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“Too Big, Too Small, Just Right”: 3 Lessons from Finding Unexpected Community

Written by Essence Brown on

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“Once upon a time there were three bears who lived in a house in the forest. There was a great big father bear, a middle-sized mother bear and a tiny baby bear.” Do you know the rest of this story? This is the story of Goldilocks and her adventures trying chairs, beds, and bowls of porridge, always experiencing the same result: one being too big, one being too small, and one being just right.

Too Big?

You see, I’ve attended College Park Church infrequently for over ten years, never fully committing to this body of believers. In those years, I visited churches both big and small, but never finding my “just right.”

When an opportunity presented itself to join staff, I followed the Lord’s leading but with many hesitations. I’d stand in the Atrium and feel so isolated in a sea of people.

“Could I ever really fit in here? Is there a place for me among this crowd?”

I had hope that my transition on staff would ease my anxieties “Maybe finding community will be easier because I’m on staff.”

Too Small?

On my first week on staff a coworker invited me to her Small Group. It was nice, but I wasn’t sure it was the group for me. They encouraged me to continue to try another group with no hard feelings. Weeks later I committed to a different group, but honestly it didn’t have the right feel either. “Do I try another?” I pondered. Trying multiple groups inside of a year seemed taboo or non-committal.

Under the surface, God was stirring in me a yearning for community (Psalm 37:4). But I feared that I wouldn’t fit in or that maybe College Park wasn’t the church for me.

Just Right

God gave me strength, and I tried a third group (Gal. 6:9). This group was filled with people unlike myself. With each member at least fifteen years my senior and married, this single girl didn’t have the highest hopes. But it turned out that it’s just right.

As I celebrate nine months at College Park Church, my experience is very limited, but my involvement with Small Groups has taught me a few things.

1. We Have Nothing to Fear

In the months searching for a group, God exposed many of my fears.

  • Fears of not belonging
  • Fears of not being cared for (Phil. 4:19)
  • Even fears of not having enough time (2 Cor. 9:8)

My search was tiring but gave me an opportunity to trust and wait on the Lord. I had to lean into His promises. And He promises to satisfy the weary soul (Jer. 31:25).

2. “Dating” A Small Group Should Have Boundaries

Checking out Small Groups felt a lot like dating!

With every new group I feared making a “covenantal” commitment before I was ready. I learned that it is okay to say upfront that you’re just check out a group.

Commit to a certain timeframe (I suggest attending at least three weeks.) If you practice clear communication then there is less chance of hurt feelings. Plus, you can always be friends if it doesn’t work out.

3. Perfection May Look Different Than You Think

I started with groups that looked how I imagined my “just right” Small Group should look. That thinking yielded very little fruit, and it almost caused me to miss out on the blessing of diverse community.

Feel free to try a group that doesn’t look like your current community (Phil. 2:4). I’m glad I did!

Finding Your Group

With over a hundred Small Groups at College Park, it can feel overwhelming. I acknowledge and empathize with the struggle that comes with that.

But in those groups you will find people that God is calling you to commit to (Eph 4:16). God is faithful, so remain constant in prayer and don’t lose heart.  Even if it’s not what you expected, God will provide what’s “just right” for you.

Essence Brown

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