I have the pleasure and honor of serving in a Southern Baptist Church (SBC) that is 99 years old.  For 98 of those years it carried the name of First Baptist Church (FBC).  In January of 2009 we changed our name to LifePoint Church.  If you are unfamiliar with churches who are FBC in the SBC,  there is a strong, successful heritage of meeting on-campus for Bible Study each week, called Sunday School.  Hundreds of thousands of lives have been changed via Sunday School.  People learn the Bible verses, theology, discuss philosophy, and experience growing faith by participating in Sunday School.

In the early ’90s another title for Bible Study gained recognition, Small Groups.  Much of the recognition in SBC churches was due to The Purpose Drive Life book, study, and sermon series written by Pastor Rick Warren.  At that same time many families were becoming more mobile and relocating because of jobs.  Many suburban areas are now filled with families who know little about their neighbors and have few, if any, family members living anywhere close to them.  The idea of growing up in one community for a lifetime is almost impossible.  (LifePoint is experiencing a 1 to 7 ratio of people who join the church are actually from the Middle Tennessee area.)  Forming community is very difficult when you combine all of these factors.

Small Groups @ LifePoint Church have three objectives:  Discipleship (Bible Study,  spiritual growth)  Community (fellowship, accountabilty, belonging) and Service (church, community, world).  Two of these objectives cannot be accomplished to the highest level by meeting on-campus.  Most groups cannot experience the level of community we desire by meeting in a room on campus.  Being in someone’s home, watching the kids run through the room, noticing the photos on the wall, getting ‘refrigerator rights’ are all crucial community-building experiences.

“Refrigerator Rights” (coined by Will Miller) is the title given to the feeling that you can walk in someone else’s house, open the frig and ‘help yourself.’  You know, like at Momma’s house.  It is not about the frig, it is about the community and friendship and closeness you have with the owner. (On a personal thought:  Does God have “Refrigerator Rights” in your life?)

By meeting in homes you get to experience a person/family in its true, unfiltered life.  You not only know where the refrigerator is, you can get what you need during the social time of the group meeting.  You know the kids, how they interact, what they love, how to pray and care for them.  You learn what is important to the family, what is sacred, what is a ‘no-no’ in their home.  You have the opportunity to build community at a very deep level.

So, where do you want your Bible Study group to meet next time?  Where you meet is important to the level of community your group can experience.