“Talking. Plenty of really engaging dialogue.” That’s how one small group leader described his start-up small group to me recently.
Since this group of young parents formed in the spring, they have deeply appreciated their time together. Therein lies the problem. The group has enjoyed each other’s company so much—they haven’t moved beyond talking and socializing. There’s been no study of God’s Word. No praying with and for each other. And no discussion or planning about the future of the group.
Essentially, what they’ve done since they formed as a group three months ago is hang out as fellow Christ-followers. Nothing more. Nothing less.
While I firmly believe that it’s important for any start-up small group to error on the side of building community (as opposed to immediate in-depth study), most people actually desire more from a small group community.
So what is the best way to get past the social-only meeting? Pray.
Prayer is the quickest way to help a group move past a purely social gathering into some depth. The simple act of asking for prayer requests invites people to open up. It creates an environment for deeper honesty. It helps people peak out of their shell and volunteer a bit of information about themselves.
And then, taking the next step to actually pray together takes your group to yet another level of depth. When you hear another person speak things that are important to you in prayer to the Father your hearts are naturally drawn closer. And your community is strengthened.
In their excellent manifesto on small groups, Making Small Groups Work, clinical psychologists Henry Cloud and John Townsend write, “Coming together for prayer in small groups connects people with God and each other…it draws us close, vertically and horizontally.”
Pray. Pray about your kids, your job, your friends, and the needs of your church. Pray.
Move beyond a social-only gathering into a more personal and meaningful group time by coming before the Father—together.