The ABF philosophy of ministry believes midsize groups (ideally 15 to 60 people) called Adult Bible Fellowships (ABFs), or Communities (or whatever churches call their groups), are the or a foundational ministry to adults in a church setting. Working alongside of and appreciating other influential ministries to adults such as Small Groups, Men's and Women's Ministries, Discipleship, etc., These midsize groups function as "small churches" within the bigger church body. Each group has a mix of ages, but normally are organized by similar life stage; sometimes, however, some groups are multi-generational or have some other special interest or passion (i.e. worship, orphans/adoption) that draws them together in community. In the context of these communities "body life" takes place. (Biblical references for this philosophy include John 17:20-23; Acts 2:42-47; the "one another" passages of the New Testament; Eph. 4:12-16; Heb. 10:24, 25)
Much of ministry to Participating Adults Flows Through these Groups
These midsize groups are a main vehicle in which much of the ministry to adults flows, including: fellowship; socials/activities; small groups; care opportunities; outreach; disciple-making; service projects; assimilation of newcomers, etc. As a result, instead of having separate ministries for small groups, newcomer follow-up, care and fellowship—among which may occur very little communication and/or networking—the church can do a better job of caring for their flock and assimilating new people into the church because "the right hand knows what the left hand is doing." This synergy multiplies the effectiveness of all the ministries.
Leadership Teams within Each Group are Essential to Build an Appropriate Infrastructure
Each midsize group has a community leader. It is this leader's responsibility to organize, lead, and meet regularly with a leadership team that models "community life." The team consists of the teacher(s) and those who lead the social and ministry events, caring opportunities, welcome/assimilation, outreach, administration, etc. Each community is "self-governed," meaning that the people within the group decide who will be asked to serve on the leadership team; how many team members there will be; and how long they will serve. The leadership team serves as the eyes and ears of the group and meets on a regular basis to plan, evaluate, and hold each other accountable for responsibilities.
The Curriculum is Based on the Bible
It is the supernatural Word of God that changes lives! That it why the curriculum is centered around God's Word and His principles that guide the believer in Christ. Churches use a variety of curriculum structures in the ABF teaching ministry. (An overview of curriculum structures is in The ABF Teaching Course)
Small Groups are Made of People from within the same Midsize Group
As mentioned earlier, small groups (usually voluntary since they are high commitment) are strategically organized with people from the same ABF. Having people from the same community experiencing ongoing sharing, prayer, and interactive Bible study together in these small groups will build the overall depth of community within an individual ABF.
Goals: To Make Mature Disciples and to Multiply Groups and Ministries!
Two crucial goals of the ABF philosophy are: One, is to assist in the process of making mature disciples of Jesus Christ in the context of biblical community. Another goal is to continually "birth" and develop new groups and ministries to reach more people for Christ and to help them find a place to belong within the larger church.
THE ABF EXPERIENCE
"The ABF philosophy and ministry is at the heart of everything we do at our church. The medium-sized groupings allow our church to be comfortable for attenders, especially as our church has grown in size. The ABFs are central in welcoming newcomers, following up visitors, connecting people relationally, launching small groups, communicating vision, and of course, teaching God's Word. The ABFs have greatly helped to grow our church in spirit, in depth, in size, and in unity. We love 'em!"
Pastor Quintin Stieff
Valley Evangelical Free Church, West Des Moines, IA
"We feel connected to other believers with love, encouragement, and spiritual growth. Communities make a large church have the advantages of a small one."
Hope Church, Mason, OH
To read other comments regarding the ABF Philosophy and pastor Steve, please visit the Testimonials page.