Common Grounds Guide to:
Starting a Chapter
Below you will find the basic characteristics of a Common Grounds chapter and step by step guide for forming a Common Grounds chapter.
What are the Basic Characteristics of a Common Grounds Chapter?
Common Grounds seeks the development of independent chapters of unity-minded followers of Jesus who support the following mission statement:
“Our mission is to promote and pray for unity within the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement through the development of local groups that gather routinely over a shared meal. We aspire "to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3) in recognition of Jesus' prayer that we "may all be one" (John 17:21).”
The following are four fundamentals of a Common Grounds chapter:
1. Quarterly meetings:
Each chapter should organize quarterly meetings with times, place, and agenda that best meets the needs of its members. Chapters may choose to schedule other events or gatherings as they see fit in service to the chapter needs or goals.
2. Key leader and Advisory Team:
It is recommended that each chapter have a key leader and also an advisory team comprised of two to five members. Leaders and advisors are encouraged to serve for at least a one-year term.
3. Shared Meal:
Shared meals are a fundamental characteristic of Common Grounds chapters. Devoting ourselves to the Word, breaking bread, fellowship, and prayer is fundamental to a healthy and unified brotherhood (Acts 2:42). If we break bread together, we are less likely to break heads together.
4. Regular Communication:
The Chapter Advisory Team/Leadership Team should participate in consistent communication with its members and its potential members for the purpose of advancing the principles and goals of both Common Grounds and the local chapter.
Step by step
Guide for Starting a Chapter
Below are the best practices that we have found helpful in starting a chapter. These are suggestions and not requirements. Each chapter is an independent group and its leadership may choose how to start, grow, and support the chapter. Our ask is that chapters share with us what has worked well and what has not so that we continually improve the below guide.
Begin conversations with key individuals expressing interest in forming a group.
Answer questions and educate by pointing those interested to Common Grounds website, Facebook Group, and any of the chapter formation materials.
Explore and discuss interest levels, time commitments and/or restrictions, leadership strengths, and abilities.
Start a Shared Drive for Contacts
We have found that creating shared Google drive/folder for chapter contacts is a valuable best practice.
Use the contact sheet to communicate to members and potential members by email, Google calendar, Facebook events, or Evite,
Build Your Crowd
Use the following links to find Stone-Campbell Movement congregations and leaders. Use them to populate your shared contact list and to seek out interested individuals:
International Churches of Christ (ICOC): https://www.disciplestoday.org/find-us
Disciples of Christ (DOC):
Organize a soft launch meeting:
A soft launch will likely involve key individuals and those most interested in forming a group.
A soft launch could be in person, conference call, or video conference
An invitation to a soft launch could be promoted to anyone interested by phone, email, or Facebook invitations.
Launch Initial Meeting
Organize the first official meeting:
The meeting can take place at a restaurant, church building, home, or another venue. We recommend a including shared meal.
Places like Panera Bread can work well for meeting flow - participants purchase food and drink and come together. Some restaurants have more privacy but the confusion of ordering and such can stall and break the flow of the meeting.
Meetings scheduled for breakfast or lunch, during the weekdays, is typically better for ministry leaders. We suggest finding a restaurant with counter ordering or buffet style, with an area to meet. Waiters and food service tend to disrupt the meeting. Lunchtime meeting will likely provide more options for suitable places to meet. Chapters are free to decide how and where they will meet – these are only suggestions.
Consider evening events, in addition to the quarterly meetings, which will make it easier for those with daytime scheduling constraints.
We believe successful meetings will value a shared meal, fellowship, and prayer.
We encourage meetings to have a short message (about 10 minutes) that lead to a roundtable discussion.
Messages should somehow relate to the mission and goals of Common Grounds.
We believe that drawing on the talent and experience of members for the message and discussion is an important best practice.
Feel free to be creative in your meetings and please share with us what works and what does not.
Scheduling quarterly meetings for the year is a recommended best practice. Be sure to set times and places for the entire year. Please communicate the schedule to Common Grounds for posting on the website.
Distributing an attendee’s sheet with name, phone, and email is a recommended best practice.
Develop a Chapter Advisory Team and Leader:
We believe having a leader (or co-leaders) as a chief communicator is a best practice.
We believe having an Advisory Team consisting of two to five individuals is a best practice.
A leader should have a passion to advance the Common Grounds mission statement.
We have found that it is best to build your chapter starting with leaders – Ministers, Pastors, Evangelists, Elders, Deacons, and other leaders.
Supporting local congregations and leadership is a primary goal of Common Grounds. In no way do we want to threaten the local congregation or its leaders by appearing to circumvent their leadership role.
Do not underestimate the value of consistent communication. Do not overburden people with too much communication, however, a consistent plan of emails, social media, Zoom or Google Hangouts, etc. will build momentum until a tipping point is reached.
Find key leaders who will influence other leaders. Build partnerships and solidarity. Get non-staff leaders involved, both women and men.
Find the people who have a heart for unity. Focus on these and let God work on those who are resistant and/or dissenters.