How To Choose A Small Group Community
Community is of vital importance to our spiritual, social, and emotional development. The people who walk with us through life shape the life that we lead. What should you be looking for when searching for a small group of trusted friends? Consider this story from author Laurie Polich:
“When I was 17, I had my first small-group experience. It was February of my senior year. I had signed up to go to a Christian camp for the—ahem—very spiritual reason that my boyfriend was going, and I wanted to be with him (a common level of spirituality among high school students). But God wasn’t constrained by my motives, and I came back from camp with a new relationship. Two weeks later, my boyfriend and I broke up, but God and I have been together ever since.
I became a Christian that weekend largely because of the patience and encouragement of my small-group leader. I can still see Joanne’s face as I strongly asserted my spiritual views, misguided though they were. As I explained to her the Gospel According to Laurie Polich, she patiently listened to my ideas, trusting that the Holy Spirit would make the needed adjustments as time went on. Somehow she knew that all of us in that group needed a chance to process our thoughts and be heard. And thanks to Joanne’s skilled leadership, our small group was a place where that could happen.
Since then I’ve been in all sorts of small groups, as a leader or a participant. Joanne’s face has always remained an image for me as I’ve tried to be the kind of small-group leader that she was—the kind that [people] really need. I’m thankful for Joanne and so many others who, with gentleness, patience, and faithfulness, modeled for me what small-group ministry is all about. It’s because of their work in my life that I’ve had the freedom and encouragement to fall so deeply in love with Jesus Christ.”
Polich’s story demonstrates just how powerful experiences of community can be in small groups—it can literally shape the entire course of your life! Her story also shows some of the key factors you should be looking when choosing a small group of people to journey through life with.
1. A healthy small group creates a safe space to ask hard questions. Life can be challenging and messy; anyone who tells you differently is probably trying to sell you something! We need a space to work through life’s challenges with others. A good small group community allows people to ask questions and wrestle with issues, all without fear of consequences.
2. A healthy small group is open to all people, perspectives, and experiences. The best small groups model the radical hospitality of Jesus. They are open to anyone who wants to follow Christ. This means that they will attract people of all backgrounds and perspectives; this diversity of thought tends to enrich the group and strengthen unity within the body of Christ.
3. A healthy small group challenges its members to become their best selves. A genuine experience of small group community does not just leave people to go their own direction. As Polich said, it inevitably leads people to fall more deeply in love with Jesus. By participating in a healthy small group community, we learn to be the people that God created us to be.
If you’re searching for a community to walk through life with, those three traits are markers to look for. To see a list of small groups at Forest Hills, check out foresthills.org/churchlife. I think you’ll find that many of our groups embody those three characteristics, and they’d love to welcome you!