On Small Groups: Listener Comments
On occasion we've shared comments and discussion among listeners on our Telegram group around podcast episode topics. We recently received a text from a long time listener who lost access to the group and wanted to hear comments and discussion around our small groups episode. I thought many of these would be beneficial and insightful to a wider audience (I also told her I would post a collection of them here) so here you go. And if you missed the episode, you can stream it right here! If any of you want to jump in on the group, the link is in the episode show notes.
Rachel: "I think a small group becomes important as the size of the church gets bigger. It seems like many churches these days are so focused on getting bigger which can be a great thing but in some ways as you cram more and more people into a building you lose community. I think that is where small groups can be helpful. As far as format. I love the idea of fellowship over food, prayer for each other and possibly a discussion on a topic or a passage of Scripture. Mostly I feel like it is a time to build community and get to know people in your church that you may not otherwise.
Alan: "Small groups for me is a necessary evil. They must take place in order to develop relationships. I then prefer much better meeting one on one. Rarely have we found a couple where both my wife and I wanted to have a meaningful relationship."
Davis: "I think a small group becomes important as the size of the church gets bigger. It seems like many churches these days are so focused on getting bigger which can be a great thing but in some ways as you cram more and more people into a building you lose community. I think that is where small groups can be helpful. As far as format. I love the idea of fellowship over food, prayer for each other and possibly a discussion on a topic or a passage of Scripture. Mostly I feel like it is a time to build community and get to know people in your church that you may not otherwise."
Anna: "To no one’s surprise I have an opinion on small groups too😏 I lead a middle school girls small group and in our training our youth pastor said the focus is on fellowship and prayer, not so much teaching time. So I always read at least 1 verse during our time together, but we focus on what we’re learning about God and faith in the every day. We share prayer requests and life updates and just listen. So yeah, it’s not that different from a normal get-together I guess except that you’re being intentional to listen to how God is moving in the lives of those around you and vulnerably sharing what He’s doing in your heart. I love what @Redbeardedcraftsman said about food. I think sharing a meal over prayer is such a gift. It’s not that it needs to be formal, but to me, a small group is regular time devoted to growing relationships in the body of Christ. And it doesn’t have to be warm and fuzzy. I’ve been in small groups with people that annoy me! I’m with Alan tho on the preference of one on one. I do that more often! I lead a small group, but don’t have time for one with adults😅"
David: "Regarding small groups, we’ve experienced many sides of this issue from super supportive to not at all helpful. As an elder at a PCA church in the South, we always struggled with a uniform model that we could apply to the whole church. We tried the model of Perimeter Church in Johns Creek, Georgia that has small groups as a fundamental structure of their body and the responsibility of the elders to shepherd. It take a very strong top down leadership and structure to organize and maintain a thriving small group culture in a church that helps new members connect.
We also found the folks who were involved with the early planting of a church maintained the primary small group relationships that JR talked against. It’s hard for people who come later to break into these groups.
My current church is trying short term and multi-generational small groups. I’m up in the air as to whether this is effective beyond our developing a shallow acquaintance of others in the body.
Thanks for the topic."
Molly: "Thanks for the perspective! I do really love the idea of multi-generational small groups. As someone who was single until I was almost 30, I think it’s SO crucial for single people to be in homes, with families - both for their own active ministry as well as their own groundedness. I’ve never been part of a church with a “singles” ministry, but I have a pretty strong opinion against them (tho I’m open to hear of positive experiences if anyone has one!) I also think there’s so much value in younger families getting advice, encouragement, and perspective from “been there, done that” mature believers. My experience of that - and I’d be super curious if others have this experience, too - is that it’s the more mature believers who get tired of having young families in their small groups! The energy, the messes, the noise, the distractions - they’d prefer to be in small group with a bunch of other tired, low-key people, so it’s a special kind of dedication (and perspective) that makes multi-generational work! And families with kids have to host - it’s too stressful for people without kids to have young kids in their homes … but those homes tend to be tidiest and best situated for hosting without a bunch of additional cleanup and associated stress.
Gosh, these intentional relationships are a lot of stress and work! But we can’t just give up … 🤷♀️"
Deke: "Our best experiences with small groups has been in multi gen groups."
Anna: "I very much appreciate multi-gen groups! I’m 32 and single and have always enjoyed being with a variety of believers. I will say my closest friends are usually people I meet one on one with regularly, but my small group is a great support system for prayer and tangible, physical needs."
Davis: "TLDR version: "People are weird and hard"
Over the years, I have found with small groups is that " your results may vary". Growing up my dad was a small group leader and at that point the small groups were used as an introduction to our church for people of the community. A low pressure environment to get to know people, fellowship and have discussions. Many times the children were included in things which was great. People came and went from these groups but overall it was a positive experience. Now I'll share some current experiences. The church we go to now, although not very big has small groups, but in trying to get mix of people, it tends to get very spread out. As a result people sometimes disengage. I wanted to be a small group leader because of great experiences I've had in the past but now that I'm in that role it has been very frustrating. Everyone lives far apart, no one communicates and it just seems like most people don't even want to come. Maybe that reflects on my leadership, I don't know. This is a long post but let me tell you about one more group I am a part of. This group is a study group focused around Scripture. We eat and fellowship and people want to be there and care about each other. We have incredible discussions and really feel a sense of community. This group is not from our church but was organized by another church and is open to whoever comes. In saying all this I feel like how we go into a small group can affect the group. If people are willing to give to a group and engage even if it is inconvenient at times I think it will be a better group. If meeting together is something we feel like we " have " to do and we don't really engage with others then the group will probably struggle to connect. Sorry for the long post."
Dinah: "As we grew up together and shared the same small groups, I was going to say mostly the same things. A couple things I will add: if you come prepared to share what is on your heart--what you personally have learned or what you are struggling with or how God has shown up--even if you don't get a chance to share, you will find more fulfillment in your group. When people are open and honest about the highs and lows, it invites a sense of security for others to share. I think this is the point of small groups, because it is impossible to know a hundred people intimately, much less a whole large church.
Unfortunately, like Molly said, most people these days have unrealistic and selfish ideas of how we think people should understand us and know what we're thinking and feeling. Relationships are HARD. WORK. And sometimes, no mater how hard you work, certain people will just never have a close bond.
For me, the groups that have meant the most to me over the years, are the ones that had a common study that everyone was engaged in, whether it was a book, sermon series, portion of the Bible, whatever.
Basically, as Mr. Whittaker says, "You get out of it what you put in."