Have you ever thought about starting a fellowship? It could be one of the most rewarding experiences you could ever have, and an amazing opportunity to see God work. Although there are many benefits, you may still be thinking that it is not for you. You might even be thinking of all of the reasons why you cannot do it.
When I considered this same question some years ago, I found that most of my angst was generated by what lay in the unknown. There are many unknowns in starting or leading a fellowship, and some of them regard the adversity you will face if you decide to spread the Gospel in this way. Since there is no denying the adversity associated with starting a fellowship, I wanted to give you a list of nine steps to help you do so. I have found that if you apply these steps in your future fellowship, they can significantly help you deal with the adversity that can and will come your way.
One of the first things to remember in starting a fellowship is to get God involved. This is where prayer comes in. Many times prayer gets overlooked, but I believe it is the most important thing you can do when starting a fellowship. If you do start a fellowship, make a commitment to pray about all the details. The Lord Jesus will work with you, just as he has worked with many people before. He knows what he is doing when it comes to building his Body, and he appreciates your desire to help. Often it is in your prayer time that God will give you ideas about places to go and people to talk to. Remember that prayer is to be dialogue with the Lord, so keep your ears open all day long to what he would have to say to you. As you pray for the people with whom you come into contact, you will see God move. Over time your habits of praying for people will be passed on to your community. Others will see the fruit of prayer and join in, and God will do the heavy lifting and provide the increase.
2. Get a vision for the fellowship
Pick out some Scripture verses that give you a vision of what you want your fellowship to exemplify. Study the book of Acts and the early Church to see how those believers so effectively spread the Word and touched people’s lives. Those in your fellowship should decide what they want it to look like. Look at the needs of your fellowship community and set forth your vision statement accordingly.
3. Decide on the day, time, and place
Work with the people to choose a time and place for your fellowship that best fits their schedules. Once you pick a time, stick with it so that people can plan their schedules accordingly.
4. Look for committed people to come alongside you
Moses traveled with Aaron, Paul traveled with Barnabas, and Jesus traveled with his disciples. Christianity is a “team sport,” and we were designed to have other people with us. Be looking for people who will support you and come alongside you to help build the fellowship. God will bring them.
5. Get the word out–tell people!
The biggest limiter to growth is fear. Tell everyone you know that you are starting a fellowship. Tell everyone you meet and do not know about your recent fellowship. Invite everyone you meet, and see how many people God will bring to you. Many times if you share your life with people and show people a lot of love they will want to see what you do. This can be a great opportunity to see how God will work when we just do our best to care for people. As you tell and share with people about your latest plans, you will see God bring people from everywhere.
6. Make a tentative plan for how you will run the fellowship…and tell more people!
Lay out a plan for each fellowship, but be flexible. What will you do about praise and worship? Will you have it in the beginning? What songs will you sing? Who is teaching the first week, the second, etc.? Will you have a season of prayer? Manifestations? While it is important to be flexible, that does not mean you should not have a schedule or tentative plan for the meeting. After all, it’s a lot easier for God to guide a rolling stone than one that is sitting still. Let God work in you to adjust things in order to meet the needs of the people. And tell more people about the fellowship and follow up on the other people you talked to.
7. Stick to it–and tell more people!
It is really important that you do not give up if the first few people that said they would come do not show up. That’s what the Devil would love you to do. Try again, talk to more people. If only a few people show up the first few meetings, it can be daunting, but make a commitment to stick to it no matter what. Tell everybody, and follow up on people who said they wanted to come and never did. Be persistent and loving! Remember, it is people who Jesus came to save, and people that he has called us to reach.
8. Learn to be sensitive to what God wants to do–and tell even more people!
Be sensitive to the fact that people go through stages of growth, and that therefore the “flavor” of your fellowship will probably change as time goes by. Be ready to adjust anything that does not meet the needs of those who are attending. For example, in one fellowship people needed discussion time after the teachings, in another the praise and worship was saved for last. Be adaptable. There is a saying in the military that “All plans are thrown away at first contact.” Sometimes when things get started it does not look exactly like we thought, that’s OK. Sometimes God calls us to be a flexible “Gumby” for Him.
9. Seek good counsel and resources–tell more people!!
No one knows all the right things to say or do. Each of us has blind spots, both regarding others and ourselves. We need “a second opinion.” A recent study polled a large group of pastors as to the greatest attributes of a leader. Afterward, they were all asked if they knew anyone who met all the criteria they had come up with. Naturally, the pastors unanimously agreed they did not. In other words, no one has it all together so you are in good company. Other people have been where you are. Learn from what they have learned, perhaps from books they have written. Leaders are readers. You can also go to ministry events and volunteer for things that will give you ideas and help you become a better leader. Become a sponge for better ways to do things.
Our heart is to help you learn from what we have experienced. We want you to be the most you can be for the Body of Christ, and we are here to help you in any way we can. So go get’em! Give it your all, and God will bless you for it.