The State of Small Groups Part 3

Kyle Reed // @kylereed

Small groups struggle because they stay at the surface and never dive deep. My dad often says, “you can only go so deep,” and my Grandpa often follows that up with, “keep it simple stupid.” But at some point you have to get out of the kiddy pool and dive into the ocean of community. Part three of this series on small groups deals with this false idea that community comes when you sign up for a small group that meets once a week. So Dive in and read more

“How is your marriage going?” This was what our small group leader led off with last week at small groups when we were meeting together (this was toward the end of the night when the guys and girls split up) if this were the type of questions asked of you. These small groups had been meeting for about three weeks now and this was the first one that I was able to attend. The awkward silence that followed and then the even more awkward response was enough to make me never want to get married (this is a lie, really I am saying this to just make a point. I still want to get married). As we went around the room sharing how our marriages were going I could not help but think the next question that we were going to cover was “what is your deepest secret?” I do not fault our leader. He was seriously concerned and was there to support the guys in the group. But these type of questions are usually followed with very shallow and simple answers. Especially the fact that we have all known each other for less than a month.

Garrison Keillor wrote “It’s a shallow life that doesn’t give a person a few scars.” This statement holds a lot of truth inside of it and can be seen inside of community. Going deep with a community brings about pain, hurt, happiness, laughter, anger, and sometimes bitterness, but it is necessary to grow community. When I am talking about going deep with a community I am not talking about have a deep intellectual conversation (though this will happen and is good to have). No, I am talking about taking a journey, diving down deep into life. I picture it like diving deep into the ocean. It seems huge and never ending, but at some point you get to the bottom, it just takes a little while. Going deep with a community brings about scars, but it also brings you closer together.

Shotgun small groups never seem to work. These groups that are thrown together, groups that meet once a week and cover a booklet that was given to them by the church, these are the types of groups that I have been apart of, and they only last for 6 weeks. Why? Because we never got to know each other, we never talked about why we like the cardinals, or why we think U2 is the best band of all time, or why it is difficult being a UPS delivery man. We meet at the house right at 7 o’clock, sit awkwardly on the couch and open out books up to the given week. The leader usually reads straight from the book and then ask a question that is difficult to answer because their is no context to the question. These groups fall apart because they turn into more of a clock watching time then a time of watching each other grow. When community is forced, it seems to break down pretty quickly.

Tomorrow we will talk about the other side of small groups….the ones that grow community and grow together.

I know you have something to say….so say it


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Kyle Reed

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I create websites, conversations, and ideas. Advocate for the 20 somethings. Looking to connect everyone to a mentor. Married to my best friend, Ginny. I like my coffee black and my dog Jack. I currently live in Nashville and work at Sony Music/Provident in Nashville
  • Briony

    there is definitely a lot of truth here. our church does small groups and sometimes they are successful but other times, they are exactly what you explained above. i think the biggest problem in ours is the insecurity of not wanting to be wrong, of sounding stupid, of being vulnerable. we all have our guards up and aren't really willing to put ourselves out there.
    i've learned it is important to recognize that being a part of a community is just that, being a part of something that isn't about you. that is another thing i think people struggle with, we won't go all in on something because something better may come along. we have yet to really understand the importance of community so our motivations of going to the small group isn't to truly build relationships but to cross it off the list. we aren't in a place to love eachother, just sit next to eachother. i am looking forward to your next entry.

    • Kyle Reed

      This is right on. Great points here. I think you are exactly right, we are afraid to risk something and look stupid and therefore it never goes past the obvious pat answers.
      Very well said.

  • Mark

    Participating in a small group means giving up control — of your — my agenda, my way people should act, my way topics should be addressed. I seem to struggle in groups when others don't want to go deep, I find myself getting frustrated with people who always talk about others and not themselves, who turn aside personal questions by talking instead about the church in general. Or who want to discuss ISSUES and not the struggle and joy that is REAL LIFE. And yet, I was a part of small groups when I was supposed to be deep, and accountable, and honest, but wasn't. I do know the most growth I've ever had was in small groups, and when I'm out of them I have a hunger deep inside of me for that type of community… like the guys in Cheers, "we wanna be where everyone knows our name." Thanks for starting this conversation, Kyle.

  • Kyle Reed

    Thanks mark for the thoughts. The cheers line is very appropriate for this conversation. We all want to be in a group that knows who we are so that we do not have to hold any truth back and we can be ourselves. I thin the struggle for me is that we never get to that point because the small groups either break down, the group never goes there, or the groups stop because the church wants to move on. I am much like you, I struggle because I want to go deep, I want to look inside, talk about my emotions, and then see what others think. Instead we are stuck giving pat answers that lead us to no where.

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