Subject Area

Religion, Theology/Religious Education


With the decline of membership in most mainline denominational churches, can people with no religious affiliation, or who have left the church, or who want nothing to do with the church, enter into a relationship with God through community in small neighborhood groups meeting in homes? The problem for most mainline churches is that small groups are viewed as only being for short term Bible Study or information gathering. Yet, a life transforming encounter with God often happens through long-term small groups that are focused on relationship building and life stage support as the primary focus. It is in community that people experience God in profound and transformational ways. If small groups can be utilized for outreach into the community by neighbors building relationships with neighbors and offering one another support through holy listening and radical hospitality, then space can be created for conversations around faith that lead to people committing to faith in Christ. This thesis develops a model to train church members to build relationships with their neighbors through holy listening and radical hospitality around a shared meal where an encounter might be had with the God who is in Godself, relationship. Humankind being created in the image of God is also created to be in relationship with God and one another. By attending to their own spiritual lives, prayer, and the Holy Spirit, church members can learn to welcome their neighbors into their homes for food, drink and relationship building, and by committing to this work, create the kingdom of God in their midst. This project developed a training model that was presented in two sessions over an eight-week period to eight church members and evaluated through written evaluations, observations during the training and discussions during and after with participants. This thesis concludes that the training model is viable and worthwhile. Although, while people find transformational work necessary and good, they appear to not be willing to reach out to their neighbors for the purpose of faith building.

Degree Date

Spring 4-25-2018

Document Type


Degree Name





Dr. Robert Hunt

Second Advisor

Dr. Carlos Cardoza

Number of Pages




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

GFOX ETD.pdf (92 kB)