Small Group Growth & Horses: How a Small Group Grew into a Massive Ministry

small group growth

The Story

The Equestrian LifeGroup began in 2013 when a few friends started a small group for the equestrian community in Wellington, Florida. We wanted a place where Christians in the horse industry could be encouraged in faith and build friendships rooted in their shared values. We also wanted people who weren’t Christians or never gave much prior thought to how a relationship with God impacts everyday life to feel welcome to join us, make friends, and ask questions. A group of about ten people involved in the horse show world began gathering in their homes to get to know each other, share a meal, watch a message, and discuss how it applies to everyday life in the horse industry. We still meet every week of the horse show season in Wellington to do the same thing for the same reason. Year after year the group has grown. Our small group had more than seventy people at the 2018 Equestrian LifeGroup end-of-season party this year.

What makes it work?

When people hear about the group’s growth into a ministry of nearly 100 people, they always ask how. Our idea of bringing the community together for fellowship, food, a message, and small group discussion is nothing original. So how has the ministry flourished into a healthy and growing community? I think it has a lot to do with the group’s culture. The LifeGroup works together to prioritize personal connections and build a Christian community that is still on mission with the original calling from God for the group.

Connection
The Equestrian LifeGroup is an incredibly diverse community with men and women from all different backgrounds and walks of life. Group members come from three disciplines of horse showing, more than five countries, several religious backgrounds, and range in age from seventeen to seventy. Amidst the group’s diversity, each and every member has something in common–their passion for the horse business. They all understand training and working six or seven days a week, the nomadic lifestyle of following the horse show circuit, and all that the pursuit of success at the top-level of the sport entails. On the most basic level, we connect over horses. But deeper than that, we connect over our mutual belief that there is a greater purpose in life than a blue ribbon or a trophy or success in the horse industry. We all want to have an impact, do the right thing, live generously, and build others up in encouragement and love. Regardless of our group members’ backgrounds or beliefs, we all come together every Friday night to have dinner, listen to a Biblical message, and discuss how the gospel relates to our lives.

I think part of what makes the Equestrian LifeGroup so special is that the principles of every week’s messages are rooted in faith in Jesus Christ and share His love and the Gospel, but everyone from the equestrian community is welcome to join no matter where they are in their walk with God. Messages and discussion questions are thoughtfully selected with friends who have never been to church, or come from an entirely different religious background, in mind. Anyone will be welcomed to the group, fully included, and share in conversations about what it means to grow in a personal relationship with God.

Community
Building the Equestrian LifeGroup community has been all about personal connections. We strive to establish relationships that go beyond Friday night group to develop genuine friendships and a support system. It’s not just about learning what the Bible says, but actually demonstrating the Biblical principles of love, faith, selflessness and forgiveness in our everyday lives.

I feel so blessed to be a part of a LifeGroup that connects to build meaningful friendships. I’ve experienced LifeGroup friends praying for each other, sending encouraging texts throughout the week, babysitting for each others families, visiting loved ones in the hospital, going to dinner and fun events outside of the group, and cheering each other on at the horse show. One of the girls I met during our first season of LifeGroup in 2013 is even going to be a bridesmaid in my wedding this year! The point of a LifeGroup is to do life together and that could never happen one night a week. I’m blessed to have friends from a LifeGroup that are there for me any day of the week.

Collaboration
As the LifeGroup has grown, more people have offered to use their individual gifts to serve the group. A hospitable family has opened their home to 40+ people every Friday night of the season. Amazing cooks and bakers have made food to feed the entire group each week. Warm and friendly group members ensure new and shy people are welcomed and included throughout group night. Great hostesses have organized special fellowship nights outside of the group. Leaders prayerfully select messages that would be relevant for the LifeGroup create questions for small group discussions. Tech-savvy members help run Facebook and Instagram accounts. Everyone invites their friends to multiply the group’s reach like crazy. The Equestrian LifeGroup has developed into a ministry where many people contribute their God-given gifts to collectively create a Christian community!

Clear Calling
I believe the growth and health of the Equestrian LifeGroup is a blessing from God because leaders followed His call. Since a few equestrians were bold enough to start the LifeGroup, over 150 people in the Wellington equestrian community have come to the group and listened to the message of Jesus. People have been given a place to belong, openly ask questions while seeking God, step into personal relationships with Jesus, and be a part of a supportive and loving community.

This is also the “why?” behind the group. Equestrian LifeGroup leaders and members are often busy and tired on group days, but we all come together because we want to learn more about God and one another. When you know you are doing what God has called you to do, there is great fulfillment in working at it with your whole heart. The Equestrian LifeGroup “works” and is special because so many people share a heart for bringing Jesus into their relationships and everyday lives in the horse world.

Joining or starting a small group can be intimidating. Identify your why–your reason for starting in the first place. Do you want to be encouraged in faith? Part of a Christian community? Make friends with the same values? Give people a place to seek God and ask questions?  Pour into peoples lives? Identifying the why will sustain you and help you to remain in God’s call.
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If you are a pastors working to empower small group leaders or a potential leader that feel called to start a small group, For Ministry Resources would love to help you. Check out our small group resource bundle and feel free to contact info@forministryresources.com for personalized tips and custom resources.

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About the Author

Chelsea Babcock

Chelsea is a nonprofit account manager, high-impact venture enthusiast, and a major animal lover. She lives in Wellington, Florida with her 3 cockatiels, 2 dogs, and mini horse where she enjoys spending time with family and kids, and accidentally adopting animals in need that cross her path.