With so much on our plates and time at a premium, why is joining a Community Group worth it? My wife and I have been in group for almost eighteen years—not because we work for our church but because Community Group is where God has worked most often in our lives. I've grown closer to Jesus through relationships I’ve had in small groups than anywhere else. Hearing about how other group members have experienced God opens my eyes to things I would never have considered otherwise. The people in our groups have also celebrated our good times and supported us during tough times in more and greater ways than I ever could have imagined.
My wife and I were recently reminded of the power of community and what happens when it's missing from someone's life. We were blessed to serve at a Lighthouse Family Retreat in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Lighthouse hosts retreats for families walking though childhood cancer. Over the course of a week, the parents spend time each day in a small group processing how God fits into the picture of what's happening in their lives. Some of them have never been in a small group and don't know what to expect when the week begins. During the first day, the room starts out silent. By the end of the week, it's hard to get anyone’s attention because they’re enjoying each other’s company so much.
On our second day at Lighthouse, we caught a glimpse of the power of community in the life of one man. He hadn't said two words up to that point, but stopped the group about halfway through the discussion. His child had been undergoing cancer treatment for about eighteen months and he'd never spoken to anyone about it—not a single person. Not even his wife. He hadn't wanted to talk about it because he thought everything going on in his head was weird. But after hearing everyone else talk, he realized others were experiencing the same thoughts, fears, and emotions he was. This "community" thing he was in the middle of wasn't so bad; it actually made him feel safe and he wanted it to continue.
The same thing happens in many new groups. Many of our attendees have never experienced community. They have no idea of what to expect. As a church, we believe that in order to grow spiritually, you have to be connected relationally. So, what can you do to help new members of your group feel safe and comfortable?