Why office fellowship groups fail and what can we do about it?
For the past 10 years in the corporate world, I’ve been involved in, started and failed when it comes to having Christian office fellowship groups. From my experience here are some of the reasons why such groups fail.
1. There’s only 1 person doing everything.
One person started with a vision of doing something for the Lord in the workplace and by the grace of God he or she manages to find another 1 or 2 believers in the office to start something. But if it doesn’t grow beyond the initiator or leader, then the longevity of the group will be a challenge. Ideally you need to build a core group of 3 to 4 that can continue to lead and direct the group over the years.
“Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NKJV
2. No Clear Mission.
Christian Workplace Groups (CWGs) always start with the noblest of intentions but if there is no clear vision, Proverbs remind us that the “people will perish” (Proverbs 29:18).
For a CWG to succeed, it must have a clear vision and direction. Ideally in my experience, the group must have a missional and intercessory focus. This truly aligns the group with the Great Commission and the model set by the early church from the book of Acts.
3. Too much fellowship
Groups that focus solely on fellowship will often atrophy because the focus is inward rather than outward. It can also become seen as a burden for the active church member who already has to attend a weekday night home cell, a weekend service AND a CWG.
I know of a group that has been running in a particular area but it hasn’t been the most conducive for newer and younger colleagues to join, as such they stayed away. Again we have to be careful of becoming too inward and insular.
4. The group gives up too early.
If the mission is aligned, it could be that the group lost the momentum and energy to continue. One key discourager is poor attendance. Yet the Bible reminds us that:
“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9 NLT
I recall in the early days of starting our workplace Prayer Room, I was at the point of giving up. I told my wife that this was likely the last session. When I resigned to that, the Lord had a surprise in store. Cutting a long story short, God brought people in at the right time to encourage us to continue.
I once knew a faithful young adult cell leader in Malaysia, who would meet faithfully week in and week out at the same time for cell group, even though no one came!
If you believe you have a clear vision from God – don’t give up!
5. It got over-complicated!
Over time, concerns about structure, attendance, measures of success start to come in. It becomes overly program driven. My advice is to go back to basics and keep it simple.
““I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Revelation 2:2-4 NKJV
The church in Ephesus was doing all the right things but missing the point. It’s all about Jesus. Keep your program simple and go back to the reason why you started in the first place.
Always make time for the Lord’s agenda in each meeting. My preferred program for a CWG has been the following:
- Praise and Worship
- Prayer & intercession for the company, city and the pre-believers
- Prayer for one another
So here are my top 5 reasons why I think CWGs don’t always work out. Yet I still believe they are absolutely necessary to win the marketplace and the nation for the Lord, for two reasons:
“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:46-47 NKJV
Firstly, the early church met daily. It is quite impossible for a single local church to meet daily but in the marketplace, this can be done. Each day we spend at least 8 hours with our colleagues and out of that time, it is surely possible to meet with other believers for kingdom purposes!
Secondly, in the marketplace there is a clearer sense of unity in the body of Christ.
“that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21 NKJV
Our Lord Himself lays the condition for global revelation on the one-ness of the Church. In the marketplace if CWGs can put aside doctrinal and denominational differences and come together for the Great Commission, then it begins to release something from this high priestly prayer of our Lord!
So the daily unity possible in the church in the marketplace can be a catalyst for a great move of God to happen in our age! My heart’s desire is that many more of the Christians in the marketplace begin to look beyond their paycheck and their 9-to-5 and see that God has indeed appointed us for such a time as this! You and I may be the only gospel your colleagues ever see or hear. That responsibility is huge but it is also a wonderful privilege to be a co-labourer with our Lord.
I pray that you continue to serve the Lord faithfully but also take risks in faith to see the Kingdom take ground right where you are!
I agree with the 5 points in this post. Very cool post for Christian professionals!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you Alex!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I agree that if the purpose of marketplace gatherings is just to have fellowship or to replicate a church meeting, then they are likely to fail.
If the main purpose of Christians in the marketplace is to fulfill the Great Commission, then the gatherings serve to empower and encourage Christians to evangelise and disciple pre-believing colleagues during the work week. If Christians share this vision, then the leadership of such gatherings is upon the Holy Spirit, not man.
The local church can help in marketplace ministry by equipping members to fulfill the Great Commission. I find that this equipping, as well as disciplining, are generally weak, leading to many wanting to stick to the marketplace gatherings solely to have holy huddles.
I pray that despite the challenges, marketplace ministry will keep growing. The Holy Spirit is in charge of this ministry and He will be the judge of success. We just obey and follow His lead. Let’s not worry about “failures”.
Thanks Lawrence for your comments. Yes let’s continue to pray for kingdom focused marketplace ministries to grow and be planted!