This three-part series explores some basics on how to build, maintain, and grow good small groups in your church, fostering healthy biblical engagement together.
After a tough week, it’s nice to be able to go where everybody knows your name. Where they're always glad you came. Where everyone’s troubles are the same. Or so promises the theme from the old TV show, “Cheers.”
But what about your neighbors or friends who are unchurched? Do you invite them to your group?
Typically, when it comes to “bringing in the sheaves” we immediately offer invitations to strangers to visit our church. In my experience, resistance to such invitations is high. In many cases, it was a bad church experience in the past that is keeping people out of church now.
Church, for many, carries a negative connotation. The experience is viewed as ritual, formal, impersonal, and even a little weird.
Yet, when invited into a Cheers-like scenario, even sans alcohol, those outside the church are much more interested in trying it out. Mostly because a small group in their neighbor’s house doesn’t look like church!
Yet, welcoming newcomers does have its challenges.
The good group is cozy, safe, and maybe even a little predictable. Rocking the boat by adding newcomers can be resisted by the group, but it’s a resistance that should be overcome. Why? Because the group isn’t just about you or your buddies! Or any one person. Well, other than Jesus.
Exactly because small groups are cozy, safe, and predictable, they are the perfect, non-threatening place to invite your skeptical friends and neighbors for these four reasons:
1. It’s just people. Instead of an institution, the small group is basically just some folks hanging out. While some may have issues with “The Church,” fewer have a problem with getting to know their neighbors and their neighbor’s friends, enjoying some snacks, and engaging in casual discussion of the Bible or issues of faith.
2. More than a book. Engaging with people of the Word who view the Bible as God’s living Truth, makes the Bible accessible to those who view it with suspicion. Instead of being confronted with a harsh set of esoteric rules, the warmth of the Word is released through the sharing of those who seek to live it authentically.
3. Hey, this is nice! Being welcomed into an intimate, caring, loving group of people translates the Gospel into reality for those encountering it. Instead of being “preached at” in a sermon, in a group people engage with other people who are just like them. People who have car payments, trouble at work, childcare issues, health challenges, and all the rest of the stuff of real life. Instead of ritual, they encounter reality.
4. Is there more? A good small group exhibits the attractiveness of the Gospel and, therefore, attracts outliers into the group and then into the church. Often those who object to church do so for reasons that aren’t really valid. Their fears or objections are based on misinformation or time- and location-specific incidents that are not representative of the full Body of Christ. Acceptance into a good group helps dissolve the barriers to meeting the personal God and finding a relationship with Jesus.
It’s tempting to rest in the enjoyment of the group we know and ignore those outside we don’t. But to be true to our calling to share Christ everywhere, even our cozy groups need to be open and inviting. Is yours?.
Previously in part 1: Logistics of the good group.
Previously in part 2: Leading the good group.
you in a good small group or any group? What makes it a good group or a
not so good group? Do you have other good ideas for creating good small
groups? Please share them in the comments!