I spend more time with my lawnmower each week than I do “in church” each Sunday morning. Between the moment the first song begins to play until the final prayer I don’t say a word to anyone. I sit there. I watch. It would be easy to say that my enjoyment of those 55 minutes of “church service” would be dependent on the quality of what is happening on stage.
I have a friend who is a solo moviegoer. He heads to the theatre alone every couple of weeks to catch the latest sci-fi flick that his wife isn’t interested in watching. As comfortable as he is going by himself, he would agree with me when I tell him that I believe moviegoing is a social activity. I know we are just sitting there and not talking to one another, but the shared experience is meaningful. Just because something can be enjoyed alone doesn’t mean it’s not designed to be better with someone.
Church on Sunday may be, in large part, a spectator sport in today’s culture. This reality has led to a lot of hate towards the Sunday morning experience. The argument is that church was designed to be social and what we experience on Sunday doesn’t look, at first glance, very social at all. Then again, neither do my friend and I when we go to see a movie together with the customary buffer seat between us. Kristan and I don’t look very social when we are sitting on the couch, each of us playing on our iphones. The truth is, however, we are connected together in the deepest way possible. Our lives have been so full of talk and shared experiences over the years that we can sit together and just “be”. The kind of social that many people look for in the church is, frankly, the kind of relational connection reserved for acquaintances…not friends.
“The kind of connections we need are more than casual. Casual connections aren’t life-giving. They can’t provide what Jesus dreams for and what He died for. They can’t provide the kind of oneness with God or oneness with each other that makes the world take notice.” — Andy Stanley
How to Go to Church: Get in a Small Group
Enjoying Church on Sunday begins during the week. We are all designed with a want for community. We all want to know and be known. Every single one of us wants to feel part of a group. The truth is that people can be overwhelmed and overlooked on Sundays. It’s unfortunate, but unavoidable. It can happen to anyone. One of the most common reasons I’ve heard from people leaving is that they don’t feel like they belong.
Benefits of Small Groups
- Friendship – Each Wed. I get together with my small group, but I haven’t thought about it like that in a long time. The people that are there every week are some of my best friends in the world. It started as just another meeting but as we became closer it grew to so much more.
- Encouragement – People at a church building sometimes don’t even seem human. Certainly not normal. Everybody has their stuff together and no one is struggling. In small groups, vulnerability is much easier to attain. It may be a little difficult at first, but without vulnerability there isn’t room for real encouragement.
- Shared Learning – Instead of a sermon, small groups deal with average followers of Jesus trying to figure life and faith out.
- Different Approaches – Building on #3, a few weeks ago I asked my small group, What is your most controversial belief?” Wow! I was so surprised by how different many of us were. It was great! As the saying goes, “If two people agree on everything, one of them isn’t necessary”
- Accountability – Building on #4, a safe place with safe people who can push back on our beliefs and actions is important to growing closer to Jesus. It’s simply not going to happen on a Sunday morning.
Expecting church to be life changing with such a small sample size (55 minutes, once a week) is like expecting to get full off the cheese on a toothpick samples at the entrance of a grocery store. Sure, it’s great, but you are there for so much more than what you get at the door. If you want to follow Christ you need more. You need to go farther inside. You need church relationships, not church attendance.
Small groups are where you are going, but when you get there you will find that rather than replacing Sunday morning, it will enrich it. The relationships you form, and the growth that you experience, brings a new wonder and joy to corporate worship each week. In truth, it gives us something real to celebrate when we come together.
What are some other benefits to Small Group participation that belongs on the list?