After graduating from theological seminaries, including an overseas seminary, L, a millennial pastor, came back to a rural church in his hometown in East China, carrying out a small group ministry.
Speaking of his burden, he said, "Jesus spent three and a half years training disciples. Not at the level of Jesus, I plan to spend twice the time nurturing the Lord's disciples."
Supporting pastoral care in groups rather than at the altar, he believed that small-group ministry comes from the Bible. He stated, "Not only my church, but all churches should disciple believers in groups."
Having a very little concept of small groups, village Christians thought it was enough for them to gather and that the mission was just the duty of pastors, L added. He thought the church should promote group pastoral care, which could be a system, not merely a get-together. He appealed that it was not enough for churchgoers to attend a gathering.
Having studied many small group courses and different sets of group training courses, L declared that though the Great Commission for the church was the same, the specific circumstances were different for each church.
When learning theology about six or seven years ago, he was moved to conduct the group ministry, starting to make a set of group pastoral care materials himself. Referring to at least 50 books, he grasped every opportunity to seek advice from pastors coming to the seminary from other places, even when walking with them.
Having finished the training materials, he believed that it was very important to train team leaders who could nurture believers well if leaders received pastoral care, otherwise, they had limited ability to train others.
L said he found that many foreign churches had a core team of pastors, district chief pastors, and finally grassroots pastors. But in China, however, apart from the senior pastors, there were often only heads of the groups in the church who were under great pressure to disciple believers.
In this regard, L said that he had been to a Christian organization where many people had the desire to suffer for the Lord. But in his opinion, the biggest problem with that institution was that they lacked the later training for pastors, and in the end, only about two or three out of ten people were left.
Therefore, L believed that it was very important to build a strong pastoral team in the church, but in the domestic church, there were only a pastor and group leaders, or even only a pastor, who should do everything. The best way to do it was that the pastor was only concerned with pastoral work, and the administrative staff was responsible for the administrative work of the church, with the ministry done by the ministry department.
L stated that a good church should have many full-time pastors, though it was not easy to afford them in a Chinese context. But in a church near L’s home, there are only about 70 believers but with three or four full-time pastors.
To transform into a group pastoral ministry in his rural church, the first and most important step was to train the group leaders. L said, "At the beginning, 20 people participated in the group leader training in my church, with 15 left. Now there are three people committed to serving God, one male believer with two female ones.”
With the transformation beginning, his church has to have different groups in the long run, such as groups for seekers, for making disciples, for discipleship, and for teaching basic truth.
- Translated by Abigail Wu