Monday, April 1, 2013

Small Group Shift: From Connecting to Life Together

Connecting happens in all kinds of shapes and sizes. And we call connecting by all kinds of names. We connect as families, at school, in the workplace and at church. We connect with neighbors, with friends and with those who share the same hobby. And almost always, these points of connecting happen in some form of small group.

In the church, we have all kinds of ways to connect with others:
  • Home Groups
  • Task Groups
  • Mission Groups
  • Cell Groups
  • Choir Groups
  • Bible Study Groups
  • Worship Groups
  • Fellowship Groups
  • Care Groups
  • Recovery Groups
  • Service Project Groups
  • Outreach Groups
  • Leadership Development Groups
  • Church Leadership Groups
  • Committee Groups
  • Short-term Sermon Study Groups
  • Sports Groups
  • Sunday School Groups
I remember one time in my journey when I connected in seven different church small groups at the same time. I was what you might call a Christian Go-Getter. I was serious about my faith and the way to follow through with that seriousness was to get involved in groups. But what I lacked was the experience of life together. I had lots of surface conversations about Christian ideas and tasks with lots of different people, but I did not share any sense of what the Psalmist referred to when he wrote "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity." These were nice, good groups. And for the most part they were interesting and I liked the people, but there was nothing in them that called me beyond the experience of connecting and into the experience of life together.

The book entitled Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my favorites. I've probably read it eight or nine times. Written after his experience of leading an underground seminary during the days of Nazi rule, this book records his reflections on how this group of ministers in training moved beyond simply connecting as fellow students, that is warm bodies who shared the same space and activities and moved into life together.

Connecting is a good thing. We need places to connect with others in our churches, especially in a world that is dominated by isolationism and individualism. However, don't we need more than groups that put warm bodies in proximity with each other once per week? Isn't there more to group life than just connecting so that we accomplish the stated purpose of the group that meets for 90 minutes and then we go back to our disparate lives?

Are we settling for connecting when we could be experiencing life together?

What is the difference between the two?

What does it take to move into life together?

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