by Zach Below
If you are a small group attender I have an assignment for you this week. Look around the room. Who is in your group? Friends? Long-time church attenders? Anyone far from God?
Last month I wrote a blog entitled “Groupies: Three Camps of Small Group Members.” A simple recap is that the potential members of our groups can be broken down into 3 separate camps.
Camp One: Groupies that have been members of the same church for years. They know everyone and everyone knows them.
Camp Two: Groupies that are believers, but are either new to groups or trying to get plugged in to a new church.
Camp Three: Explorers, people new to all things church and God.
If these three camps of potential group members went to identical groups (same snacks, same icebreakers, even the same couch comfort level), their individual experiences would be vastly different. Small groups for Camp One are easy and natural. For Camp Two, groups are at worst a little awkward. However, for those in Camp Three, small groups are downright weird! Think about it: knock on a stranger’s door, eat their snacks, make small talk, then get in some form of circle and talk about feelings. The reality is, there is rarely anyone from Camp Three actually in our groups.
So the million dollar question is…what changes do we as fellow groupies need to make, either ideologically or tangibly, for groups to be more natural to those in Camp Three?
- Don’t Invite Them to Your Group!
This may seem very odd in light of the fact that this article is a how-to on getting Camp Three into our group. However, chances are if you invite someone you just met who is far from God to your next small-group meeting, and they actually came, they would be completely weirded out by the experience. Why? Because honestly it is a little weird. It doesn’t mirror anything else we do in life. Before we invite someone from Camp Three to our small group, we must first invite them into a relationship. Only after a relationship has been well established can we proceed to invite them into our small-group experience.
- Stop Thinking About Groups in Terms of Time and Space
It’s very easy to get trapped in the thinking that groups are limited to a specific 1- to 2-hour period on a pre-set night of the week. As a result, when we think of inviting someone to our group we think of date, time, and location. But what are we really seeking in groups? Discipleship relationship. When does that happen? At any moment. Once we stop thinking of our groups in terms of location and time and more of an ongoing discipleship relationship, our groups can transcend the boundaries of our location and exist within our daily lives. So as we invite those in Camp Three into our lives, we are essentially inviting them into our group life.
- Create Low-Commitment Group Events in a Neutral Environment
If we are aware that it is extremely awkward for someone from Camp Three to walk into the living room of a stranger, let’s get out of the living room and go somewhere neutral. Somewhere people naturally gather. A low-commitment, neutral environment is a great place to introduce potential Camp Three group members to the rest of the group. Some of the low-commitment activities my group has done in the past include sand volleyball, paintball, 4th of July party, cookouts, etc. Think of activities people can come to one time without feeling obligated to “join the group.”
- Be an Active Community in the Community
Did you know that once the average person becomes a believer in Christ, he or she loses contact with all unbelieving friends within two years? What does that mean for the correlation between small groups and Camp Three? The fact that we know we need to develop a relationship with someone from Camp Three long before we ever invite them to a group, along with the fact that we know the average Christian has limited or no non-believing friends, creates a glaring problem. The solution…get out of the bubble. Develop real relationships with people who don’t know Christ. What better way to do that than actively participating in community activities as a small group?
What are some other tangible ways we can help our small groups reach out to those in Camp Three? We’d love to hear some of the low-commitment group events you have done in the past.