The State of Small Groups

Kyle Reed // @kylereed

This week I want to discuss church (small, house, community) groups.
Over the week I hope to present some questions, get some push back, have people disagree, and get the resident small group guru in here to do some talking (you know who you are Josh Long) about the value of small groups.

Please chime in and make this conversation less about what I have to say and more about the discussion….

Small groups can often be a very shallow form of community. What better place to go and make yourself feel like you are participating with a community as well as get your God time in on a day that isn’t mandatory (Sunday). This could all be the doom and gloom view of small groups. But hear me out on this one. I say this because it often is true for myself. I have used small groups to build false community and a sense that I am doing my part. In all reality I am cheating community like a fat man cheats death at McDonalds (McDonalds will kill you, see SuperSize Me)

Small groups can often be a wonderful place of community and love. Hopefully you are apart of this type of small group. A group that is constantly joining in community and conversation as well as growing in spiritual maturity and the grace of Christ. When all small group leaders volunteer s to lead a small group this is how they envision things happening. A place where people come and share life with others and leave each others company knowing that they are not alone.

I have been a part of both of these types of communities (I like using this word better than group or small group). Obviously I prefer the second type of community than the first. What I am realizing more and more is the church (institution) and small groups are heading in the direction of the first type of community and not the later.

Over this next week I want to talk about small groups and why I think we are tempted to want shallow, drive through community, over a steak dinner community.

Start your convo now here….
by leaving a comment on what types of small groups you have been apart of

*Kyle

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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
  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JRallis JRallis

    Interesting. I want to think I've only been a part of the second type of small group but I'd bet I'm wrong. I always try and see the good in things so it's hard for me to think if I've ever been in that first type of group.

    Now I know I've been in groups like the second type you talk about. Where people truly care about one another and are growing toward Christ together. When your apart of something like that it truly is great I think. A big part of these small group / community groups I think is fellowship. If your group is having authentic fellowship I think that make all the difference in the world.

    Those are some of my initial thoughts. Looking forward to this discussion.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/klreed189 Kyle Reed

      I wish I could always see the good in things.
      I am marked by both. Usually I want to remember small groups for the good, the fellowship, the community, but often times I remember the bad. I am hoping to not paint small groups in a negative light, I just want to have some kind of discussion about them and see what others are saying.

  • Jordan Plumier

    There is one blog post in particular by Vince Antonucci that has really steered us as we get our first 6 community groups off the ground this week.

    We refer to these words often…

    "When a group starts focused on mission, it will ultimately get fellowship – but flowing from mission and a sense of accomplishing something together. If you start a group for fellowship – seldom do you get anything beyond fellowship – if even that…"

    "If we pursue friendship we can miss out on discipleship.
    But if we pursue discipleship we will end up with the best kind of friendship.

    If we pursue community we can miss out on a cause.
    But if we pursue a cause we will end up with the best kind of community (cause-driven community).

    If we pursue church we can miss out on Jesus.
    But if we pursue Jesus we will end up with the best kind of church."

    http://www.vinceantonucci.com/2009/05/missionless

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/klreed189 klreed189

      These words are very very wise. I am going to check that out and maybe just do a post with these words. Good stuff, this was the expertise that I was looking for.
      How are you guys intentionally doing this in your community groups?

  • http://jeremywight.blogspot.com Jeremy Wight

    Interesting post. I have never been involved with the first type of group*.

    * – I have been involved in groups that I believe not everyone was fully committed and engaged in, but if you look at the dynamics of groups this is almost always the case. You have concentric circles of leadership with those people who are less committed/engaged on the fringe of the group. The reason I think I have never been a part of the first group is I have always gone into it with the mentality that I wanted to be a part of a group and was committed to it.

    I really hope that your prediction is incorrect… What we need now more than ever is authentic community.

    @jeremywight

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/austinklee austinklee

    I have been thinking about this for a while now! Thanks for posting, Kyle! My wife and I actually started a new community group last night and I told them about your post and how I wanted us to really be a community and not merely a place to hang out.

    Thanks for your thoughts and words.

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Kevin_Ring Kevin Ring

    The church I was part of when I lived in San Diego (Kaleo http://www.kaleochurch.com) has invested a lot in developing communities and shifting its "church model" (if you will) to emphasize these communities as a high priority and central aspect of what it means to "be the church" as part of Kaleo. Drew Goodmanson (http://www.goodmanson.com) is an elder of Kaleo and writes a lot about their Missional Community strategy.

    The church I'm now part of is at a place where we understand the value of a true community of believers both as being a primary expression of the Gospel and as a better way than programs for achieving many of our desired goals as a church. But to actually move into deeper commitment within our small groups requires a level of intentionality and a tremendous amount of faith and were struggling through both.

    I'd be curious to hear from people who've been part of churches moving to deeper community within their groups.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/klreed189 Kyle Reed

      Thanks for the links I will share all the links that I have gathered on Friday and these two will definitely be in there.
      I am curious as well to hear from others who've been part of churches moving to deeper community within their groups.
      Stay tuned.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Joshsherif Joshsherif

    You know it seems that the best small groups are formed naturally. A group of friends sitting around discussing issues and united by some common bond. It works sometimes the other way(forced) if the group's purpose in meeting is important enough to hold the group together. And of course there always needs to be weeding and pruning of the group. I have found that in forced groups some people need to leave and find another group and some groups will need to intentionally look for some key people to join their group.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/klreed189 Kyle Reed

      Some of the best small groups that I have been apart of meet inside of a dorm room every night. Those are the times I look forward to.

  • Joshua Long

    These are great questions, Kyle! You said in your first post that you want to hear from me, but I've been listening because I can learn a great deal from this conversation with all of the fresh perspective. It's easy to get stuck in a mindset and just keep pushing up against a wall. Jordan Plumier had some excellent points in the first post about mission. The orienting principle of community should always be common mission.

    The problem is that not everyone is ready for real community. Pseudo-community is bound to happen all over the place because it takes a certain level of spiritual and relational maturity to engage in this type of relationship. Most groups have a wild mix of participants…people who want to play softball, people who want to make friends, people who want to have a bible study, and people who want to pursue a mission sacrificially within a community. When all these folks are thrown together in one group, chaos ensues.

    I'm currently experimenting with the idea of allowing for fun, unintentional communities so long as the leader is intentional about guiding the participants to deeper community and a growing connection to God. I'm also allowing groups that want to do bible study short term and not ready for a lifetime commitment to any group. Lastly, I'm providing resources and support for that third type of group, a covenant community that intentionally engages in transparency, accountability, etc.

    Can't wait to see what could come of this!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/klreed189 Kyle Reed

      You finally weigh in. You are the only guy that I know who puts a ton of study and thought into small groups that is why I needed you to correct all my incorrect thoughts.
      I think you are right on when you said that people are not ready for real community. I think that the church does a very poor job of defining what a small group is and to that matter what community is.

      I like the ideas you listed that you are trying, sounds interesting to me.