Here you will find resources of knowledge to help direct you in the desire for community in your life. The focus of this blog is to concentrate on practical advice that reveals insights into how human beings were designed to live and function together. When applied correctly, this information should bring forth a rich and effective experience of community in your life.
One of the church’s common answers these days to how someone can grow in Christ is “get into a small group.” Finally, we’ve admitted the church service is of little value. In fact, many churches have so totally given up on the church service model that a buzz-phrase that has gone around for a while now among administrators in these types of churches is “We’re not a church with small groups, we’re a church of small groups.” Basically, people are so totally over church as they know it, even the language that is being used is trying to escape it!
But, is a small group really the answer to growing in Christ? Or is it just the latest fad soon to die out like the rest?
The typical small group meeting
In the typical small group meeting, you’re likely to find some or all of the following parts:
members that typically see each other the most in weekly or bi-weekly meetings.
a small group leader who controls leads the group in discussion about a spiritual topic.
a pre-planned spiritual agenda or a curriculum for spiritual guidance.
the eating of (usually unhealthy) food together.
icebreaker games to encourage people to get to know each other.
an expectation of commitment
common beliefs about life
If and when people dig deep enough, they find that the real reason they attend churches isn’t to sing songs and listen to sermons (although this is what churches are built around). The real reason they attend is because they’re searching to belong to close-knit-organic-body life-Kingdom community. This search is in every Christian’s spiritual DNA. When they aren’t in it, they feel (even unknowingly) that they’re in a wilderness. This is because Kingdom community is a Christian’s home.
The small group is the church’s latest answer to manufacture it. The problem is…community can’t be manufactured. This is because authentic community contains life, and life can’t be manufactured. You can’t build a living thing on an assembly line.
But this is the way it’s attempted in small group programs. The thought is that if all of the parts above are “put together” by following the instructions, then Kingdom community will “be built.” But, it’s being learned the hard way that this just isn’t the case.
Just a quick note to address the reason for my absence in recent weeks. It’s because I’m working on a new e-book tentatively titled “X Tips for Building Healthier Small Groups and Communities.” There’s an X because I don’t know exactly how many tips there will be yet. Also, the title is just tentative as mentioned. After I finish it, I will be working on finalizing the title so it’s more “market-y.”
I’m not exactly sure how long it will take me because I’ve been backing off a bit on writing and working on the blog a bit lately. A recent book I read (Making Room For Life) encouraged me to adjust my lifestyle out of a workaholic-type structure to a healthier structure. More specifically, I’ve started to try and follow the Hebrew day schedule. Without getting too specific, it basically relegates productivity time to the day time and relaxing and relationships to dinner time and beyond. Of course, it also employs a Sabbath day rest as well.
Needless to say, if you’re not working all the time, you get less work done. But, you’re healthier, which is the point. I’ve been doing it for a couple months now and I can say that it definitely works better. I don’t get burnt out as much and I think I actually achieve more productivity per minute of working than I used to. I even heard my wife say recently – “You’ve been getting a lot of stuff done.” Weird how things work better when we do them God’s way :).
Anyhow…I just wanted to let you all know that I didn’t disappear and hope that you’ll find the current work I’m doing valuable when it’s finished. Blessings to you!
Attempting to love your neighbor as yourself can be discouraging. There are times when you can feel alone in your endeavors. You might feel like you’re the one who always has to do the initiating. You might feel like your effort is disproportionate to the effort of those around you.
It’s at these times when the temptation to retreat into an individualistic lifestyle will feel quite strong. You’ll start to think thoughts like “I can survive just fine on my own. Why should I put all this effort into these relationships when there’s not much reciprocation?”
Control breeds loneliness
If you feel alone, your problem may be the one I’ve dealt with along the way…you’re trying to do it ALONE. And if you’re trying to do it alone, it’s likely that you’re doing so because you want to be in control. You want the activities to be what YOU plan. You want them to be when YOU want them to be. Because you think you know what needs to happen. If this is the case, you can bet you won’t have much success with experiencing something organic and healthy.
One of two things are bound to happen. 1) You turn into an institution with top-down control or 2) you disintegrate. I can testify of personal experience with both. I’ll share just one of them now.
People are going to bug you. Of course, you never bug them, right?
One of the biggest obstacles that exists in the development of relationships and community is how we handle annoyances. The truth is most of us aren’t very good at it. Most parents don’t train their kids at it because most parents aren’t trained at it.
The problem here is that in the places where people don’t learn how to handle these situations, there you will find a lack of community. Or you will find a young community that hasn’t imploded from within yet.
Truth be told, this is one of the main reasons why the institutional church structure is so popular in many cultures (although most people aren’t cognitively aware this is the case). It limits annoyance between people to as low of a level you can go and still feel justified enough to call yourself a “community” of believers. You get together once in a while, have very little interaction, and you can always retreat to the comfort of your own home or flee to another institution (who hasn’t done THAT before right!?).
The best way forward, then, is to invest time in relationships with those who seem open and responsive. When you sense that people are responding to your efforts to neighbor well, then invest time and energy in them. If they don’t, be secure enough to move on.
As a person grows more mature in Christ, a by-product of this growth will be an obvious attempt to love their neighbors more consistently over time. But, this does not mean the neighbors will always be liked…or that they’ll always like you! It also doesn’t mean they’ll be as interested in a relationship with you as you are with them.