Small Groups are where a person finds hope together with other believers. But perhaps the biggest obstacle to finding this hope together with others is feeling like you don’t belong.
Maybe you’ve heard people say things like this before:
- “I don’t feel like the people in my group really care about me.”
- “No one asked me how the surgery went.”
- “I still feel like I haven’t connected with anyone in the group.”
How can we remedy this problem so that those in our Small Group feel like they really belong?
Two Attitudes to Create
- Safety. When someone enters into the Small Group gathering, do they feel safe? Are you and others really listening? Are you starting every interaction with empathy (putting yourself in their shoes before jumping to judging or solving their problems)? When people feel safe, they feel like they can belong.
- “Knowing” them. You may know a person’s name and how many kids they have, but are you on a quest of curiosity to uncover the heart of that person? Men’s and women’s breakout prayer times can be particularly helpful for people to feel “known” when others ask second and third questions and discover the heart and motivations, burdens and dreams of each person in the group. Everyone wants to be known.
Four Practices to Start
- Frequency. If you rarely gather or if you cancel gatherings too easily, no one will feel like they belong to anything. Keeping consistent gathering times–as well as being consistent to check in with those in your small group relationally–makes a huge difference. Everyone in the group plays a part in frequently connecting in each other’s lives. Texts and conversations show people that they really do have a place in your life and you have a place in theirs.
- Informal gatherings. Especially if you are prone to formality and teaching, you will want to create times of informal get-togethers. This could be a last-minute board game night or a planned pizza dinner with the whole group. Informal gathering includes unstructured opportunities to spend time together (perhaps even with just a couple people from the group, as long as you’re mindful not to create cliques within the group). When we share our evenings, we tell people they belong in our lives.
- Vulnerability. The irony of vulnerability is that when you express it, you assume that you’ve lost some credibility in the eyes of others. But in fact, the opposite is usually true: people trust those with whom they relate. And people realize Small Group is safe. As a leader, you set the model for the level of vulnerability you expect in the group. People don’t have to over-share, but a Small Group that doesn’t share their struggles will never fully know each other.
- Prayer-and-Tell. A healthy prayer rhythm is not just to share requests, but to share when and how God answers those requests. Sharing prayer needs and how God provides pleases God, and it breeds intimacy.
When we set in place these attitudes and practices by God’s grace, they allow us to near a beautiful goal: seeing everyone in the group belong, because you “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22).