April 4, 2022
    7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Unfortunately this workshop is being postponed. We hope to reschedule it for the Fall.

Small groups nurture deeper relationships and increase the sense of community within our churches. They are the perfect place to provide encouragement and care between members, outside of pastoral care. Small, intentional connections between congregants has never been more important than during the last 2 years as the pandemic increased physical distance and placed strain on relationships.

In this panel, three local churches will discuss their unique take on promoting small group connections. One created topical groups while one created groups divided by geographic location. In one, Sunday school classes developed the deep relationships and care that are the hallmark of a small group. Our panelists will help you imagine how your church can foster intentional connections through small groups, no matter the form.

Jim Grossnickle-Batterton, Lititz Church of the Brethren:

Lititz Church of the Brethren never did a large-scale, intentional push to create small groups because they didn’t want to undermine their active and dedicated Sunday school classes. Their adult Sunday school classes function very much like small groups, providing deep relationships and connections.

During the pandemic, they also started a weekly check-in Zoom call that became a small group in some ways as the same people showed up and shared week after week. Both pieces became a part of an overall strategy to keep people connected and engaged.

Jim has an M.Div. from Bethany Theological Seminary. He has deep roots in the Church of the Brethren on both sides of his family, but has been a spiritual nomad. He was a Brethren Volunteer, serving homeless families and people who lived housed and homeless in the neighborhood. During this time, Jim developed a great love for understanding radical hospitality as a spiritual discipline. He also gained a deep appreciation for high church liturgy, contemplative disciplines, and Christian mysticism.

Andrea Brown, Grandview Church:

Grandview Church runs many topical small groups, including: Encountering God in Nature, Stellar Stitchers, Grandview Readers, Coffee & Theology, Pub Theology, Third Sunday Theater. They also have several women’s groups affiliated with the international, inter-denominational group United Methodist Women.

They have also experimented with limited-term small groups, set up around specific book or topical studies. These groups have helped build connections within the church as people begin or deepen their relationship with others they may only know tangentially. Some groups have even continued meeting beyond the church-structured time.

Andrea is a graduate of Bucknell and Columbia universities and Lancaster Theological Seminary. She left a career in journalism and joined the Grandview staff in 1999. She’s married to Tim Buckwalter, and they have two adult children. One member says she’s an ocean: deep, makes waves.

Susan Gascho-Cooke, Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster:

During the pandemic, Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster created small groups based on peoples’ geographic location. They promoted these groups as a way for individuals to support their fellow congregants and neighbors. Groups met for walks, delivered food to each other during quarantine, and picnicked in parks. Some of those groups really clicked and have continued supporting each other past the church facilitation.

Susan is the Congregational Care pastor and still marvels that getting together for coffee with folks to talk about the meaning of life actually counts as work! Susan came to CMCL in June 2010, after studying theology in one form or another as a student at Eastern Mennonite University and then Emory University (Candler School of Theology), and in the hospitals of downtown Atlanta as a chaplain. She also pastored for several years at Atlanta Mennonite Fellowship and served as a host for refugees and asylum seekers at AMF’s Hospitality House. She co-parents the two sweetest little girls with her excellent husband, Teman.