Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Greenhouse Training, September 25-27

(Please note: since this post was originally put up the organizers have decided to re-scheduled the Greenhouse training. Please let me know if you'd like to be informed directly when a new date has been set. FP)

I'd like to invite anyone living in or near the Twin Cities to join me for the Greenhouse Training we're hosting at my church in September. It's a Friday evening, Saturday morning and afternoon, and Sunday afternoon September 25-27.

What's a Greenhouse?

In a nutshell, a Greenhouse training does two things:
  • Helps participants to reground their thinking about Church in "organic" terms as a simple, living organism that readily grows and reproduces. Much of the time at the training is spent exploring how that looks in practice, both as outreach and as discipling believers.

  • Invites participants to follow up on the training by gathering monthly through the following year for encouragement and supportive accountability as they begin to pursue this kind of "missional living" in the context of natural relationships.
I attended a Greenhouse a year or so ago and highly recommend it from that experience. The cost ranges from $110 to $150. It's worth it.

For more general information, registration etc. click here. For more of my thoughts and opinions about it, read on.

Although the Greenhouse training has good content in several areas, that's not the reason I suggest you go. Frankly, good content isn't that hard to find these days and you can buy a lot of books for the price of this registration. What makes this worthwhile is that it pulls together three things that I think are key to Kingdom work - whether you're talking evangelism, discipleship or social ministry for that matter:

Simplicity. Lots has been written about simplicity, ironically. Simplicity is vital for something to be easily transmitted and replicated. That goes for churches as well as viruses. The Greenhouse training works with a very simple expression of church, simple in both written and in human forms. That's good.

Substantive Relationships. Relationships where people feel safe enough to get below the surface of life are foundational, both for people to come to faith and for believers to mature in faith. This is one reason why conventional congregations struggle so much under the burden of maintaining a weekly large group gathering that inherently can't facilitate those kind of relationships. The Greenhouse training focuses on equipping people for exploring faith together in groups of 2 to 4 as normative. It offers one simple tool for people to use in self-facilitating such groups, but only as an example or as one resource they recommend.

Intentionality. This truly is the linchpin. Even mediocre ideas that actually get implemented will probably show more results than great ideas that are left on the shelf. I think the Greenhouse folks know this, which is why the real goal of the training is not simply to deliver good content to people. It's to lay a foundation for the formation of supportive accountability groups. (That's my term. They call them Greenhouse Monthly Gatherings which sounds much more fun and friendly and is probably a better term for that reason.) At the end of the training, they invite those who are interested to begin meeting monthly to encourage each other as they work to live out what they have learned. And note how the monthly meeting is not the main event. Rather, it plays a supportive role to the weekly gatherings of people in groups of 2-4, most of whom have not had the Greenhouse training. That's the kind of flip-the-pyramid strategy that sent me off to learn about house churches in the first place, two years ago.

This is good stuff and these are good people. If you can get to a Greenhouse I think you'll be glad you went, and if you can join us at Gethsemane in September I'll be delighted to met you.


DLW said...

why is 2 to 4 taken as normative?

In my HC(9-17 per week), we almost always break up into small groups of 3-4. And we recently have set up a triumvirate of three to rotate in and out every month so that there's always a continuity of two "elders" each month.


The Feral Pastor said...

Hi D. Nice to hear from you.

When I went through the Greenhouse training about a year ago, one of the last segments talked about how you might put the organic values into practice. In that context they offered a recommendation to start with what they call Life Transformation Groups (LTGs) which are 2-4 people. They were not at all dogmatic that "this is the way you have to do it," but wanted to give their favorite model as a resource. Since they presented it that way, I thought it was fair to characterize it as "normative."

It's my opinion, and I think the Greenhouse folks would agree, that such very small groups should be normative for Christianity because I think that you need groups that small to promote substantive relationships.

That said, these very small groups are not at all expected to be the exclusive form that faith communities take. People in these groups typically also want to gather in larger groups which can be any size, depending on what the purpose of the larger group is.

So it's not an either/or, but my gut tells me that if you had to choose only one size group to have, the 2-4s would be the most helpful for spreading and nurturing the faith.

DLW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DLW said...


I still prefer a community network model of local house churches and para churches of 30 or less....

See here for my latest distillation..

I think such cd be a "good" job creator for part-time ministers.

The Feral Pastor said...

I like your idea of larger networks emerging up from the house-sized fellowships. Sort of an upstream fractalling or recursion.

What's been attractive to me in the Greenhouse approach - which I find more broadly in the organization that puts these on (Church Multiplication Associates) - is an intentional absence of models for larger fellowships. They want to focus primarily on making & growing disciples, but they expect larger fellowships will emerge on top of that. And they are fine with however those fellowships choose to order themselves.

Recently I heard this put succinctly by Neil Cole who leads CMA. He said that our job is to "go and make disciples" but that Jesus "will build (his) church" any way he wants.

DLW said...

That's more or less Augustine's pov, that ecclesial structure doesn't matter since God's in control.

my pov is that if being christ-centered is the same as ideally being radically decentralized then you need a model for cooperation that maintains the decentralization possible with local house churches.

This is post-denominational and post-creedal and not without controversy and let's face it, it's not fun to court controversy.


The Feral Pastor said...

Seems like we're pretty much on the same page. I agree that structure is important, but it seems that we've spent so much time working out structure that we've neglected to make the disciples that the structures are intended to serve. The CMA folks are working in that part of the vineyard, as I like to say.

It also seems post-credal and post-denominational to me, but the narrow focus on discipling allows this to avoid being anti-credal or denominational. At least potentially.

DLW said...

I don't think a belief that trying to work out universal rules of faith is more trouble than its worth implies being anti-creedal either.

The creeds of yore are typically more than a step beyond what most people de facto believe or act upon. But just because you attend or are a member of a denomination with a pretty-darn-good creed, doesn't mean you've internalized that creed or are manifesting it in your life. Sometimes less good creeds or local rules of faith that get taken seriously can be better... (That's what I'd take to be the "traditional" baptist mantra.)

And being anti-denominational/creedal seems to deny the fact that the HS is always working with us, just not teleologically so.... It comes down for me to a matter of who are our dialogue partners, and the import of recognizability of how we communicate about the identity and significance of Christ thru our communities of faith.