Creating Community, Revised and Updated Edition
Five keys to building a small group culture that fosters meaningful, lasting connections within your church community.
Small groups are the key to impacting lives in your church. But a healthy small-group environment doesn’t just happen. So pull up a chair. Let’s talk about how to make it happen.
Learn how to foster meaningful, lasting connections within your community, whether face-to-face or online, by creating a small-group culture through a proven five-step strategy. Now, more than ever, people need community. Though digital “connections” are skyrocketing in today’s culture, deep relationships are in steep decline. People are eating out (and on the run) more—and going into an office less. As evidence of the stress on our social fabric, rates of loneliness and isolation, along with mental health issues, continue to climb.
Our need for community is clear, and people are turning to churches to find a place to connect, belong, and grow.
You know that a healthy small-group environment doesn’t just happen. It requires a clear vision, a thoughtful plan, and an experienced guide. It takes intentional effort to make it a reality. This book lays out the plan you need, whether your group is meeting in person or digitally, to intentionally build meaningful, lasting connections and spiritual growth in your church community.
Bill Willits and best selling author Andy Stanley share their successful approach, which has resulted in nearly eight thousand adults becoming involved in small groups at North Point Community Church in Atlanta. Simply put, the five principles have passed the test. This is not just another book about community; this is a book about strategy—strategy that builds a small group culture. Creating Community shares clear and simple principles to help people connect into meaningful relationships. The kind that God desires for each of us and that He uses to change our lives. Put this proven method to work in your ministry and enjoy the tangible results—God’s people doing life TOGETHER.
“The small-group program at North Point Community Church is not an appendage; it is not a program we tacked on to an existing structure. It is part of our lifestyle. We think groups. We organize groups. We are driven by groups. Creating Community contains our blueprint for success. And I believe it has the potential power to revolutionize your own small-group ministry!” — Andy Stanley
Size: 5-1/2 x 8-1/4
It’s hard to believe it’s been sixteen years since we wrote the original manuscript for Creating Community. Much happened for us during that time. I bet much happened for you. Organizationally and culturally, life has definitely changed.
At North Point, our good God has opened many hearts and unlocked many doors since 2004. Back then, we were meeting in two locations and were one year away from celebrating our tenth anniversary. Today we are about to celebrate twenty-six years of ministry with eight campuses in the Atlanta area; scores of partner churches throughout the US; and partner networks in Latin America, the Republic of Ireland and the UK, and Australia. Group life at North Point Ministries has grown immensely as well. In 2004, we had 7,200 adults involved in groups through our two Atlanta campuses. Last year, by God’s grace and through the efforts of many amazing people, we had over 31,000 involved in groups through our Atlanta campuses and thousands more through our partner churches.
But without a doubt, some of the biggest changes that have occurred over the past sixteen years have been cultural. Here’s a sampling of some of the differences between 2004 and today:
GIG ECONOMY: Since the launch of companies like Airbnb, Etsy, and Fiverr, temporary employment, freelancing, and single-contract gigs have all grown immensely. Today, 36 percent of US workers do some kind of gig work.
EATING OUT: With quick-service options like food trucks, carryout, and delivery, Americans now spend less on groceries than on eating out. And when we want to eat at home, let’s not forget that grocery delivery services like Instacart and Amazon Fresh and food-prep companies like Blue Apron, HelloFresh, and Sunbasket have made eating in even easier.
WORKING FROM HOME: Working from home became the new normal with over 80 percent of US workplaces either currently offering flexible options or planning to offer them, according to one study. And that was before the pandemic of 2020.
MUSIC INDUSTRY: Music subscription services like Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, and Amazon Music have taken over the music landscape with physical CD sales disappearing.
MENTAL ILLNESS: According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, teens and young adults have experienced a dramatic increase in mental health disorders. Teen depression grew by 52 percent, and young adult depression grew by a staggering 63 percent.
ONLINE EDUCATION: The pre-pandemic years found online education already growing significantly. That trend will certainly continue because of online education’s greater flexibility, lower financial cost, and customizable course.
DE-SHARING SERVICES: Companies like Lyft and Uber changed the way Americans commute.
SMARTPHONES: Sixteen years ago, almost no one had a smartphone. Today, over 80 percent of Americans have one. And not only have smartphones changed the way people work; they have also changed the way people play by providing access to video games and replacing traditional cameras.
AMAZON PRIME: Amazon Prime was introduced in 2005 to little fanfare even with two-day shipping. Today, much to the dismay of many retailers, Amazon and shopping have become synonymous. And what was already becoming true became indisputable during the pandemic.
SOCIAL MEDIA: In 2004, Facebook was being launched at Harvard. Today it boasts 2.8 billion monthly users, and it is only one of many social media sites. A recent report suggests that adult Americans spend over two hours a day on social media. And that number is climbing.
Yes, in the past sixteen years, much has changed. All our lives have changed. On top of all the cultural changes, we have gone through a major recession, a major recovery, and a major pandemic that caused another economic downturn in the midst of social unrest. Yet one thing hasn’t changed—people. People like you and me. People like those you work with. People like those you live around. People inside the faith. People outside the faith. Young people. Old people. Everyone in between. All people. Everywhere. People still have the same needs they have always had. And one of those needs has become only more acute.
The Kindle version is available on Amazon.
About Andy Stanley
Communicator, author, and pastor Andy Stanley founded Atlanta-based North Point Ministries in 1995. Today, NPM consists of six churches in the Atlanta area and a network of more than 90 churches around the globe that collectively serve nearly 185,000 people weekly. A survey of U.S. pastors in Outreach Magazine identified Andy Stanley as one of the ten most influential living pastors in America.
Andy holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from Georgia State University and a master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. He is the author of more than 20 books, including The New Rules for Love, Sex & Dating; Ask It; How to Be Rich; Deep & Wide; Enemies of the Heart; When Work & Family Collide; Visioneering; and Next Generation Leader.
In the digital world, his success reaches well beyond the Atlanta area. Over 1.8 million of Andy’s messages, leadership videos, and podcasts are accessed from North Point’s website monthly.
Your Move with Andy Stanley premiered on NBC after Saturday Night Live in 2012 and on CBS after The Late Late Show with James Corden in 2017, giving him an even wider audience with which to share his culturally relevant, practical insights for life and leadership. Currently, over seven million episodes are consumed each month through television and podcasts, underscoring Stanley’s impact not only as a communicator but also as an influencer of culture.
Nothing is as personal as his passion for engaging with live audiences, which he has pursued for over two decades at leadership events around the world. In high demand, he speaks at various annual events before audiences of both church and organizational leaders.
“I cannot fill their cups,” he often says of the opportunity to impact leaders in business and in ministry, “but I have a responsibility to empty mine.”
Andy and his wife, Sandra, have three grown children and live near Atlanta.
About Bill Willits
Bill Willitts is the Director of Group Life at North Point Community Church. Bill is a graduate of Florida State University and Dallas Theological Seminary and has previously served on other church staffs in Atlanta and Dallas, Texas. His most important small group consists of his wife, Terry, and their daughter, Bailey.