Category Archives: spiritual disciplines

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.)


little fingers.

My little fingers hurt.

It is a completely unexpected pain.  All I did was walk into an empty gym and pick up a basketball and start shooting from the free throw line. I took about 25 shots. I made about 3 shots. And…

my little fingers hurt.

It’s been many years since I took that many shots in a row. I’m not an athlete. And I don’t like to look like a failure. As a result, although I’ve had access to a gym every day for the past, well, for most of the past forty-five years, I haven’t walked in and taken 25 shots in a row for a long time.

Why did I try it today? I think it was because I wanted to find out what it would feel like to decide to do something outside my normal routine, something that other people have worked to make routine. (Okay, truth in advertising. I walked in, and then decided to try shooting, and then, when I missed the first 4 shots, decided to try several in a row. So it was an emerging decision.) There are people who have decided to work on free throws as an important part of their lives. Some are kids wanting to find a niche in the game. Some are pros who are tired of failing when they get to the free throw line. Some are people who just want to set some record for the most free throws in a row.

(My little fingers still hurt.)

Consistency is one of my three words for this year. And I don’t think of myself as a very consistent person. In truth this means that I’m not consistent about the things I would like to be consistent about. I’d love to be consistent about a to do list, or about a morning routine that is productive or about following through on tasks. I’d love to be consistent about reading my Bible or about emailing friends and family encouraging words or about eating wisely.

On the other hand, I realize that I am probably consistent about showing grace and about checking email and about laughing. I am consistent about walking with Nancy. And I realize that being consistent about some of the other things means remembering and believing that they are important. Important enough to keep doing even when…

my little fingers hurt.