For congregations and parishes that take seriously the task of community building, the preparation of leadership ranks as a top priority. People willing and prepared to assume responsibility for nurturing small groups will help assure the emergence of a vibrant church community.
This fact came home to me on a Saturday morning some weeks ago when I participated in a leadership training session at a local (Washington, DC area) Church of the Brethren congregation. The pastor believes that her people will best prosper spiritually through the formation of base communities similar to those prevalent in the Latin American churches. She proposes to invite every active member of the church and friends of the congregation to form small groups, meet regularly outside the Sunday worship time, and share their faith in a more intimate setting. The pastor's idea is that Sunday worship will then become the place where the "community of communities" gathers.
Our session was designed as a first step in the preparation of leaders for these base communities. The pastor gathered quite ordinary folk who were willing, if apprehensive, to take on responsibility for one of the small groups. They were the proverbial "people in the pews" who invariably underestimate their own worth and potential. Each of them told me that they felt both honored and very nervous at being asked to take on this responsibility.