One of the books I’ve been anxiously awaiting is Heather Zempel’s Community Is Messy. A talented speaker and writer, Zempel delivered one of the most memorable talks ever at Willow Creek’s grouplife conference. With a title like Community Is Messy: The Perils and Promise of Small Group Ministry, you just know it’s going to be a great read!
Zempel’s background as an environmental engineer provides some of the best illustrations I’ve come across to describe the messiness of the thing we call community. If you’ve never heard her story about monitoring a pig lagoon (the treatment facility where “the pig poop” is gathered) to figure out how to reduce the stink…you’ve got to read this one. Topping that one might seem a challenge until you come across her story about the development of an aquaponics system that featured tomato plants growing on top of a tilapia fish tank. A fantastically successful experiment with massive unintended consequences.
Something to really love about this book is its very honest telling. If you’re like me, you actually learn as much (or more) from failure as you do from success. Full disclosure barely describes what you’ll acquire in a careful reading of Community Is Messy.
Embedded throughout the book is an inside look at National Community Church, one of the most fascinating churches in America in my opinion. Operating in the challenging environment of Washington D.C., with “a demographic that consists primarily of single twenty-somethings,” NCC has had to find its way with commitment and experimentation.
The best part about Community Is Messy? It goes way beyond a great collection of metaphor and ministry stories. Deeply biblical, these pages are packed with scripture references and classic Bible stories that will definitely find their way into your leadership toolkit. Every chapter is packed with principles and practices that will make their way into your thinking.
You may not agree with every conclusion. No matter. Your thinking will be challenged and your ministry will be strengthened. I loved Community Is Messy and I bet you will too.