The Bible is full of hospitality: God creates a home for humanity; Abraham welcomes the three visitors; Israel is commanded to welcome the stranger and treat neighbors like family; Just about everywhere that Jesus went in his ministry, there were meals in homes; And in Acts 2, the earliest Christians met with each other every day!
It’s important in our Christian formation to meet with other believers. In sharing life together, we can pray for one another, serve one another, and help each other bear life’s burdens, all the while pointing each other toward Jesus—reminding each other of our true identities and callings. Oh, and we can have fun, too!
But, it’s not easy in our day and age to regularly gather together mid-week. We’re a suburban church. Some members live close enough to walk to our facility, others live in another county and have a long commute to Apostles. If we are a people who value gathering with our church family during the week, then we must address the challenges posed by living far away from each other.
Even if we don’t have a commute, many of us would also face difficulty adding anything to our busy schedules. We don’t think we have the time to connect with others. The irony is that connecting with others is exactly what we need! We’ve been taught that to be valuable is to be useful, so that makes us strive for busyness. But the truth is that we are valuable because we are loved by God. Seeking relationship with our neighbors is a way to affirm the value of all people, our own and our neighbors’.
We are addressing these issues by creating a new ministry. It’s called Table Groups. The goal of a Table Group is to gather about twice a month in a member’s home for a shared meal and for simple prayer. Instead of being at Apostles and requiring a commute, it will be in neighborhoods and local for those who participate. We’re beginning September 5th with five different areas around Knoxville—Farragut, Bridgewater, Rocky Hill, West Haven, and Fountain City.
We invite you to prayerfully consider participating in this new ministry. We believe God is calling us to do more of what the earliest Christians did together: to share a meal and to pray. By participating, we believe God will deepen our friendships with one another and begin new works of gospel presence in our neighborhoods. Please read below for more information about Table Groups and how to get involved.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I sign-up?
Before September 5th, there will be sign-up sheets available in the Narthex. Or, you may email firstname.lastname@example.org. After September 5th, 2018 just send Thomas an email requesting more information. After you sign-up, you will be contacted by your table group leader with information about the next meeting.
What will a Table Group look like?
Table group meetings are characterized by two essential elements: food and prayer. Each time a group meets, the leader will send out an email invitation that will include a sign-up list for food. Each attendee will bring a piece of the common meal. Following the meal, the group will also go through a short prayer liturgy. This will look differently for each group, but it will be a time to share and ask for prayer, a time of thanksgiving, and a time to pray for others. Groups are encouraged to meet twice a month on an evening that works for both the leader and the group.
Isn’t this just a small group?
Small groups are known far and wide in the church-world, and they often look pretty similar. A group gathers, discusses a book, a passage of Scripture, or the week’s sermon. That’s not what this is. Those things are good and we have opportunities like that at Apostles at our Sunday Spiritual Formation Hour and other weekday Bible studies. This is NOT a replacement for any existing group. We encourage folks who do that type of study to also engage in this time of fellowship, food, and prayer in their neighborhood. There is nothing to accomplish during this time. This is simply a time to exist as a child of God with other children, to pray and to eat with them.
Is there a set time to meet?
There’s not a set time for these meetings to occur, but it will be around dinner time and end with consideration to not keep anyone out too late. Each leader is encouraged to pick a day of the week and stick with it for consistency. They will check with those interested in their group to find a day that works best for both the leader and the group members.
How long will my group meet each time?
Each group will be a little bit different, but the goal is to have enough time for a meal, for prayer, and to end at a reasonable time for a mid-week gathering—especially for those with children to get to bed. Your leader will communicate both a start and an end time. Group members are asked to respect those times.
How often will my group meet?
Groups are encouraged to meet twice per month, but it will vary on the needs and desires of each group. The intention is for gathering with neighbors to be a regular practice of your spiritual life. Getting less frequent than twice a month will make the gatherings feel more like “events” and less like a practice of community.
How big will each group be?
Jesus says in Matthew 18:20 that wherever two or three are gathered, he is with us! Sometimes community looks like a lively table, full of laughing people. Sometimes it is a time of quiet for two or three friends. Both are valuable to God. To help avoid being overcrowded, especially as this ministry is beginning and there are only a handful of groups, please always RSVP. Each group will have a Sign-up Genius page to make it easy to say you’re coming, how many will be with you this time, and what you can bring to contribute to the meal.
What about my kids?
Jesus teaches through his attitude toward children that they are to be at the center of the Kingdom. We would encourage you to include your children in the gathering as much as practically possible. Please talk your leader. They will be open to accommodating the needs and time schedule of your family.
Can I invite guests?
Yes! The goal for Table Groups is to be active in the neighborhood. Please invite others to join and be welcoming of new people at the table. This may be someone’s first encounter (or reencounter) with the Church and could represent the beginning of a transformative journey. Pray for God to send new faces to your table.