Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Treatise on Small Groups (sunroot/joanna)

Before you all read this I have a confession. (sunroot does) I was really angry when I originally wrote this email. I'm frustrated for the small group leaders and I think that we all can be experiencing more in our small groups. Joanna cleaned up the language and the finger pointing. I hope this will be helpful for you all. (try to look for the undercover passion)


Recently I talked to small group leaders about this and I wanted to share this with the whole fellowship, and especially those of you who are small group members. It comes with a challenge:

I personally think that there is a problem in our fellowship in the depth of our relationships with each other. We need to be vulnerable, and push to go deeper. We hang out, play sports, talk and play a lot together, but we can be so much more of a fellowship to each other. I want that deeper community to permeate into the culture and environment of our fellowship. I don't want us to need 2 years of hanging out with each other every day to be able to talk about our father issues. Or for it to be 4am in the lounge of Oneida 4th floor lounge for us to talk about how another member in the fellowship hurt us.

I think we all know this and we all want more.

Unfortunately, I have used small groups as a means to fight this and I don't think it's fair for the leaders as well as for yourselves. I'm sorry I used so much effort to try to make the focus of small groups community building when, yes, community is an important aspect of small groups, but it cannot and should not be the sole means of it. We've tried to do so much with small groups: community building, evangelism, fundraising, community service, bible study. And in the midst of doing so much, we've done very little.

When we try to do too many things, it's inevitable that we end up doing it all half-heartedly. We don't want this for our small groups. We want to invest in people in a way that promotes a transformation in personal lives as well as relationships with others - but this requires A LOT of effort and focus.

Community building is not the primary role of small groups contrary to what we've been emphasizing previously. Bible study is. Small groups are the one place we can study the bible in depth on a personal level. We need to focus on that. The expectations that have been put on small groups to fill this void of friendship and belonging are unrealistic for small groups and for small group leaders. It's not fair that the leaders get frustrated or hurt because they aren't sure what to do or when their members don't become best of friends; this is not their responsibility.

Small group leaders are there to lead you into a Bible study. And when they do so, they should be able to end their meeting knowing that they've done right and not be frustrated with themselves because their members didn't seem to connect. They should be assured that they have obeyed God's calling for them and should walk away from a meeting thinking. 'Heck Yeah! It wasn't perfect, but I obeyed. And that's what God called me to do for this group of people."
A lot of times, members come into small groups with a consumer mentality. They want to be served. To be fed. For example, if you come into a small group expecting that the leaders will make it so you are able to bond with others, please re-evaluate yourself as well as your leaders' roles. It's not fair to the leaders. I fervently believe that you get what you put into a small group. And I think it's about time that people take ownership of their own growth. In your small group, you should have been given the opportunity to bond through the Word and if you are teachable in that way, that's what will bring you all together. You will need to take more ownership of the depth of your friendships outside of small groups.

Many of you have heard a "bad" sermon. Or attended a "poorly led" discussion. And you know what? You got something out of it. Why? Because you anticipated God speaking. You went in with the right heart and attitude. I believe in our leaders this year. They are equipped and gifted. How much more so will you learn from them when you go in with an open heart?

God speaks through His word. God speaks through His people speaking His word. If you're not getting anything out of small groups, take a look at yourself and evaluate your attitude
. Is it a consumer attitude? Or an attitude ready to hear what God has to say through whatever the circumstance?

For many of you, you're thinking, "I do go in with the right attitude." I would ask you to think about the Bible Study part of what I talked about. Expect a bible study and make more of a personal effort to build relationships on your own.

For many of you, you need to do a heart check. Think about what you're expecting.

I'm not saying that small groups are perfect. I'm not saying we shouldn't try to improve. But small groups can't be made perfect to meet unrealistic expectations. They won't have to be to meet the needs of someone with an open heart.

Please think about such things. Then go and make your small group even more AWESOME because I really do believe God has already begun stirring in hearts and minds.

-sunroot (joanna making it nicer)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Big and little: inter-class community and discipleship for all in a growing fellowship (Katy)

How to structure the big sibling/ little sibling program for this year has been a hot debate inside e-board since last spring, but last e-board meeting we spent most of our time talking and praying through this one issue, and we are excited to present to the fellowship the plans we have for structuring the big/ little program for this year.

As previously mentioned in this blog, we as a fellowship have prayed and planned for growth -- and we are seeing it, thanks be to God! It is our expectation that every year we will have more freshmen than upperclassmen, and we couldn't be happier, because we believe that being part of this community facilitates transformation, renewal, and the development of quality men and women who God will use to change the world. And again as mentioned before, this means we get to try new and creative means to provide welcome and friendship to our new students. So this year, instead of assigning one big to one little, we have decided instead to take advantage of the number of upper-classmen living in the dorms by facilitating/ encouraging the development of community based family groups, where your bigs are assigned to you by where you live.

For example, Joanna and I are now officially the bigs of the 4-6 underclassmen who live in Newing. We will either cook dinner, organize a group dinner in the Newing Dinning hall, or ask one of our littles to cook dinner (if they like doing things like that) on a weekly bases (most likely on Sunday nights). There are no agendas for the conversation at those dinners, only that we might get to know each other and share life with one another. Newing kids will know that our door is always open to them if they need to talk, and the contents of our dinner conversations will let Joanna and I know when one person might need some extra big-sistering that we can either provide or facilitate with someone else who may be more aptly suited to address ther needs(especially if they really need big-brothering).

In larger communities, where there are both more bigs and more littles (such as in Dickinson) it will be up to the bigs to decide how to subdivide the littles into more manageable sized groups.

For those who either live in grad, hillside, or off campus, we suggest one of three things:

1. Create family groups for your area of influence. There are lots of new students who live off campus. You could create an off campus family group, or groups in hillside or grade for new folks you know that liver around you.

2. You can attach yourself to an on campus community. Most communities do not have enough upper classmen to keep the groups small, or (as in Newing) only have upper classmen of one gender. Talk to God and the upper classmen in the communities to see where you might best fit in, go to dinners, and take any relationships you build with folks from there.

3. Be a big on reserve. While we hope most people will feel comfortable in a family dinner setting, some might not. For those who are either very shy, or whos needs for discipleship are not being met through the consolation of other discipling opportunities that are available in the fellowship, you could be paired up with some one who really does need or would benefit most from some intentional one on one time with a more mature Christian.

We hope for these groups to strengthen community, and facilitate natural friendships through which discipleship will occur.

We realize that you may have many questions about this restructuring and the implications that it will have on you. We will have a Town Hall Meeting on Saturday October 4th at 4pm in a location TBA to discuss this further (as well as other issues) so come prepared with your questions and suggestions. Also leave a questions comments and concerns on the blog or e-mail us at and we will to our best to address them.