Sunday Morning Affinity Groups at MHC

What are affinity groups?
Affinity groups are larger gatherings of members who share commonalities that make their natural connection more likely. People who have young children at home have many things in common with people who are in that same phase of life. This is true for empty nesters as well. We know this by instinct and acknowledge that most people’s phase of life somewhat corresponds with people in their same generation.
When will affinity groups meet?
During the Sunday School hour. Affinity groupings are going to be the general way that we administratively structure our Sunday School gatherings. Generational groupings of members will be led by volunteers from the group to help facilitate connection in the large group and smaller gatherings from within that group. Think of them as “social chairmen and women”!
What if I want to connect with a smaller group of people?
That’s exactly what we hope you will do. Imagine yourself in an affinity-based Sunday School surrounded by people in the same phase of life with the same generational interests. People from that group could decide to do a ‘guys night out’ or a ‘girls night out’ or to have a picnic or grab two or three couples to go to lunch after church. We want SMALLER groups to naturally spring out of the larger affinity group.
Are there any more things the church can do to help us connect?
Actually, we have one more surprise that we are so excited about. You may have heard announcements from the pulpit from time to time that mentioned a “Boomer’s Lunch” in the Lodge after the 11am worship service. Up until now only the “Boomers” Sunday School had a generational/phase of life, identity that connected as a larger group. That identity made it easy for them to connect for lunch one-a-month. With affinity-based Sunday School we are designating one Sunday each month for each
class to have access to the Lodge for a potluck lunch. These will be coordinated by the social chairs and will be a great way to further connection!
What is going to be the class breakdown of the generational Affinity groups?
Our basic structure is planned to be the younger adults in the 20-35ish range, a 35-45ish group, a
45-55ish group and the 55+ crowd who have already been mentioned as the “Boomers.” We hope that each group will form a cohesive identity and have even asked that the social chairs help facilitate some type of naming for each group that will help with communication going forward.
How many people are in those generational groupings at MHC?
Our 20-35ish group at MHC has approximately 104 members. Our 35-45ish group has approximately 207 members. Our 45-55ish group has approximately 127 members and our 55+ crowd has approximately 150 members on the roll.

Who is going to teach my class? Will we always have the same teacher?

Our Sunday School year is broken up into three semesters— there is a Winter/Spring term (February
— May), a short Summer series (June—July) and a Fall term (August—November). This means that each class will get three series per year. Our plan is to rotate teachers through the classes so that every class has the opportunity to hear some of the best teaching we have to offer. At present the Fall classes will be led as follows: the 20-35ish class will be led by Drew Narmour; the 35-45ish class will be led by Steve Smith; the 45-55ish class will launch with Jean Larroux and then our new Director of Discipleship at some point in the Fall. The 55+ crowd will begin this fall with Wally Bumpas.
What is each class studying this Fall?
Drew Narmour is teaching a series about defending our faith based on Tim Keller’s book, “The Reason for God.” Steve Smith is teaching a series about the value of our vocational life using Keller’s book, “Every Good Endeavor.” Jean Larroux is starting a series about mid-life based on the book by Paul Tripp called, “Lost in the Middle.” Wally Bumpas is teaching about life as a 55+ aged-adult called “All the Way Home” which is a Biblical exposition of Romans chapter 8.
But what if I want to connect across generations?
No problem. Our men’s ministry and women’s ministry both offer opportunities for smaller group connections that span across generations and life phases. There are also some ‘at large’ smaller groups that meet in homes occasionally. Our Director of Care, Wally Bumpas can help you connect with one of those as well.
What is happening to our traditional ‘Sunday Night Small Groups’?
Here’s the honest answer: only about 20% of those smaller groups were meeting regularly and functioning well. Scheduling conflicts, busyness and the irregularity of meetings all contributed to that based on the feedback we received. Some of those functioning groups will continue to meet, but many others will simply discontinue.
Our existing smaller group still wants to meet. We need the childcare that was offered at the church, what are we supposed to do now?
While we are not going to have childcare en masse at the church on one particular night we can help you coordinate babysitting for your group, connect with individuals who can do child care at your location or help by providing church funds to help supplement your own childcare choices. To put things in context, from the Fall of 2022 until May of 2023 there were only 6 actual nights of corporate childcare offered for Sunday Night Small Groups. We believe that helping schedule or supplement childcare for groups that want help will actually result in greater connection, not less.

Can you give a short explanation for WHY we are making this change?

