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Finding a small group to join or starting one in your church is a great way to plug into your church community and fellowship with other believers. As a college student, I strongly desired to become more involved in church and invest time serving in a small group. However, my crazy class and work schedule combined with my lack of transportation often made it difficult to find a small group I had a chance of joining with wholehearted commitment.
There is a community found within small groups that isn't found in your church neighbors on Sunday morning. These are the people you share prayer requests with and update on personal happenings in your life. These are the people who come to know you well and hold you accountable. And these are the people with whom you dive deeper into Scripture and discover new revelations about God.
If you have an opportunity to join a small group in your church, especially during college, I strongly recommend you do it. For those of you who legitimately do not have such an opportunity or cannot take advantage of it for valid reasons, there are other options available to you — some right on campus.
My college roommate started a weekly Bible study with girls who lived on the same floor in our dorm. Because it was a little later in the year and the community was already comfortable, girls felt at ease opening up with one another and sharing personal struggles. There was a strong emphasis on prayer where everyone shared prayer requests with one another and then broke into smaller groups to pray with each other.
Ask around your dorm, apartment building and classes to see if anyone would like to start a small group with you. Maybe you know some people on campus who attend your church regularly, and you can ask them if they would like to start a weekly Bible study.
Sometimes colleges already have small groups going through ministries on campus. My university had a ministry for men and a ministry for women. I joined for a semester in college and enjoyed getting to know other women I would not have otherwise met on campus. We met in a large group once a week to hear a devotional and then broke into smaller groups for fellowship and prayer.
If those don't work for you, consider joining the prayer chain at your church if it has one. Asking to receive an email or text message whenever someone in the church needs prayer is a great way to start feeling connected while you're looking for a small group that can fit your schedule. If your church doesn't have a prayer chain, consider talking to your pastor and starting one.
As a last resort, you can always start a type of small group online. I've had friends start groups on Facebook with a carefully selected group of people for sharing prayer requests, Scripture or insights from reading. If you have close friends who don't live near you, it is a great way to stay in touch with them, bless each other's spiritual lives and engage in Christian community.
What creative ideas do you have to still be part of a small group when circumstances are not ideal?
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--Video or teleconferencing would be a step above Facebook groups and helpful for long-distance groups. There are some free and cheap options out there.
--I'm very blessed to be part of a ladies' small group right now; there are about 8 of us who are faithful, and another few who come when they can. We have gotten to be pretty close, and I feel comfortable sharing fairly personal requests with them...it helps that one of our "rules" is that "whatever is said in small-group STAYS in small-group."
My only "creative idea" is to have a small group time scheduled during something that would be going on anyway. For example, a small group on a college campus could meet in the cafeteria for lunch or supper on a certain day of the week. During lunch, they could share requests, have a time of prayer, etc. They all have to eat, so why not eat together and "do small-group" at the same time! (This would be really easy to do on the campus where I teach.) If you work in an environment which would allow this, you could also do a regular lunch-break small group with coworkers. Obviously, these sorts of small-groups might not be as conducive to a structured Bible study or lesson, but it still seems like it might be better than nothing!
--I would strongly encourage people here to consider transitioning your small group toward being a house church, or to consider what you are starting with others to be, simply, a church (instead of a "small group.") These small groups often effectively function as a church anyway: believers gathering together for mutual encouragement in love through Bible reading, prayer, meal-sharing, and singing. This way, people can operate without the increasing fear that they need to answer to a larger umbrella organization or church.
--"This way, people can operate without the increasing fear that they need to answer to a larger umbrella organization or church."
BSterling, that is one of my primary concerns with house churches. I've not attended one, but I know a number of people who do. Their whole attitude is "The church we were going to wouldn't let us do things our way, so we left and started a house church so that we can do whatever we want, teach whatever we want, and believe whatever we want." Maybe the church they left was in the wrong, but I have a suspicion that they simply didn't like being told that their beliefs were "strange"...and strange definitely describes more than one of the house churches I'm familiar with. Being part of a church or larger organization may seem restrictive at times, and I know that it's not a perfect system, but at least there is some accountability. Also, for the average church member, there is the safety of knowing that if a church is part of the Southern Baptist Convention (for example), then that church at least says that it agrees with the SBC statement of faith.
I could go on, but this topic isn't about house churches, so I'll refrain!
I don't know if Boundless is planning to address the topic of house churches, but I'd love to see a few articles or blogs on that topic. It's possible that my negative opinion is strictly based on a lack of real understanding, so I'm interested in hearing other perspectives.
--@MissC1, I agree. While I'm sure there are some great house churches out there, Christians have to be careful they don't end up in a cult.
I do not think Christians are supposed to be accountable to a doctrinal statement. Rather, we are to be accountable to each other. This is a spiritual accountability and cannot be measured by doctrinal fidelity. Christians have the mind of Christ and are partakers of the divine nature of God himself. Jesus Christ keeps us accountable if we are submitted to him, and spiritually mature elders and pastors shepherd the house church as an under-shepherd. Each house church will have a different "feel" to it because of the unique makeup of its members.
There are plenty of large churches that meet in large buildings who are cults of personality. Size doesn't make a church more or less prone to being a cult. The problem is not size but the spiritual pride of elders/pastors.
--Just so people don't get the wrong idea, I want to be clear that people are accountable to the Lord as well as others. Christianity is not just about a bunch of individuals connected to each other, and it's not just about a bunch of individuals connected to God but NOT to each other. I really think doctrinal statements just get in the way, but they do help clarify general ideas of what Christianity stands for. Christians are too scared of believing the wrong propositions, just like we are scared of sinning. If Christ has (1) made us the righteousness of God and (2) given us his mind, then GOD directs us into the right things. If you're going to believe crazy things or sin, do it in front of God and he'll correct you. Otherwise, a dutiful adherence to a doctrinal statement will only mask the deeper sin problem and will keep you imprisoned.
“ Jesus Christ keeps us accountable if we are submitted to him, and spiritually mature elders and pastors shepherd the house church as an under-shepherd. “
“The problem is not size but the spiritual pride of elders/pastors.”
Seems like you’re contradicting yourself here. Which is it? Churches SHOULD have pastors/elders because they provide spiritual guidance? Or they shouldn’t because they are the source of the problem?
Ideally, I think churches should have elders/pastors. That seems to be the model in Scripture. But when elders become proud AND they lead in a top-down way over their congregation, the church can become a cult of personality.
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