Community Is Messy
Heather Zempel oversees the community life at a multisite church in Washington, D.C., a challenging population with one of the highest relocation rates in the United States. And yet under her leadership, National Community Church has become a model for creative, dynamic, deep small group ministry.
Drawing from her background as an environmental engineer (including such bizarre experiences as monitoring a pig lagoon and the unintended slaughter of a hundred innocent fish), Heather Zempel assesses the perils and possibilities inherent in small groups and other environments for Christian community. The book helps leaders begin to see the inherent "mess" of such gatherings as raw material for arriving at something beautiful.
Read this book and discover fresh insights into how we can support one another's unique paths to maturity in Christ while maintaining cohesion as a community and blessing the world around us.
"If you could somehow blend equal parts Bonhoeffer, Mr. Wizard and 'Unsinkable' Molly Brown, you'd get something close to Heather Zempel. It would be a fascinating experiment, like those she describes in Community Is Messy. Stories of what worked (and what didn't) provide countless examples of how discipleship in community is usually nonlinear, often random and always messy. With deep insight and ample humor, Heather proves that 'mess' is actually a catalyst for spiritual growth."
"Honest, practical and rooted in experience, Heather's direction takes us to those earthy places that we face in day-to-day relational ministry. Her words go beyond platitudes and lead us down paths that point to wholeness in the midst of the reality of messy community. This book offers a fresh angle and creative hope to group leaders and pastors. Embracing this counsel will advance your community forward into deeper expressions and experiences of community. Buy it! Sit with it. Pray through it."
"Community Is Messy offers a fresh perspective on the challenges all leaders face in building biblical community. Zempel draws on multiple disciplines to stretch our thinking on strategy, growth and discipleship. It is immediately in the top five on my must-read list for small group pastors and leaders!"
"Successfully overseeing many small groups in her multisite church setting gives Heather Zempel credibility in instructing leaders on the 'perils' and 'promises' of small group ministry. Community Is Messy is well worth the read."
"If you'd benefit from isnight to the failed experiments another church/pastor has encountered in developing small groups, though certainly not exclusively, there is plenty of that here. Despite all the mess and failures, there is a beauty to the portrait given here of a group of people who understand and accept the messiness of doing life together and want to learn to grow in and out of it."
"Zempel openly shares her experiences—both good and bad—as discipleship pastor at National Community Church in Washington, D.C., and invites small-group leaders to embrace the mess of community life."
Foreword by Mark Batterson
First Things First: Blood, Sweat and Spit
1. Community Is Messy
2. Everything Is an Experiment
3. Lead Yourself Well
4. Growing People
5. Discipleship Is Not Linear
6. Small Groups Should Happen in Real Life
7. Systems Are Made to Be Destroyed
8. Wear Out Your Welcome
Navigating the Mess
Appendix 1: NCC Core Discipleship Groups
Appendix 2: A Word to Smaller Churches