The concept of Adult Bible Fellowship—or ABF, as they are often abbreviated—has been around for a while. (Former Grace Brethren pastor, Knute Larson, is credited with coining the term.) An ABF is exactly what it sounds like. Adults meet together and study the Bible.
Pastor Dave Holmes and the people of Centerville Grace Church in Centerville, Ohio decided to try a variation on the traditional ABF, which they call Life Groups.
They began with a format where a group begins, then divides when it becomes too large. “We weren’t really enjoying that model because we really weren’t seeing a lot of people want to jump into an existing group,” Holmes explains.
They decided to try an approach suggested by Nelson Searcy, an evangelical pastor who writes in the area of church growth. “You meet for 12 weeks, and then you take a break for a month,” says Holmes. “That month is designed to promote and plan for the next Life Group. Everybody starts fresh and there’s a clear end date and a clear start date.”
Life Groups differ from ABFs in purpose as well as structure, Holmes explains. At Centerville, the ABFs were teacher-and-lecture-focused, whereas Life Groups put more emphasis on relationships. They also meet in homes. “There’s more of a familial sense inside a home than a church classroom,” says the pastor.
“In Life Groups, you get together. You share prayer requests, you eat together,” Holmes adds. “We ask our Life Groups to do a service project together and spend one night playing together—do a bowling activity or whatever—just to hang out.”
According to Holmes, 60 to 65 percent of the Centerville Grace Church congregation is currently involved in Life Groups. He hopes to see that number reach 100 percent over time. – by Andrea Skowronski
This story first appeared in the GraceConnect eNews (No. 9). To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information about ministries in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, click here.