I’ll just come out and say it – I love small groups. If it was up to me, I would binge watch Hulu for 7+ hours when I got home from work, but choosing to be in small groups places myself and others in an environment to engage with one another. It’s healthy and life-giving. It’s a good reason to get together. It’s an avenue to create relationships.
Each semester starts off the same way though.
Everyone who may begrudgingly come and even the willing just stare at each other awkwardly in a room. As the small group leader, I more so act as a facilitator to get people to open up. As those who have attended my groups can attest, this usually requires me asking goofy questions until a conversation sparks. Depending on the topic though, that spark may easily spread into wildfire shortly after.
One particular small group I led adventured through a book dealing with life priorities. Essentially, the book helped each person analyze the necessities of their personal life in an effort to clear out the crud we allow to crowd our sight every day.
We already trekked through some difficult conversations about money, faith, and service – but that day we floated into uncharted waters. It was time to open up about our home lives and our families.
Shortly after bringing up family, recollected pieces of the group conversation remains blurry. I’m not sure how we got from point A to point B. All I remember hearing is the sentence that started the spark – “If my child did that, I would just spank them until they learned their lesson.”
Here’s some key background information for you: our small group at the time was equivalent to that of Gilligan’s Island.
While there wasn’t a Skipper or a Mary Ann, we did have two moms (one who spanked and one who didn’t), one empty-nester, one divorced father and one confused leader who didn’t have any children. The conversation was headed out on a three-hour tour, and I was afraid we would eventually end up on a deserted island.
Only one word can describe what came next -- tension. Some became defensive. Some offered empathy. Each shared their experience with their own children or how they were raised. It was difficult.
The conversation had to be navigated carefully. I don’t believe we ever got through the curriculum. I firmly know we never came to a conclusion of what was right or wrong. Yet strangely enough, we all left satisfied.
Each had an opportunity to have their voice heard at the table. Each had an opportunity to listen to an experience that was not their own. We all talked. We all listened. It was a strange feeling to all disagree yet all remain part of the same group.
I believe it’s what’s we call out for today yet struggle to find – unity without uniformity. Communion with one another without compromise.