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Whether you go to a small church or a large one, it’s hard to find community in a corporate worship service for an hour and a half every Sunday. Enter the small group. I’ve had several different small group experiences over the years, and most have been positive. Sure, it can be hard to find the right group and get plugged in, but I’ve found that a small group is important for my spiritual growth, and the benefits have far outweighed the challenges.
Why should you join a small group? Here are four reasons to consider:
1. A Different Perspective Whatever type of small group you’re in, chances are it won’t be all people just like you. And that’s a good thing, because we learn and grow when we can discuss topics with people who challenge us or who see things in us that we don’t see in ourselves.
Last year my small group went through a study on spiritual gifts. During one discussion, people affirmed the gifts they saw in each other. Often times it was a gift someone didn’t necessarily see in themselves and would have missed if someone else hadn’t pointed it out. I’ve also been in small groups that weren’t connected with a certain denomination, and I’ve valued the various perspectives from members who come from different faith backgrounds.
2. Community It seems obvious, but it’s hard to have community in a church service surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people. It’s easy to feel anonymous in that type of setting, but a small group by very definition takes away that problem. I wrote about community and isolation in my last post, and a small group can be a way to find a group of people to invest in and who will do the same for you.
My first small group post-college was one where no one had family close by, so we became that for each other. We helped each other move, celebrated engagements and promotions, and grieved lay-offs and health issues. They became “my people” in the absence of actual family.
3. Opportunity to Be a Giver If you’re not plugged in to some sort of ministry or service opportunity in your local church, it’s easy to feel like a church consumer. You show up every Sunday, look for what the service has to offer you, and then leave. But we’re called to be givers, not just takers. As my pastor says, you become a bucket instead of a pipe when all you do is consume. And what happens to water that stays in a bucket and doesn’t flow in and out? It becomes stagnant, and we can become the same way.
Even if a small group doesn’t plan specific outreach opportunities, there are still ways to serve. Offer to host the group, or show up early to help set up. Volunteer to bring a snack, or follow up with group members during the week if they shared a prayer request. Welcome new members, or be in charge of the weekly communication for the group.
4. Accountability Not every small group is set up for accountability, but some groups have this as a specific purpose, and it can be a huge part of spiritual discipline and maturity. One of my friends meets with a group of men for a weekly breakfast, where the older men mentor and ask the hard questions of the younger ones. Another of my friends is in a group of only four women, and they have a structured time of sharing personal prayer requests and keeping each other updated throughout the week as they see God answer. That type of accountability can really only be fostered in a small group.
While not every group will offer all of these all of the time, I’ve found that God has used the various small groups I’ve attended to meet specific needs during different seasons in my life. Which is why I agree with Suzanne that small groups are worth it!
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--Thanks Ashley for your kind post, I would like to add another one that, in a small group the person who serves in a regular basis, will be a familiar face. You can understand their problem and can serve them as quickly as possible.
--These are good, thanks Ashley! Regular "fall programming" is starting back up at my church this week (starting in the morning), and I'm honestly so excited. The benefits you mentioned are all so true, even if they may not all happen in the same group at the same time.
I think another benefit of a small group can be the way they encourage really studying the Bible, rather than just reading a passage or hearing a sermon and then moving on. Especially if you do an inductive study or one of those studies that works slowly through a book of the Bible, you're going to be putting a lot more thought into the passage than you would by simply reading it once. Sometimes the study questions can seem fairly simple, and answering them feels like stating the obvious at first! But sometimes we need a small group discussion to force us to slow down and really digest what we've read.
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