Every Wednesday night, the husbabe and I eagerly await the arrival of the neighbor girl to ring our doorbell. The moment she arrives, we give our list of instructions for watching our 10-year old, slip our shoes on and practically sprint towards the door.
Date Night? Nope.
$.65 Wing Night at Buffalo Wild Wings? Nope.
Wednesday night is small group night.
I’ve written about small groups before. Depending on your church culture, small groups are also referred to as Bible study groups, growth groups, community groups, home groups, or even life groups. I’ve personally viewed our small group as what Bill Hybels calls a “midweek reheat”. A spiritual kick-in-the-pants, if you will. It’s not necessarily something I WANTED to do but something I thought I probably SHOULD do.
We’ve been in our group about six months now and I’ve had a couple of realizations:
- You cannot make a decision on whether or not a group is right for you after 1 or 2 meetings. Community building takes time. LOTS of time. When our group first started meeting, everyone was polite, friendly but reserved…which is fine. We didn’t know each other. 5 months later I noticed several side conversations were happening. Books were being loaned. Recipes were being shared. The men now felt comfortable joking around with each other and doing that weird guy hug thing with the three claps on the back.
- I’m the first one to proclaim how great social media is. I found my current job on social media! My coworkers are all virtual. I’m a part of a fantastic Facebook group with some incredible individuals and fascinating conversations I would have never experienced otherwise. But I’m of the opinion real authentic community happens face-to-face in the sacred space of a living room, around a kitchen table, or in the front yard. When a neighbor says they’re fine but you can see from the look in their eyes they really…are…not…fine. When a friend gently eases herself down into an armchair and you know she’s having a bad day with fibromyalgia. Picking up on the physical signs allows us to better respond, to know how to care.
- A cherished trust has developed over time as we learn more about each other. We used to joke that our small group was Vegas; as in “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” but lately we’re referring to our group as “the vault”. What is shared in the group stays locked in the vault. There’s a special significance to sitting in a circle, sharing pieces of our lives, asking questions or just saying, “You know what? I’m not okay”. To be prayed for and to pray for others without the fear of gossip, sharing outside the circle or having an internet troll piles heaps of criticism on your head.
- Variety is the spice of life! (Such a cliche but totally true) Every July the local high school marching band starts band camp. A new group of scared freshmen who have absolutely no clue what they’re doing join the cocky sophomores with a grand total of 1-year experience under their belt, the seasoned juniors and the emotional seniors (it’s our last year!) and…it’s ugly for awhile. But each week they learn the music, learn the moves, and learn each other. By October, 200 kids from all walks of life grow and make something beautiful…together. I’ve seen it happen every year and it’s incredible every time it happens. I actually cry a little. Growth groups are the same way. My small group contains a wide variety of people: medical professionals, clergy, military, executives, retirees, carpenters, the husbabe and I. At the beginning, the only thing we had in common was we love Jesus and go to the same church. But we’re learning from each other. Someone else struggles with anxiety like I do. A few know the struggles of chronic illness. Many know heartbreak from broken marriages or prodigal children. Not only do I have more in common with everyone than I thought but I have grown to genuinely love each and every one of them. They’re becoming family.
In church services all across the country the pastor usually makes a pitch for small groups. I’m here to tell you to commit to being a part of a community. Fill out that response card. Check that box on the church app. Set up a reminder to call the receptionist on Monday. Make the decision and the commitment for your midweek reheat. It’s worth the effort. It’s worth the initial awkwardness. Your life will be all the richer for it.