The “perfect” Community Group looks different for each person, but below is what it looks like for me:
(If you rushed for time or just don’t care what my version of a perfect Community Group is, there is no shame in skipping this section. You can just look at the candid shot I took from my perfect Community Group below and then skip to “Why You Will Never Find The Perfect Community Group”)
The group would meet in my neighborhood within walking distance. As our family walked down the road, we would drop our kids off with a great babysitter who would have a kid’s version of our group lesson prepared. We would then walk down the street two more houses to where the adults would meet. There we would have dinner and fellowship. Once we finished, we would jump into discussion that would be led each week by a different person who was a wellspring of wisdom and knowledge, but was able to make the application simple and practical. The discussion would find the perfect balance between serious and light-hearted; it would include tears of joy, sadness, and laughter. It would be relatable for people at all places in their spiritual walk, there would be no awkward pauses and every person’s comments would resonate with someone. After an amazing discussion, the group would then share personal and specific prayer requests that were transparent and meaningful. We would also pray for those in our life who did not know Jesus and could benefit from a group like ours. As the meeting time finished, the group would linger because everyone wanted to spend more time with one another.
The group of 18-20 people would consist of non-believers, new believers, and mature believers who lived in our neighborhood. It would include different races, socio-economic statuses, political parties, and more. Despite its diversity, we would have harmony with one another and would share many of the descriptions that the Early Church had about serving and caring for one another. The relationships within the group would grow to be strong bonds that would last for a lifetime. Though the group only met once a week, we would stay in touch with one another daily and meet together throughout the week.
Along with an amazing bond with one another, the group would have a significant impact in the city and the world. Monthly, the group would have Hangout Nights where they invited our neighborhood to join and other people in their life that would benefit from the group. Multiple times a year we would serve the city or participate in a global outreach through our church. Because of our intentionality of welcoming and serving our neighborhood and city, there would be numerous testimonies from non-believers about how unique our group was and how loving we were. These people would join our group and over time multiple people would meet Jesus through faith and repentance.
As these individuals came to faith, they would get involved in D-groups where they would begin to know and follow Jesus. As our group grew, people would be so burdened to share what they had experienced with their neighbors and co-workers, that they would be willing to leave community so that others could find it. As they were ready to lead, the group would celebrate and commission the new leaders as they launch a group in their neighborhood with the plan to multiply what they had experienced.
Why You Will Never Find The Perfect Group
I have been in some amazing Community Groups over the last decade, but none of them look like the one above. You know it is a dream when you expect to have that much diversity, but no awkward pauses. Though the description above is elaborate, it isn’t too far removed from the expectations that we often have when we visit a Community Group for the first time. We have a picture of what the group should be and often we leave disappointed because the group is different.
The group is either too small or too big. It meets too often or not enough. It meets too long or too short. The childcare is either too restrictive or too loose. It doesn’t emphasize bible study enough or it doesn’t emphasize fellowship enough. It’s either too inward focused or too outward focus. It has too many “put-together” people or it has too many “broken” people. Everyone has the same opinion or no one can agree on anything. The group is too transient or its too exclusive. The discussion focuses too heavily on what the Scripture meant back then or it focuses too much on what it means for us today.
We will never find the perfect group, because no one is perfect. And if we were to find a perfect group, it would cease to be as soon as we join it. Anytime you put a group of flawed individuals in a room, we can expect there to be awkward pauses and awkward people; there will be moments of tensions and moments where you just don’t get one another. When we give up the quest for the perfect Community Group, we begin to experience the blessings God has for us in an imperfect one.
What To Do When You Don’t Find It
The most common advice that I give people as they prepare to visit a Community Group for the first time is to be open-minded, because the group will be different than what you expect. Much like marriage, friendships, or choosing a church, everyone has expectations and if we don’t manage them, then we quickly find ourselves frustrated and disappointed.
Whether we have never attended a small group before or if we have been in them for a decade, we have an expectation of what they should and should not be. We have a set of values or priorities that we expect all groups to follow. We have a structure that we think is best and a teaching style that is most effective. We have certain people that we want to be in the group (and certain people we don’t).
We must be cautious not to come into a group with a long set of demands. When we come in with expectations for a group to function a certain way, we leave frustrated with how it didn’t meet up to our standards and we miss the blessings that the group does offer. As we consider any group, we must delineate between what are non-negotiables and what are preferences.
Every group will be different than what you expect, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t what you need. The nation of Israel had a very clear picture of the type of Savior that they wanted, but Christ instead gave them what they needed: a lamb, not a lion. As you attend groups, approach open-minded and give the group the benefit of the doubt. Instead of focusing on the ways that it didn’t meet your expectations, focus on what were the strengths of the group. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- “What are the strengths of this group?”
- “Are my concerns biblical or preferential?”
- “How can God use this group to grow me in my relationship with him?”
- “How can I contribute to this group of people?”
Lastly, one of the most impactful quotes that I have read about Christian community is by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In his book, Life Together, he speaks powerfully to the importance of embracing the uniqueness of each community that God provides in our life. It is my prayer for all those who consider joining a small group, that they experience the perfect riches that Christ has in store for them through his imperfect people.
“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial...If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficult; if, on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.”Dietrich Bonhoeffer