Let’s just cut to the chase – small groups can sometimes start out awkward. Like really awkward.
No one likes needed small talk, no one enjoys meeting random people for the first time, and I can only think of a few fun individuals in my life who truly enjoy the good ole’ “breaking the ice” experience.
Now for those who are SG veterans, we’re aware that it’s just how things go with the small group game. Eventually, you meet with someone in your group outside of the weekly set time or run into him or her at a store in town.
At some point a funny story or a vulnerable moment will be shared, and everyone else will feel free to open up as well. The awkward stage is just normal, and will usually wear off in a couple of weeks.
At least that’s what I kept telling myself.
Here’s the short version of a past small group experience.
Week 1: Four people total with a dash of gawky interactions
Week 2: Three people total, with a hint of familiarity and easy conversation
Week 3: Me, myself and I [Well, that escalated quickly]
Week 4: Rinse, wash and repeat
Week 5: You get the point…
Now, I know what you’re thinking – I must have missed something, right? But, I solemnly swear on everything that is great about small groups that I had it all covered.
I had the finger foods, the cozy home (equipped with scented candles and light music in the background), the comfortable conversation topics and the heart to love on people in our church and community.
So, what went wrong?
I asked myself this same question day after day for months, but it sent me on an insightful and needed journey into the dreaded question – why isn’t anyone coming to my small group?
For those who have a clean house, a caring heart and a willing spirit and still aren’t seeing results – consider these thoughts.
You’re small group is only filling a need, not fueling your passion
Free market small groups are formed around interest-based communities. In short, anything can be a small group – from sports teams to prayer groups to coffee dates to Bible studies. The thought process is, if it’s building healthy, life-giving relationships for those involved, it’s a small group.
With such a wide variety and idea set of groups to choose from, leaders can easily fall into the mindset of asking “what kind of group would people want to come to?”
Unfortunately, instead of picking something your passionate about, you become stuck in a guessing game of what’s popular and wanted (Dare I say, a fad).
No fingers pointed here because that’s exactly what I did!
The small group experience you previously read about was when I decided to hold a young adult small group. I looked around at our church one day, noticed how it was filled with young adults and thought, “This will work!”
But to be truthful, I’m not passionate about young adult ministry. In fact, I can only count on one hand how many young adult events I’ve personally been to. I know now what others could see then; it wasn’t my passion, therefore those attending weren’t passionate.
My true passion in life? Discipleship.
I love new believers, and I love helping them find purpose! So, I started a small group for new Christians and those interested in the Christian faith, and I can proudly say it was successful. Not because it was large – but because people engaged in live-giving relationships and also connected to God-given passions through it all.
That’s what it’s all about.
The small group doesn’t fit your tight schedule.
In the midst of starting the small group, I was in a hectic time of life.
I’m certain those who initially came could tell my mind was in another land thinking of school assignments and the growing laundry load.
Having a busy schedule though doesn’t mean it’s not possible to have a thriving small group – it’s simply all about timing and molding it within your already built schedule.
Take my friend Gidget for example.
Gidget is an incredible small group leader who helps lead ladies through the Bible over coffee at her house. Technically the Saturday group was supposed to end at 10 a.m., but time and time again no one would leave until after noon because it was THAT excellent, fun and refreshing!
Unfortunately, Gidget can only hold this type of group in the summer due to her job that is heavily involved in the community during the school year; she couldn’t see how it was possible to continue holding a small group when fall and then spring rolled around.
After talking with Gidget about her schedule, we noticed she was already holding weekly meetings with volunteers in the community who serve at her events – and just like that, the idea of a community service based small group was born.
Already have lunch with coworkers once a week? Make it a small group. Already have a play date time once a week with other moms and kids? Make it a small group.
In fact, isn’t this what a Christian life is supposed to look like? Showing Jesus in every situation we are in.
As discouraging as it was at the time, I’m thankful for the past familiarity of not having anyone show up for my small group.
My story is proof that a no attendance stint doesn’t last forever and can be surpassed with some adjustment and insight. To the disheartened small group leader who wants to give up – don’t stop trying.
Open up your passions and routine with others, and see how your group flourishes in the future.