One way to start a small group.

Last spring, Nancy and I decided to start a small group.

If you are in church circles, that is a code phrase for “people getting together to talk about spiritual things and is the most important thing in the church ever and everyone should be in one and if you aren’t or your church doesn’t have a massive program of small groups you are a complete spiritual failure.”

If you aren’t in church circles, that means a group of people getting together regularly to talk about something that matters to them. Think book club.

We asked about 12 people from our church if they would like to meet for six Saturdays from 6-8 pm in a lounge space at the church to eat soup and talk about six basic spiritual practices: praying, fasting, silence, service, celebration and confession.

And people said yes. And showed up.

Here’s what I learned.

  1. We just asked. We didn’t worry about some big program, or everyone in the church doing it. We wanted to get to know some other people.
  2. Having a limit on the number of weeks let people know that it was a limited commitment. That helped a lot.
  3. We had food together. The hour we spent eating together (and cooking for each other) was delightful.
  4. I had questions that would foster conversation, but we didn’t stick to the questions. Each week we looked at a few paragraphs from the Bible. Sometimes people would have additional questions about what it meant. Sometimes people would talk about what they had previously been taught. Sometimes people would ask each other questions.
  5. I did more talking at the beginning of the study than in later weeks. I worked hard to ask more than tell, to deflect answering until other people answered. But I still struggle with talking too much and with not creating a safe space for everyone to talk.
  6. Not everyone wants–or needs–to talk.

Have you ever started this kind of group? What has worked? What was the coolest thing? And what more would you like to know about our group or about leading/teaching? (I working on a list of specific teaching things as a post for next week.)


6 responses to “One way to start a small group.

  1. I love this, and it reminds me of my friend Cheryl (@fendergurl). Cheryl is not an experienced musician herself (though she is a beautiful singer), but she has a tremendous passion for music. Out of this passion, she decided she wanted to start a group for local songwriters. Her expectation was to create a small group of amateur songrwriters who would gather once a month to play their songs and talk about them.

    Little did she know at the time, there was a real want for this in our city’s music community.

    Without any pre-planning, other than finding a local coffee house willing to host the group, she posted a message on Facebook. Before she knew it, she had over 20 people interested.

    What was surprising was the range of musical experience…6 months later, we’ve had some of the most talented musicians in our country , pro musicians who play all over the continent, amateur songwriters who make the rounds at local open stage nights, and hacks like me attend.

    In the group, we are all on common ground – the experienced guys help the less experienced, but they are learning as well.

    It’s a wonderful experience to be a part of a group. And you’re right – it doesn’t have to be all organized and perfect – it just has to exist. Passion takes care of the rest.

  2. Did the same thing w/ Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis. 8 guys Thurs 7-9 , 6 weeks. We’re on week 5. They showed up!Same thing. I talked a lot at the beginning but now I just facilitate. Great subject matter and awesome study. Looking for a sequel to do in January on a father/son study.

  3. Sue – I love this. This is a perfect example of building community, of informal mentoring.

    What is funny to me (in a delighted way) is that there was a desire that took one person overcoming possible insecurity (I don’t know Cheryl so I’m guessing) to just do it, to just meet.

    As we met with our group tonight (Because, after the first six weeks, we took several weeks off, and started again), we talked about how often our pictures of hwo this are get in the way of how things really are. We defeat ourselves.

    And community can hep us learn not to do that.


  4. Thanks, Byron, for stopping by. Great example. I like the idea of taking a break til January. It lets people breath during the holidays.

  5. Just thinking about this.


  6. Thanks Jon, i really enjoy your stories and structures here. This has helped me dissolve some assumptions and fears.