Faith & Spirituality

Things People Say: Small Group Edition

1. Let’s do life together!”

“Do” life? What does that mean? Psst, I think “live” is the verb you’re looking for there. But we’ll forgive you this time. After all, do life may rank pretty high on the Christian-Cheesy Scale, but at least it doesn’t have the squicky sexual undertones of love on (as in, “God, would You just help us love on all these youth group kids tonight”).

Doing life in the context of church small groups presents another, more practical problem, though: I rarely feel like I’m doing [living] my life with people in a genuine, organic way when I’m making a half hour drive to get there and then sit and work through a book chosen by the group leader. I do these things of my own free will, of course. But to me, that’s not “doing life”; it’s putting my life on hold while I go do this other thing. It’s an interruption, not part of the regular program.

2. Any variation of “How can we pray for you?” / “What are your prayer requests?”

This is Christian code for “Spill your guts.” And in a moment of weakness, when you’re really, really lonely and tired of feeling really, really lonely, you may give in to the temptation to do just that.

This happened to me recently. I caved. I immediately regretted it. As much as I hate to admit this, it gave me a feeling of distaste to hear people offering eloquent prayers for my heart’s deepest sorrows when I knew that the next week, those same people would be asking, “Remind me of your name again…?” It’s not that I had anything to hide; it’s just that it all came out a bit too soon. These people hadn’t yet earned my trust, nor I theirs. This is the problem with the church’s expectation for near-total strangers to “open up and share”: It creates a forced intimacy that feels fake at worst and premature at best, like picking fruit before it’s ripe.

3. “This workbook / Bible study / sermon series is really going to help us foster community!”

This one really baffles me. Reading a book doesn’t foster community. Being a community fosters community.

Communities are composed of people, and the activities that make up the day-to-day lives of those people. These activities are usually pretty mundane and ordinary: Talking. Sharing meals. Having fun. Finding a need and filling it, together. Hearing what’s on the minds of the people you care about.

Just being.

Most of us couldn’t imagine just being, because isn’t that a waste of time? We wouldn’t dream of doing a small group without reading a book, “getting into the Word”, or having a lengthy prayer time, because without those things, what would be left?

Well, the people would be. Are they enough? Are they worth our time — just as they are? If they were our blood relatives — our parents, our siblings, our children — the answer would be yes, without a doubt.

Why can’t we give the same answer for our spiritual family?

What would happen if we did?

We would have a wonderful thing. We would have…. community.

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