Do we do small groups for community? For the fellowship? To close the "back door?" To get 100% of our people involved? For evangelistic growth?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And Yes. But might there be a deeper motivation?
In her book Community is Messy, Heather Zempel challenges us to go deeper than all of these. She wants us to grow up. She calls us to allow community to shape our lives. She invites us into a life of discipleship that deals with reality. She writes, "Community is messy because it always involves people, and people are mess. It's about people hauling their brokenness and baggage into your house and dumping it in your living room" (24). We offer our messes to one another not to wallow in them , but to grow as disciples together.
This is made especially clear in her chapter entitled "Discipleship is Not Linear." She challenges us to think about how people really grow instead of trying to fit people into a one-size-fits-all process. She writes, "Discipleship is a whole life journey, not an eight-week class. It's about developing the fruit of the Spirit and spiritual gifts and looking more like Christ, not about checking off a set of boxes. It's a process of becoming, not a destination. There's no way to short-circuit discipleship" (129).
This is an honest book about the reality of small group ministry. This is not a book full of platitudes and empty promises about some kind of small group community panacea. At the same time it provides real life, practical ways to move forward that have been tested and proven by an experienced pastor and disciple-maker.
For small group pastors this book is a must-read. For small group leaders, make the time to receive her input, especially the first three chapters. You will be glad you did.