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:  Wally Bumpas
Study Emphasis: A Loving Life in a World of Broken Relationships

Connection Coordinators 

Middlers II
Scott and Marti Guest
45 – 55ish
Daniel and Casey Rowland
Class Leader: Phillip Palmertree
Study Emphasis: Genuine: James

Connection Coordinators 

Guy and Patty Berry
David and Kathy Houpt 
Class Leader: Matt Vines
Study Emphasis: Love: The Center of the Christian Life – A Study of I Corinthians 13

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)

Affinity Group FAQ (PDF)