The Value of Small Groups
When Wendy and Carl joined a couples’ “life group” at their church, they had no idea it would become their lifeline. Wendy was more excited than Carl about joining the group, meeting new friends, and building deeper community. Their last child had just moved out of the house, and Carl was focused on a recent promotion at work. Despite Carl’s hesitancy, Wendy and Carl quickly found in the group deeper friendships and a sense of community they had not expected. Most of the couples were also recent empty nesters. Carl enjoyed conversations with the other men about sports, business, and travel, as well as the deeper connection and interaction around the study. He was new to most of the biblical teachings, but he felt very accepted, and the discussions were interesting and practical. The relationships with great people made the learning environment even better. Wendy couldn’t get enough of her connection with several of the women in the small group and found she was scheduling coffee times with them and talking on the phone.
Then one day, they got the call no parent ever wants to get. Their young adult daughter had been in a terrible car crash near her university. Life changed that day for Carl and Wendy. I met them a year later. Their daughter was on a very long road to semi recovery, and all they could talk about was the incredible support they received from their small group. Carl told me, “It was our small group that carried us emotionally and spiritually through our toughest days, and we didn’t even know them a year before our daughter’s crash.”
Judith, a recently divorced single mom, told me the secret to her sanity during her toughest days were three decisions she had made: to stay busy, to build friendships in her small group, and to make a difference in others’ lives. Her small group of friends weekly volunteered to make a difference with an effort called Singles Against Cancer. Their common goal to fight cancer drew this small group of friends together in a big way.
Most of the time, you find powerful connection and community in a small group. Small groups create deeper friendships, produce maximum participation, provide flexible learning experiences, and for many people, form a sort of extended family. Cathy and I are huge believers in small groups. Here is our list of benefits: community, connection, opportunities to give and receive advice, encouragement, deeper and more flexible experiential learning, fun, networking, role models, deeper friendships, and extended family. If it sounds like I’m trying to sell you on joining a small group that works for you, I am.
It wasn’t that long ago that people grew up in villages and small towns. For good and for bad, the small town or village was a source of community and connection. As people moved away from their villages, later in life they realized they still needed one. No one needs to go through the empty-nest season alone. Is it time for you to recreate your village?