Last weekend, I was invited into another ministry area of our church to form and launch new small group communities. At the behest of this community’s pastor, I was asked to work with 80 individuals to teach on authentic biblical community, to cast our church’s vision for small groups, and facilitate some table discussion.
In all honesty, it went O.K. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. Some participants were deeply engaged, others appeared less-than-thrilled with the morning’s events. I couldn’t help but begin the self-evaluation game in my head as the morning session came to a close: Was I doing something wrong? Was I off my game? Or was it something completely different?
After an hour and a half leading this group, it hit me—these people did not voluntarily submit to joining a small group. They didn’t choose to be there. They were guided into this Small Group Launch experience by the pastor of this ministry. He knows the specific needs of this group, and believes being involved in a small group could meet some of those needs. Yet, from the feedback I was getting up-front, many didn’t see things the same way. Someone even told a fellow participant they were feeling a bit “coerced” into forming a small group.
Clearly, coercion is not a recipe for small group success. It’s not fertile soil for authentic Christ-centered community to grow. If participating in, or leading, a small group is nothing more than a guilt-fueled experience of going through the motions—it’s not worth the time!
This experience has caused me to consider the ‘want-to factor’ of engaging in small group community. Do people want community? Are they willing to pay the price—with their time and/or emotional investment? You’ve got to want it. You’ve got to desire connection. You’ve got to need and long for it, if community is to truly come together and grow.
Are people in your church feeling coerced into small group community? Or do they have the ‘want-to’? It’s a tough question to ask. Yet, for long-term growth, it’s a question worth pursuing.