Nurturing My Community by Michelle Higgins, a Neighborhood Seminary graduate


When I hear the words “to nurture” I think of “care for and encourage the growth or development of someone or something”. It’s easy to be nurturing to our families. A new relationship definitely requires nurturing, but I never thought I, as a lay person, would ever find myself nurturing a church community. Isn’t that the job of the pastors? Isn’t that why a church has so many committees?

...the not-so-gentle shove of the Holy Spirit made me realize I want more, I need more from church, and I wasnt' finding it.

This is how I always thought until starting Neighborhood Seminary classes. It began in my first class, on the first day of my first year when Elaine Heath spoke in her calm, peaceful yet direct way. Her words with the not-so-gentle shove of the Holy Spirit made me realize I want more, I need more from church, and I wasn’t finding it. I wanted accountability, closer relationships with the other members as well as my actual neighbors. I wanted a small group environment, led by laity, where we share our lives with each other and grow deeper in our faith walks. I wasn’t getting that from a lecture driven Sunday School class or hearing someone preach to me weekly. I learned from Neighborhood Seminary how to create a nurturing small group community with other people who also wanted more.


It didn’t take long for this passion to become my calling. I quickly started seeing how Covid-19, and our new habits of social distancing were affecting people. Many of my friends, and even those I didn’t know well, started saying the same things I said. They want more spiritually but didn’t exactly know how to define it or how to find it. Do I dare think I have the answer? Would anyone listen to me as well as follow me?

I put into practice the tools I learned from Neighborhood Seminary and began truly listening to my friends and neighbors, hearing their needs.

It turns out they did listen to me, and they are following! I put into practice the tools I learned from Neighborhood Seminary and began truly listening to my friends and neighbors, hearing their needs. From those discussions, I started creating small communities of faith, all led by laity. Having two different small groups successfully going for a year, I approached my church. This was a hard sale because they have never done anything like this before. (You know the song!) After 10 months of biweekly Zoom meetings and a little fussing and cussing, I started four faith formation communities the church labeled, Connection Groups. These are laity-led, and we meet for 8 weeks with the groups deciding whether they want to continue or not. I am starting to hear those participating telling others (your best marketing tool), and others asking when they can join a new group.

I am one person doing one thing. ...this is what I am called to do.

I am one person doing one thing. This will not cure cancer and it won’t stop world hunger, but this is what I am called to do. I am called to teach by example; how to share my journey with my neighbor. I am called to love my neighbor as myself and this is how I am doing it, one small group at a time.


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