We want to leverage Sunday morning, when our members are already on site, to create the greatest opportunity for the sake of connection. We believe the synergy of the larger group will drive participation on Sunday morning and help to seed the smaller groups that will flow out of it. The church has to always be willing to adjust, change and pivot when necessary. Part of our previous plan for “connection” counted on Sunday Night Small Groups to foster that organically. The feedback we received from the majority of those groups confirmed that it was time to try something new.
That was a lot to read. Can you just summarize it all for me?
Sunday School is getting better— as a general rule there will be more opportunity for generational connections with people in your own phase of life. There will be 4 classes broken down like this— 20-35ish, 35-45ish, 45-55ish and 55+. We will rotate teachers and topics through the classes. Social
chairs in each affinity class will help the larger group find ways to stay connected in smaller groups and each class will have a monthly pot-luck lunch in the Lodge. People who want intergenerational connection can still get that in worship and through gender-based smaller groups with the men’s and women’s ministries. The biggest ‘change’ will be that pre-existing smaller groups who met on Sunday Nights will not have centralized child care on one specific evening.
Who are the Connection Coordinators for each group?
Young Adults (20-35ish)   Hal and Caroline Smith, Doug and Elise Schneider
Middlers I (35-45ish)     Martin and Katie Jowers, Ryan and Molly Swindell
Middlers II (45-55ish)     Scott and Marti Guest, Daniel and Casey Rowland
Boomers (55+)        Guy and Patty Berry, David and Kathy Houpt

Connection Coordinators 

Young Adults
Hal and Caroline Smith
Doug and Elise Schneider
Class Leader: Drew Narmour
Study Emphasis: “Reason for God” by Tim Keller

Connection Coordinators 

Middlers I
Martin and Katie Jowers
Ryan and Molly Swindell
Class Leader:  Steve Smith
Study Emphasis: “Every Good Endeavor” by Tim Keller

Connection Coordinators 

Middlers II
Scott and Marti Guest
45 – 55ish
Daniel and Casey Rowland
Class Leader: Jean Larroux
Study Emphasis: “Lost In The Middle” by Paul Tripp

Connection Coordinators 

Guy and Patty Berry
David and Kathy Houpt 
Class Leader: Wally Bumpas
Study Emphasis: “All The Way Home” Romans 8

Class Summaries

The Reason for God   “A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection…  Skeptics must learn to look for a type of faith hidden within their reasoning. All doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternate beliefs.”    (From the Introduction)
Every Good Endeavor   “One of the hopes for our unraveling society is the recovery of the idea that all human work is not merely a job but a calling. The Latin word vocare – to call – is at the root of our common word “vocation.” Today the word often means simply a job, but that was not the original sense. A job is a vocation only if someone else calls you to do it and you do it for them rather than for yourself. And so our work can be a calling only if it is reimagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests. As we shall see, thinking of work mainly as a means of self-fulfillment and self-realization slowly crushes a person and undermines society itself…  Everyone wants to be successful rather than forgotten, and everyone wants to make a difference in life. But that is beyond the control of any of us. If this life is all there is, then everything will eventually burn up in the death of the sun and no one will even be around to remember anything that has ever happened. Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference, and all good endeavors, even the best, will come to naught. Unless there is a God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavor, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever. That is what the Christian faith promises.”      (From the Introduction) 
Lost in the Middle    “It is hard to make sense out of your own story while you’re living in the middle of it. But God hasn’t left us to wander through the hallways of our own dramas. He has given us a bigger story, the story of redemption that fills Scripture’s pages…  The Bible never discusses midlife, just like it never discusses teenagers. Yet the Bible is able to unpack any of life’s experiences because it was written by the One who made them all. You do not have to be lost in the middle of your own story. You do not have to be paralyzed with regret, defeated by aging, and discouraged by the passing of your dreams. You do not have to make greater trouble of the trouble you are already experiencing. This time of life, which can seem like the end of many things, can actually welcome you to a brand new way of living. As is so often the case in your walk with the Lord, this moment of pain is also a moment of grace.”   (From the Preface)
All the Way Home   Romans 8 is the mountain peak of what Scripture tells us about grace and the gospel. To approach this packed summary of Christianity as “last lappers” (on the last lap of a four lap mile), or as seasoned saints on the home stretch, only intensifies the good news of this rich chapter of the Bible. There is no special gospel for older people, but there are unique needs and questions that seasoned saints bring to “the riches of his grace.” What does it mean to “finish well?” What does it not mean? How do struggles with identity change as we age? How can we maintain our zeal for Jesus as we physically slow down? How do we invest in the younger generations, rather than cynically giving up on them? How do temptations change as we age? What temptations are older saints especially assaulted with? How do we navigate difficult relationships with grown children and grandchildren? How do we know if we have made them into idols? What should be in a believer’s “bucket list?” When Paul says elsewhere that our inner person is daily renewed as the outer person wastes away (age!), what does he mean? How does that actually happen? What does it mean to die well, and why does nobody want to talk about this?   All these questions and more will be addressed as we use Romans 8 to see how the gospel takes us all the way home.        

Affinity Group FAQ (PDF)