A Piece of the LCC Disciplemaking Mission
What is an “ABF”?
An ABF is a middle-sized (17 to 70), open group (you can join anytime) that meets at 10:15 am each Sunday morning for 70 minutes. During that time four things are given special attention.
What happens on Sunday Morning?
- Great Teaching – Bible and topical studies are covered.
- Fellowship – cultivates a warm but not an intimate environment and provides a setting for care giving.
- Outreach – teach and lead the class into outreach and assimilate new people into the group.
- Corporate Prayer
ABF’s are more than 70 minutes on Sunday morning!
The ABF is more than the Sunday meeting. It provides the framework for disciplemaking, community, outreach, care giving, prayer and much of the body life of the church. The Sunday morning meeting is only one tool in the tool box of our church shepherds and disciplemakers which includes small groups, prayer chains, retreats, socials, outreach events, etc.
The ABF Leadership Team
Each ABF group is led by a team of leaders who function as the shepherds of that group. An ABF has at least 2 leaders and as many as 5 or more.
- Main leader
- Care leaders
- Outreach leader
- Hospitality leader
- Prayer Leader
- Small Group leaders
Other mature believers in the group join this team in ministering to the group according to their spiritual gifts and calling. Together, they are responsible to oversee the care, discipleship, prayer, community building, and outreach aspects of their ABF. The leadership team meets together regularly as needed to plan and execute their mission.
The Life Cycle of an ABF
ABFs are open groups that are usually organized according to life stage. Oftentimes this means organizing according to age of children. Once formed an ABF group stays together forever. They simply move together down the “conveyor belt of time.” A young married group eventually will become an empty nesters group. People do not graduate from one ABF group to the next as they or their children grow older.
New groups are created at the beginning of this conveyor belt of time as either young married without children or singles. New groups may also be created if a group grows and it fills up its room. We then ask it to “give birth” to a new group for its life stage by sending out a small leadership team.
What Happens at an ABF meeting?
For example 10:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
- Coffee, tasty treats, and informal talk 15 minutes 10:15 (If people arrive early)
- Announcements: 10 minutes 10:35
- Leader gives announcements
- Welcome newcomers
- Care leader starts prayer notebook
- Socials organized, treats list etc.
- Planning/training for mission - 5 minutes
- Teaching and lesson discussion 40 minutes 10:45
- Care leader leads in prayer, highlights care 10 minutes 11:25 Dismissal 11:35
The Care Leaders
Care Giving through the ABF’s Of primary importance in any church is the care we provide to our people, especially during times of crisis. At one time or another we all suffer from setbacks - financial, hospitalization, natural disasters, emotional, psychological, or spiritual struggles. These are the times when the church needs to act like the body of Christ and extend His love to one another.
We have in each ABF a structure to help ensure that these needs do not go unnoticed. Each ABF group has a Care leader that oversees the care giving needs of that group. Some ABF groups might recruit more than one person for this role. This team of caregivers seeks to stay aware of the needs of families in their ABF. When something does occur, the Care leaders will seek to mobilize the resources of the entire ABF group to meet that need.
It must be strongly emphasized that care giving is the responsibility of everyone in our church and not just pastors or a few assigned caregivers. Some people are more gifted and sensitive to the needs of others, they help the entire body to be aware of needs. But meeting those needs will require a variety of gifts and many resources.
Staying aware of individual needs is also very complex. When you gain knowledge about a need in someone’s life do not assume others know. Always assume you are the first to know and pass on the information to the Careleaders in your ABF group. We must all work at this together.
When you have a need – please ask for help, we want to do a good job at this.
Why we Organize ABFs the Way We Do Making disciples requires healthy relationships. These principles define certain laws of relationships typical in our culture.
The Principle of 70 Relates to fellowship, most people can only keep up with 70 to 90 names. After this, saturation occurs and all our energy goes toward maintaining relationships we already have. ABF groups should be between 17 and 70 people. Once a group begins to grow larger than 30 or 40 they begin to close.
The Principle of 17 Relates to intimacy. People are uncomfortable being intimate in groups larger than 17. Small groups best meet this need. Ideal small groups are between 3 to 13 people.
The Principle of Competition Most adults do not have time to attend 2 groups that have the same relational level. We do not expect you to attend more than one meeting each week for the three sizes of groups
The Principle of Continuation It takes 9 months for a small group to reach intimacy. It takes a middle sized group 18 months to achieve a sense of community. Once formed we want to keep groups together as long as possible to allow time for true community to occur, and once achieved, to enjoy its benefits.
Myers Law A church grows as the number of groups increase.
Corollary One to Meyers Law A church grows numerically as the number of open groups are multiplied. ABF’s and our Home Churches are open groups.
Corollary Two to Meyers Law A church grows spiritually as the number of closed groups are multiplied. Our discipleship groups are closed groups
Closed and Open Groups: It is helpful to understand the role and differences between open and closed groups.
Open groups allow new members to join at any time. These groups become the basis for assimilating new people into the life of the church. Some of our small groups are open. All ABF’s should be open groups. An open group should not become too intimate or else it will make people new to the group feel uncomfortable. Therefore, we do not want our ABFs to become intimate. This is important to understand. Although people will sometimes criticize ABFs for not being more intimate, that need should be met in the closed small group.
Closed groups allow new members to join for a few weeks at their start or perhaps for a short time each year, but once formed do not allow new people to join. Because it takes time to build the trust necessary for true intimacy, adding new people will undermine that intimacy. It is important that discipleship groups be closed to allow for a depth of intimacy that will lead to the deeper relationships necessary for spiritual growth to occur.
Important Attitudes Members of an ABF Should
Have in Order to Insure Their Group’s Success:
- The overall governing principle is to have a servant attitude like Christ who emptied himself for the sake of others.
- Make your motive to be a part of an ABF first to serve others and then secondly to be served. What would this look like?
- When a subject is being taught that you do not enjoy or a teacher that doesn’t suit you do not stop attending. Come to serve others and to welcome newcomers and to make your ABF successful.
- Place as a high priority the socials and retreats or other outside activities that are planned. We are all very busy but building community is fundamental to a strong church. If the event being planned doesn’t fit you exactly, come anyway to serve others.
- Make attendance a priority, not based on how well this ministry meets your needs but on how you can minister to others.
- An ABF is first and foremost a place where you can use your gifts to minister to others. Seek to discover your spiritual gifts and calling. If you do not know what your spiritual gift is, enroll in a discipleship group. These groups are designed to help you make this discovery.
Biblical Principles that Motivate our ABF Ministry:
1. Matthew 28:19,20. The Great Commission describes the mission we seek to fulfill through our ABFs. It is essentially a disciplemaking mission. The first step in this disciplemaking mission is evangelism, winning people to Christ.
2. The One Anothers. Sixty times in the New Testament the phrase “one another” is used. We are to encourage one another, love one another, bear one another’s burdens, etc.. It is very difficult to fulfill these commands in a worship service of several hundred people. This requires a smaller community of believers who know one another. ABFs and small groups provide the context in which the one anothers can be lived out.
3. Ephesians 4:11-13. The work of church leaders is to equip the believers for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. ABFs and small groups give our leaders the context in which this mission is fulfilled.
4. The first commandment, Matthew 22:37–38. Loving God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength is the overriding goal. The ultimate goal of our teaching is to produce “lovers of God”.
5. The second commandment, Matthew 22:39. Loving our neighbor (Christian and non Christian) is the context in which love for God is learned.