I am part of a great small group...but it isn't easy. There are weeks I feel tired & don't want another thing on my schedule...when its rainy & I’d rather stay home with my family. There are times when I feel like I have said the wrong thing & need to apologize...there are times when someone has made a remark & I have taken offense. We have had groups that just "click" so well & then maybe someone moves away or we split to make room for others...the transition can be rocky or awkward. I haven't always been sure if others would like me or if I would like them. But in the end, it is worth it. And, actually, we are better for staying committed when it isn't so fun. We realize together that we are all so imperfect, but that our vulnerability can be a virtue, not a vice.
There have been times when all the members of our group have been "slammed” by life's problems. Or when just one person or couple in the group experiences something so tough that it shakes everyone! Sometimes no one has an answer or an adequate way to help. Those are the times that it is also hard to be in a small group. It is hard to care about people so much that it hurts when they hurt. It would be easier to stay to ourselves, to conserve our mental and emotional energy & not get involved.
I believe that small groups become what the church is meant to be, when people stay committed through the rough times & work through the messy stuff together. When we are honest with one another & maintain relationships with one another, we can help hold each other accountable.
I have sometimes felt unnoticed or unloved by the church at large. I put a smile on my face & go through the Sunday morning motions. But there are people in my small groups who can see past my smile. They know when I am going through the motions. There are times when I am acting judgmental, dishonest, or otherwise acting sinfully. I know that members of my small group know me well & who I want to be. I give them permission to speak truth into my life, even if it hurts or makes me a little angry at first.
I read somewhere —people can only maintain a handful of key relationships at any one time— it varies slightly among different personalities, but not dramatically. That is why we need to submit & commit ourselves to a small group of people. A building full of a few hundred people is not the church. We, as individuals, coming together for a common purpose are the church. Like a chain, small groups link our hearts together in small circles, which are linked together to strengthen the body of the church as a whole.
Am I ever lonely or misunderstood? Do I feel slighted or irritated from time to time? Sure...I realize that the people around me are not always able to fulfill my every emotional need...If they could then why would I ever need God?
In the words of singer/songwriter Sara Groves;
"...Every burden I have carried, Every joy -- it's understood. Life with you [my small group] is half as hard, And twice as good..."
Some may have had bad experiences or feel they just don't have the right personality to feel comfortable in a small group. There are others who are in a phase of life that makes attending a small group seem impossible. Still some want to take part, but either don't know how or are afraid to take the first step. I would like to encourage you with the following suggestions:
1. Pray about your involvement in a small group.
Whether you are in one or five or none. Pray that God would help you prepare your heart to bond with a group of other Christians & create opportunities to make it happen. If you are in a group, pray for those in your group on a regular basis. Ask God to help you to love them purely.
2. Take action!
If you are not in a small group, take steps to make it happen. Maybe it won't be a traditional church-wide small group. Maybe it will just be two or three women getting together for Bible study over coffee. If you are in a small group, I encourage you to plug in. Keep your attendance consistent. Contact each other throughout the week. Follow up on prayer requests.
3. Be the small group member that YOU want others to be to YOU!
Don't gossip or share "prayer requests" about others outside of your group without permission. Don't let misunderstandings go. Keep your intentions & your feelings truthful & open. Let others "call you out" & be willing to speak the truth in love to others. Don't assume that another can or can't understand you & be willing to be vulnerable.
As we move into the summer, many small groups will be taking a break from their weekly meetings. But that doesn't mean that our small groups have to be on hiatus. The relationship is what matters, more than the structure or system in place.
For those of you who are old enough to remember Lisa Whelchel [The Facts of Life: And Other Lessons My Father Taught Me] as Blair Warner on the "Facts of Life" and not as an author, I leave you with this...
"You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life."
By: Jennifer Wilson
I thought this video came in good timing after reading this article.