Hello Fellowship (PLEASE READ THIS! FOR THE SAKE OF ALL THAT IS SMALL GROUPS!)
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?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.
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.
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)