We all bring our expectations with us into church. The problem is that our expectations aren’t always accurate. Small Groups may not be what you think they are. Here are five misconceptions about Small Groups:
1. A Small Group Is Too Much Commitment
When I was in my twenties, I constantly wrestled with the tension between loneliness and commitment. I often felt lonely and longed for relationships. But I was also skittish to make commitments: because I wanted to leave my options (and my calendar) open. Eventually, I realized that relationships come from commitment.
Will a Small Group ask you to show up to the regular gathering time? Yes.
Will these men and women expect you to share openly about your life in discussion and prayer times? Yes.
Will they even invite you to opportunities outside of the gathering to be involved in each other’s lives? Yes.
But these commitments have a payoff: real relationship and real growth.
A Small Group isn’t too much commitment if you’re looking for a community that’s also committed to you.
2. A Small Group Doesn’t Require Any Commitment
I had a friend once share with me that after one visit to a Small Group, the leader slid a paper across the table for them to sign: it was a Small Group “covenant.” My friend was definitely not ready to commit to the group yet and was surprised at the leader’s quickness to have them sign on to the various commitments that group members fulfilled (e.g.: attending, sharing prayer requests, helping with meals, etc.).
What this overzealous leader missed wasn’t asking for a commitment, it was timing and personal connection. Whether or not your group writes down what everyone is committing to in a “covenant,” there is still an important principle here: a group isn’t a place where you casually step in and out of each other’s lives. But it’s also not a place where everyone in the group is signing up to become each other’s best friends (although that level of friendship does happen).
Instead, a Small Group requires basic commitments from those involved, that we:
- Believe the gospel and God’s Word and want to learn more of it
- Show up and participate in the regular gatherings of the group
- Share our lives to one another
- Pray for and connect with each other outside of gathering times
We’re a part of the group because we act like we’re a part of the group: that’s the simple definition of commitment.
3. A Small Group is Just a Hangout
Pizza parties are great. Barbecue nights are great. But a Small Group is even more than this.
Your Small Group isn’t just the place where you eat food and catch up on the past few weeks. It’s a place where you open up God’s Word. And you talk about it, discover what it has to say, apply it to your life alongside others, and pray.
Small Group is even better than a hangout: it’s worship in community.
4. A Small Group is a Just a Bible Study
Yes, we do study the Bible together in a group gathering. Yes, we want to hear what God says and not just what each other say. But a Small Group is more than a Bible Study.
In a Bible Study, you can focus on uncovering the meaning and lessons within a passage of the Bible, then walk away glad that you discovered something new or deepened your knowledge.
In a Small Group, the job isn’t finished until you’ve tackled how to live it out. Groups lean into application. Everyone should walk out of a discussion time knowing how they’re going to practically respond to what God taught them.
5. Small Group is No Fun
Sadly, we can think of a Small Group gathering as simply a Bible discussion. It’s more than that.
“Small Group” is not an event you attend; it’s a people you belong to. And when you belong in relationship with others, this creates opportunities to live life together.
We can help each other through hard situations. And we can also laugh and rejoice with one another (Rom. 12:15). It’s a delight to be united with other Christians (Ps. 133:1-3). And most groups have fun together:
- Laughing about life
- Encouraging one another
- Playing games and getting meals together
- Sending fun text messages throughout the week
Community is a commitment, but it’s not just drudgery. It’s a delight. And when we see Small Groups rightly, we begin to see one of God’s greatest gifts to us: his people.