I just started writing some new curriculum that will have this title. It seems to me that many small groups in the American church are caught in the trap of living off community as an appetizer. I had a friend in graduate school who would go to Sam's Club and Costco at 4:00 p.m. so that he could graze off the samples as he walked around the food section. That was his "dinner."
While this a cheap way to get food, it does not exactly make for an enjoyable dinning experience. It's just a utilitarian way to fill one's tummy.
Community as an appetizer works much the same way. We know how to start groups. We know how to get people connected and how to find good curriculum. And as a result people feel like they are getting community. However, just as my friend felt he was getting full on free finger foods, we feel like we are getting our fill of community. Yes we spend time together each week. Yes we talk and even talk about spiritual things. And yes, the group might even be growing. But if we are really honest about the kind of community that is going on, it's not really providing the kind of community meal that brings sustaining nourishment.
We need to talk about a kind of community that moves beyond appetizers. However, a lot of people find small group appetizers better than any the other kinds of community in their lives they think that they have experienced the community bull's eye. But just as too many appetizers can lead to a bad diet, limiting a group to community appetizers is a bad community diet. We need to go deeper.