of need and be creative in our solutions. In our first session of Rooted, we realized we didn’t have a place to do baptisms. So, we made use of a galvanized tank from a farm and we baptized 15 people in the first two sessions. God moved. And God provided
  3. We learned how to rally our church around something new. Our ten weeks in pilot gave our leadership team time and space to really engage the experience and think strategically about how we would invite our church to participate and inspire them towards action. Our people were ready for something new, so we moved on it quickly. Being a smaller campus allowed us to be flexible, implement at a faster pace and use Rooted as a tool to meet that need. And our church community responded with enthusiasm because they felt heard.

As Latinos, we are very loyal to our tribe. So, though our people were connecting at LifeBridge En Español – it was on a surface level and, as a tribe, we were longing for greater depth in relationship with God and with each other. Rooted has become an essential tool for maintaining that unity we value living in while moving us to grow deeper together. It has been the catalyst for the connection we were all craving. Our numbers showed it. When we launched just over two years ago, more than 60% of the overall congregation participated in the first session. We were amazed at the response and affirmed that Rooted was exactly what our church needed. Half of our community is made up of people who came to know Christ, for the first time, on our campus. Rooted cleared the way for people new to our community and new to faith to connect, share stories and celebrate life events. And, ultimately, these experiences drew them to Christ.

There was a man in our second session who was really shy and didn’t want to open up. On the last day before our celebration, he shared: “I have been to almost every church in this city, and they always talk to me because of my guitar talent. This is the first church that has made me feel welcome as a person – not just because of my musical ability and what I have to offer, but because they actually care about me.”

People who felt ostracized now experience belonging. Those who felt like they were voiceless now have a voice. Not only that, they now have a group that will lean in and will listen as they share vulnerably about what they are going through and help them see God in their stories.

As our community grows, change is inevitable. Rooted has equipped us to take care of people with real-life problems and provide a safe space where they can talk openly. It has completely changed how we do small groups, how we raise up leaders and how we interact with the individuals in our community.

In 1 Chronicles 12, we see the list of tribes and men who joined David at Hebron to turn Saul’s kingdom over to him. Among them were men from the tribe of Issachar, “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” We feel like we are that tribe and we want to continue seeking to understand the times we are living in, the way culture is changing and influencing our people and we want to seek God and His wisdom in how to move our people in the right direction – closer to Him, closer to each other, and closer to their purpose.

 

Andy Gonzalez is the associate pastor at LifeBridge Christian Church En Español. He also serves as the worship leader and has worked in student ministry for over three years. Most recently, he and his wife have been keeping busy with their newborn, Lea, in Longmont, Colorado.

Why “Going There” is Worth the Risk

When I came onto staff at Mariners Church as the “story person,” I quickly began to feel the weight of holding someone’s story—and the fear of asking hard questions. In my role I was trusted to meet with individuals who were sharing the deepest pains of their life, yet when it came time to film, I shut down and told myself lies about my ability to hear their stories.

“They hinted to a traumatic experience…who am I to poke at it more? If they were truly ready to share, they already would have done so. I can tell this story without any of the specifics…”

This mindset trapped me for over a year, and instilled a fear and hesitancy in my interviewing posture. “I don’t have enough relationship to go there with them! What if I make things feel unsafe?” 

These lies told me it was better to appear cautious than overbearing. It wasn’t until I saw a story play that left the audience with the job of piecing together the plot points, that I realized the danger in being cautious. In this story, the subject was hinting at a trauma he experienced as a child. The audience heard:

“It happened at home. I saw myself differently after that.”

Me, the interviewer, knowing the context, thought his allusion was sufficient, and that the vague response would allow the audience to plug and play their own story into the scenario. What I didn’t realize, was how harmful that was for not only the subject, but the audience. What was “it” that happened? Was it assault? Was it something he did or was done to him? I saw the engaged faces of the audience turn to introspection, away from the story in front of them. It took them down a path to find resolution with their own trauma, because there was no longer a promise of resolution on the screen. It was unsafe.

I knew had to approach interviews more ruthlessly in order to give the audience a clear path to travel.

Rooted celebration came a few weeks later. I have the honor of going through the Rooted cards and choosing individuals to share. I decided that this time, I’d dig a bit deeper than what was written down.

It started simply, but boldly. I asked, “Would you be willing to share what that shame was about…specifically?”

We hide so many details of our lives behind closed doors, mostly due to shame. There is a fear in opening a door and releasing whatever darkness lives behind it. But what we see on display in Rooted, is the power of “me, too.” When we share our stories, doors are swung opened, and someone in the group starts to believe, “If they can draw their secret out…maybe I can too. Maybe I can bring this shame into the light and remove its hold on me.” And while there is power in saying “I have addiction…I struggle with anxiety…I am trapped by envy…” there is another victory just below the surface. Addiction to what? Anxiety from where? Envious of whom?

I once thought “who am I to go there with this person?”  Your calling to lead your group, your own experience of freedom in sharing your story—that qualifies you. The safety you create in your group, and your willingness to lead by example, will invite others to do the same. Some might not be ready, and there is still great power in the broad strokes, but my encouragement to you, is to take a chance and see what the power of specificity can unlock not just for those listening, but for the person sharing. More often than not, people are waiting for the invitation to go deeper, they are seeking freedom. To know the intimate details of our stories are not too much for others to walk into, is the transcendent power of community, and it lies in the courageous pursuit of honest storytelling.

 

Alana Aronson is the Story Curator at Mariners Church, Irvine. She cares deeply about people, and believes in the unity and empowerment that emerges when an individual shares his or her story. Leading the Story and Video Team at Mariners, Alana is passionate about putting God’s work on display through honest and creative communication.