At Reclaim Church in Huntington, West Virginia, we have developed and practiced a table culture: a discipleship model that is allowing us to grow and boldly influence through intentional relationship.
“What is a table culture?”
At Reclaim, it’s not just what we call our small groups. The intention of a small group is great, and many have had great success through them. However, we realized that small groups tend to be more invested in accomplishing a task or doing a book study, and unfortunately, people often lose interest over time. Then the group dissolves.
Two years ago, our church’s leadership team began to thoroughly examine why deep, relational discipleship was so difficult for our people to achieve using the typical small group model and our larger Sunday morning gatherings, which averaged around 150. Within the multiethnic congregation are adults of all ages (average age bracket: 35-44), including several families with young children.
We started with the foundational belief that the example given in Acts 2:42 is the best biblical model of relational discipleship among Christians (“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”). We also looked at this issue from both a sociological and psychological perspective — certain group dynamics could enhance or hinder the effectiveness.
A fellow Reclaim pastor introduced us to L24 Collective, a small group movement that has produced several videos of their findings on spaces and group size, and how those group sizes are best used to accomplish the work of the Church.
This is when we began to put together “tables” at Reclaim. Tables are a mix of lay and clergy, as one of our goals is to disciple in such a way that everyone sees himself or herself serving as both shepherd and sheep. These tables are groups of 15 people or less that meet on one of our two church campuses, in homes or through virtual platforms. The purpose is to cultivate a culture of belonging and spiritual maturity through intentional relational investment.
Each table meets with that central purpose. Every person is given the freedom to choose which or even how many tables they desire to be an active part of (e.g. grandparents, seekers of a basic Bible study, parents of teens, etc.). Tables focus on various topics:
- Biblical studies and life
- Biblical studies
- Virtual-only table
Each table attempts to gather weekly around an actual table (except for the virtual-only table). The sharing of food takes place, as well as conversation, discipleship, time in God’s Word, teaching and sharing one’s story, encouraging one another to live holy and intentional lives. As leaders, we desire to see mutual care and accountability happen around each table.
These tables are not secondary to our larger Sunday morning gathering but have given greater meaning and value to our time spent together in worship and Communion while celebrating salvations and baptisms and life milestones as a body of relationally connected believers. Around our tables we have not only shared biblical knowledge, but our real lives through births, sickness, death, addiction, foster care and adoption, healing, miracles, grief, pain and tears.
We’ve celebrated and thanked God as we see marriages, families and individuals finding restoration. We have also watched as our people transform from mere consumers of the gospel to active Christ-like servants.
Because we have witnessed how God is moving in the lives of those around our tables, we therefore believe our best approach to living out ecclesia is by fully adopting and intentionally focusing our resources on our table culture. This belief has become even more apparent now, as humanity is living in a pandemic-ravaged world, and we have been forced to examine and rely less on the Sunday-gathered church. Our tables have allowed us to stay connected and gather in-person sooner so we can continue to move the church forward.
Although we have had to make some adjustments in our physical closeness around a table and how we share meals, we can envision the Church mostly untouched by a pandemic or any other situation like this in the future.
God continues to move, and we will continue to be available to his leading.
Pastor Davana Marcum serves as campus pastor at ReClaim Church.