The Connecting Church

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The Connecting Church The Connecting Church by Randy Frazee is based on a core idea that there is more room for life when you simplify or streamline your small group relationships to center on the people who live near you.  In fact, Frazee’s followup to The Connecting Church, Making Room For Life, is even more centered on that idea.

It sounds very good.  In fact, it sounds great.  When taken to its natural conclusion, it is the idea that by forming by small group out of people in my neighborhood, I have more time to really build those relationships.  Contrast this idea with the normal practice:

  • relationships I’m trying to develop in the neighborhood (because I’m trying to be a good neighbor)
  • relationships with the people in my small group
  • relationships with people in my Sunday School class (hypothetical…I don’t have these but you might)
  • relationships from the softball team, PTA, bunko group, choir, ministry team, etc.

Most of us are trying to develop group life relationships in addition to all the other relationships we already have.  It makes for a complicated life and one that predicts that none of our relationships really become the kind that are the redemptive, life-generating, refreshing kind that we really need.

The essence of Randy Frazee’s idea is that by doing everything (overstatement) with those I live near, I have a better opportunity to develop the kinds of relationships that I need.  Makes sense doesn’t it?  It did to Willow Creek, too, and was the basis for an interesting, but failed, experiment.  The emphasis they called “neighborhood groups” came directly out of Frazee’s ideas.

Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages.


  • I streamline my relationships by forming my small group in the neighborhood.
  • If I’m part of an on-campus class, it could also be geographically organized (i.e., my class consists of people who are from my area of town and may even consist of all the groups from my area of town).


  • Geography is no longer the best predictor of affinity.  I can easily have very little in common with the people who live on my street.
  • Few churches are really in a position to exclusively move this way because most members are already more connected with church people than with neighbors…regardless of geography.

The Connecting Church strategy is a little tricky.  It’s one that is quite alluring and it’s based on some very good principles and practices.  And yet, in many ways it is a very idealistic notion.  Under the heading that there are no problem-free solutions, this one has some great upside and may present a vision to be moved towards.  At the same time, most churches aren’t starting with a blank slate.  And at the end of the day, the hand that you’ve been dealt (the way things are right now) must be taken into consideration before moving in a new direction.

For a look at other small group ministry systems and strategies, take a look at How To Choose a Small Group System or Strategy.

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  1. Brian Owen on October 21, 2009 at 11:48 am

    I’d be curious to know why this model failed at Willow. This strategy is definitely an alluring one.

  2. Mark Howell on October 21, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Probably the chief reason had to do with a determination to ditch previous models in favor of the neighborhood concept. Very difficult to transition from the residue of multiple layers of mixed effectiveness to a single new idea. If they had it to do over again, they probably would introduce it as a way of launching new groups as opposed to converting everything to the neighborhood idea.