People sometimes ask me what the best thing about my church is (possibly because my church is relatively well-known). My answer couldn’t be more simple: my small group. I love so much about our church, but my favourite thing is our small group.
Why I love my small group
It may seem odd that that’s my answer. We have phenomenal teaching at our church. We have great pastors at our church. Our church is embedded in the community around us. Our church is big. So why does my favourite thing have the word ‘small’ in it?
The answer is: community. Our small group is not just an activity, an extra night out, an extra Bible study, an extra commitment. It is all of those things, but that isn’t what it is at its heart. At it’s heart, we are a group of people who have made the commitment to share our lives together, to be deeply invested in each other’s lives. We’ve chosen to be a committed community.
And it’s the most authentic and beautiful community I’ve ever been part of.
So what is our group like? Well, we do meet once a week. That’s important. When we meet we study the Bible together, we share how we’re doing, and we pray for each other. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
We are constantly in touch. We have a constant group chat going on our phones (25 messages so far today). We shoot prayer requests and practical requests to each other daily. We drive each other to appointments when needed. We eat in each other’s homes. We set ourselves group targets (X needs a new job, so let’s support X in prayer and encouragement till it happens!). If one of us has a need, we make it our group’s need, and then we meet it. Or if one of us spots a need in our community, we all work out how to do something. I don’t think there has been a week in months when I haven’t seen folk from small group at least 2 or 3 times a week.
Does this all sound familiar? It sounds like Acts to me. Acts with smartphones.
Small groups are inclusive
But it’s not just a holy huddle! We have people who are firmly part of our group who are … wait for it … not Christians! They study the Bible with us, and ask brilliant questions which stretch the rest of us. And the rest of us can ask them questions that challenge them.
These are folk who would never step into a church gathering on Sunday, but they are part of our community. One of those guys is currently having quite serious medical treatment, and as a group we have committed to getting him to and from his appointments. He’s also a fantastic cook, and he cooks yummy food for us all. He isn’t any less a part of the group. Would we like him to become a Christian? Yes. Does he know that? Yes. Does it make it awkward? No.
We can be inclusive, missional, serving together. None of that would be possible in the same way for a bigger group. Of course there are things that a big group can do that we can’t, which is why it’s great to have both! This post isn’t a polemic against big churches – I’m part of one!! – it’s just a call to seek out how we can promote deep and authentic community with people. And small is a great place to start.
Why you should have a small group
And here’s the thing – anyone can be part of a small group. I don’t see small groups as an add-on for the extra-committed Christian. Our group is about community and mission, two central parts of the life of a Christian.
If your church doesn’t ‘have’ small groups, start one! If your church does but you’re not part of one, join one! If you’re a little jaded because small groups have always just seemed a bit boring, then create one and decide to do it differently!
There are two ingredients to make a beautiful, committed and life-giving small group community:
- A small group of people.
- A collective decision to invest in each others lives, even when that is sacrificial. This doesn’t work unless you are willing to commit. Just like family, because it is a family.
Everything else comes second. Where you meet, what you do, who does what… None of that matters as much as a shared heart, a commitment to commit.
And if I haven’t convinced you yet, how about this: Jesus was in a small group.
So what are your experiences of small groups? And what’s stopping you?