by Zach Below
Happy new year, everyone!
Technically we are almost into February now, but this is my first official greeting to you in 2016 so I think it is still within the realm of social acceptance. There is something fresh and exciting about a new year; it’s like a blank sheet of paper just waiting for a new story to be written on it. So as you begin to write your story in 2016, is there anything worth copying from 2015? Anything that needs to be changed or added from your life’s 2015 manuscript?
I’ve been reflecting on those questions through the filter of small groups. While the groups within our organization experienced many wins, I couldn’t help but recognize the deficiencies in my own small-group leadership. After allowing myself a few moments to spiral into despair, I got out a pen and made a list of things I wanted in bold print in the story of my small-group leadership in 2016; my 2016 small-group resolutions. Here are my top three.
1. Celebrate who is present instead of sulking over who is absent.
My friend and co-author of From Couch to Community, Austin Maxheimer, brought this thought to light for me. Austin told me there was a time early on in ministry that he squandered almost a year of gatherings focusing on who wasn’t there instead of celebrating who was there. There is no doubt that it can be extremely frustrating when you spend time and energy preparing for group time—when you spend time and energy investing in relationships—and then on any given night only four out of 12 group members show up. Our default reaction is to go negative and think, “Only four people showed up… I am failing as a leader! This must not even matter to other people in my group. Is this even worth it?” When we go to this negative thinking, we rob ourselves of the fact that four people actually showed up to build community! Four people took time out of their crazy lives and made group a priority! Furthermore, we devalue those four people when we whine about everyone’s absence. My goal in 2016 is to celebrate the four; or the two, or the 10.
(On a side note, this line of thinking has freed me in other ministries as well. I was a storyteller in our preschool ministry a few weeks ago. While there were probably 15 kids sitting on the carpet listening to me tell a story of Jesus, I couldn’t help but focus on the four kids who were off wandering around the room in their own world. I had to intentionally redirect my thoughts to celebrate the fact that some kids got it! Some kids heard about the love of Jesus!)
2. Get off the couch.
Back in August of 2015 I posted a blog titled 4 Principles for Maximizing Kingdom Impact in Our Communities. The premise of the article was that when we are locked up with our groups in living rooms, the outside world doesn’t even know we exist. The problem is that our couches are comfy. Our couches provide structure, schedule, and simplicity. To be honest and fair, we all live busy lives that could use a little more simplicity. However, the world needs to see us present and active as the church, not just as individuals. To impact our communities, we must be a part of our community. That is more true in 2016 than ever before.
3. Be more resolute.
This may seem like simple wordplay, but if we are honest, there are seasons of life where leadership can seem exhausting. There are days that doubt slips in and I start to think that it would be pretty nice to just sink into the background and coast. Maybe even disappear for a week or two. As nice as it sounds sometimes, it is not an option to those who love and follow Christ. And so, for myself and for you, I pray that God would make us more resolute in 2016 than ever before. I still believe in the purpose of small groups. I still believe in the value of community, and I still believe in the power of Christians in action. May we all stand more firm in that purpose.
I would love to hear what you resolve to keep, change, or highlight in your groups in 2016. Let us know in the comment box below.