“Small-group ministry is a brand-new concept to many Japanese churches,” says Jeong Gho, who works for Christian Reformed World Missions in Japan. Yet it’s a concept that’s gaining traction as leaders learn how they can use small groups to reach out to their communities.
Last winter Jeong, his wife, Misook, and two area leaders spent several months organizing a Coffee Break training workshop for churches in Fukuoka City on Kyushu Island. They hoped the event would open people’s eyes to Coffee Break’s outreach possibilities. But the enthusiastic response to the event shocked them.
A week before the May event, 60 people had signed up. By the time the conference began, a total of 98 people were registered. Participants came from 14 local churches and represented several denominations, including the Reformed Church in Japan, the Church of Jesus Christ, and the Japan Baptist Association.
“Cooperation between denominations and missions organizations is not a common thing [in Japan],” says Jeong. “We hoped that the Coffee Break workshop would leave a great impression on everyone that we could work together for the glory of God.”
Less than 1 percent of Japan’s population is Christian. But many Japanese are open to new religions, and Coffee Break groups offer a way to introduce people to Jesus. Since Japan is a group-oriented society, the Ghos thought Coffee Break’s group format would work effectively there.
Jeong led sessions on Coffee Break’s core components for four hours. He talked about leadership styles and other small-group principles, about how to draw out questions and discussions, and about getting group members to explore the Bible on their own. Afterward, attendees split into six groups for practice sessions.
“Many people realized what they were missing—the marvelous fellowship with other Christians in Christ Jesus [in a small group], the joy of discovering the Word of God by themselves, and the great possibility for evangelism,” Jeong said.
Since the workshop, churches in Fukuoka City have started more than 10 Coffee Break groups. And those groups are not just for women, the traditional Coffee Break audience. Separate Coffee Break groups for men and youths are also forming.
A vision for sharing the gospel is spreading among Japanese Christians and churches. Churches are stretching themselves beyond “what they’ve always done” to try new outreach ministries. And God is using them to grow his church in Japan.