I want to be honest here. When I did the research for today’s featured article, “6 Ways to Get More Out of Your Small Group,” I had to glean most of the wisdom from others. That’s because I didn’t have a lot of first-hand experience with great small groups.
First of all, confession time: I am not currently in a small group. Yes, it’s true. Having two children under 3 and a husband who is in full-time church ministry (and already doing “church stuff” three evenings a week) are a few of the reasons this hasn’t happened. But another part of it is I simply haven’t made it a priority. (More on this later.)
Second, during my single years I attended and even led my share of small groups. Some were good. Others were OK. And still others were not-so-good. Despite good intentions, for various reasons a lot of these groups just fell flat. I didn’t see the impact in my own life or on the lives of others that I had anticipated.
Through the years, I’ve discovered there are a number of things that can cause small groups not to “work.” A lack of strong leadership is one of them. If you don’t have a passionate, committed leader or leaders, your small group won’t make it.
Identity crisis is another peril. Are we a Bible study? Are we a social outlet? Are we a prayer meeting? Are we a service organization? If your small group isn’t unified in — and clear on — its vision, it won’t make it.
And chemistry, or the lack thereof, is a third small-group killer. If the people in your group don’t get along and truly enjoy being in one another’s lives … you guessed it … it won’t make it.
So far this post is sounding super-depressing, but let me continue. I still want to be in a small group. I even think it’s possible to be in a truly great small group. Why? Because as believers we are called to be in community. And the real stuff — the life-on-life stuff — isn’t going to happen during a couple of hours on Sunday.
We could talk all day about what goes into a perfect small group, but a major ingredient is me. How am I engaging? What is my heart and attitude toward the people in my group? Am I seeking out the opportunities for growth and outreach God has for me within the community of a small group?
I was recently challenged by a conversation I had with a friend. She is seeking community and went on a women’s retreat at the church she’d been attending for several months. After a stirring message, she stood in a corner crying; no one approached her to ask what was wrong or offer to pray for her. As she told me the story, she said, “What’s wrong with us? Something is wrong when we won’t reach out to the girl crying in the corner!”
And that is the point of community: to know the person crying in the corner. To learn her story. To be Jesus’ hands and feet to her. Without community, the church will fail in its calling. Small groups can be an effective way to develop the kind of life-giving relationships believers are meant to have. So, yes, not all small groups are great, but we need to keep trying to make them better. Don’t you agree?
As I said earlier, I’ve recently been convicted about my lack of effort when it comes to engaging in community. This fall, I’m committing to being intentional in my efforts to connect with community, including seeking out a small group. I’m not promising it’s going to be easy. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a challenge. But it will be worth it.