When I first started going to small groups, or whatever you want to call them, the choices were pretty limited. Every church had the obligatory marriage class followed by another marriage class with a newer, trendier book. The basic rules for marriage classes never change.
Men are different than women
Women are different than men
Take your spouse seriously
Learn to communicate
Go to church
After getting the repackaged version of those seven points over and over again, you can see why I thought small groups were wearing thin. Also, every church had the popular, trendy, small group study with a workbook based on a best selling book. Some of those are better than others but some of them are too structured and too vanilla. I dislike workbooks because they take away from discussions and people focus on filling in blanks instead of listening.
I’ve grown to like being in a small group. I look forward to seeing everyone, engaging them in discussions, and listening to them talk about life.
Life. That’s the secret to a good small group. I have very few rules. I don’t really want to teach a lesson on Revelation and I don’t want to get into a long study that would make visitors feel they needed to wait before joining a group. Other than that, I just try to get people talking and I try not to get too rigid with an agenda. The conversations are more important than bullet points.
Our group has studied popular music (not contemporary Christian) and how people communicate through music. The basic premise was simple. Most people listen to something. Learn how God is present all around us and you can connect to someone—no matter their musical preference. We’ve also studied minor Bible characters, religious themes in popular movies, the seven churches of Revelation as spiritual conditions, and others.
You can use anything to speak to someone about Jesus as long as you don’t exclude him or them. Everything is spiritual. Sometimes, you just have to look a little deeper.
Everyone is looking for something in life. Everyone is looking for truth. When you understand that, you can relate to almost anyone at some level.
Small groups are important because people have to have a sense of community. Even atheists have started churches—of a sort—out of a desire for fellowship. Small group should never be so stuck on the lesson that the conversation is smothered. Jesus came to build a community, not a lesson plan.