SKIATOOK—Heath Tucker, pastor of Skiatook, First, participated in the inaugural year of the Beta Collective, a program from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s (BGCO) ReConnect Sunday School initiative. What he discovered is an empowering development of his church’s Sunday School small groups program.
“Going into 2017, we were sensing God leading us to spend some time to putting an emphasis on our small groups,” Tucker said about Skiatook, First’s focus at the beginning of last year. “The Beta Collective sped up the process because every month, when we met, it was exactly what we needed to hear and helped us give identity to our small groups.”
One directive Tucker learned from the monthly Beta Collective meetings was creating a mission statement for the church’s small groups. He said this allowed every small group to know why they exist.
“If you were to ask why small groups exist, why do we have Sunday School, you would probably get a whole lot of different answers. You could ask 10 different people and get 10 different answers,” Tucker said.
The mission statement that was adopted by Skiatook, First’s small groups is “We exist to connect people to Jesus, His truth, His family and His mission.” Tucker said, through this mission statement, each small group has its primary strategy.
“It seems like we are all moving in the same direction now,” Tucker said. “People started connecting people to their groups. For example, from AWANAs, our Wednesday night program, we have lots of kids from the community that are not connected with any church. I was hearing about our adult leaders inviting parents from the community to their particular small group.”
This gave the small groups of Skiatook, First a purpose. Tucker said every small group member has a role.
“Historically, it has been about the teacher teaching,” he said, “but we have been able to incorporate prayer leaders, mission coordinators, hospitality leaders and care people within the group. Every member started to see their role in the small group and their contributing purpose within that small group.”
From what Tucker learned through Beta Collective, he was able to help his church’s small groups become an integral part of how the Skiatook, First operates.
“Our committee meetings diminished,” he said. “For example, if we are doing something missions-related, rather than running it by the missions committee, we just put it back in the hands of a small group. We now let our small groups handle missions both internationally and with local projects around the community.”
The Beta Collective helped give guidance on developing new leaders. Tucker said current small group leaders are responsible for identifying and training new leaders. From this process, Skiatook, First started five new small groups in 2017, and small group attendance has grown by 12 percent.
“We believe in putting ministry into the hands of the people, and we found that the best way to do that is through our small groups,” Tucker said. “It is the best way for us as a church to connect people to Jesus.”
So what does Skiatook, First plan to do for 2018? Tucker said they plan to build on the 2017 plan.
“Moving forward, our hope is we do the same things in 2018 only better,” he said. “It takes a while to process and help people buy into this mindset of who we are and what we are to be about. Now I just feel like we’ll even get that much better. I anticipate more growth and more leaders developed.”
The Beta Collective is designed to help any church in any location. Participants meet in clusters of “cohorts” each month in three different locations—Lawton, Oklahoma City and Tulsa. With the help of live-streaming to the other two locations, a practitioner in Sunday School and small groups comes each month to lecture on a topic in which they specialize. Then, the “cohort clusters” discuss the presentation with the purpose of developing an ongoing plan for their Sunday School.
When asked what he would tell church leaders about the Beta Collective, Tucker said, “They need to prayerfully consider taking advantage of what’s being offered. Bob Mayfield (BGCO Sunday School specialist) and James Swain (BGCO Equipping Team leader) have put together something that has benefitted us and will benefit others.
“They are bringing in some of the top guys, not just in our state, but top guys across our nation that deal with small groups, and every month is a topic for equipping. Just the resources that are available and to be able to sit down face-to-face with some of the top guys in our state and nation to bounce questions and ideas off of them, that’s gold right there.”
For more information, on the Beta Collective, contact the BGCO Sunday School Office at 405/942-3800 Ext. 4656 or visit www.reconnectss.com/beta-collective.