Monday, August 01, 2011

Small Groups: Why Have Them At All?

I guess this is the logical question to ask in this series.

What can small groups achieve that larger groups may struggle to?

I've been in some shocking small groups (which I'll go into in a later post), but overall my experiences have been positive.  I think small groups benefit introverted or shy people especially.

Here are some reasons why I think small groups are beneficial and worth putting effort into:
  • It is generally easier to get to know people on a deeper level.  This does depend on the personalities in the group, but a small group makes it harder for people to remain silent and not have anyone notice.  Generally people notice if you're sitting quietly and not speaking to anyone which doesn't always happen in a crowd.  Some people have mentioned they have found it easier to invite friends to a Bible study group rather than a big church service.  Again, this depends on the personality of the person you're wanting to invite (some people like being lost in the crowd where they can just take everything in rather than having people set upon them, asking them who they are etc).
  • Moving on from this point...I've found some great friends in small groups whereas many people I've only known at church remain at an acquaintance level.  I became friends with a good friend of mine through Bible study.  We'd been in the same church for years, but never got to know each other.  She had to leave early each week because of work so I would email the prayer points to her.  Our friendship grew from there.
  • There are more opportunities to become involved and serve others.  There often tends to be more 'passengers' in larger gatherings.  Because you're getting to know people better, their needs become more obvious.  Small groups give people to confidence to try new things in front of a familiar, supportive audience.
  • Small groups enable you to focus on and care for a particular group of people. There are so many opportunities to love others, it can become a bit daunting.  That doesn't mean we ignore other needy people, but the group gives us a place to start.
  • The people you're meeting with are likeminded.  That doesn't mean there aren't personality clashes and disagreements, but generally the reason for meeting is pretty clear e.g. we read books, we study the Bible and pray, we're all mums, we play tennis etc.  Sometimes in larger groups the group's purpose can become lost.
I don't know where I would be in my faith if it wasn't for small groups.  I would have ended up with only shallow relationships and become daunted and lost in the crowd (this can happen in churches only of 50 people).  I don't know where I would be in a small farming community without sporting groups.  That doesn't mean everyone I've met has become my best friend (some experiences have been far from positive), but overall the benefits are huge.

The sad thing is when small groups die.  You're in a group which has been a fantastic experience, but slowly people's busyness is choking the group.  Less and less people turn up at each meeting.  You're still keen, but others have lost their drive.  The hardest thing is learning to let go.  Some groups were always destined to have an expiry date, but having wisdom in when to give up trying to resurrect a dying group is painful.

What small groups have you been part of, and did you find them beneficial?

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