The Beauty of Community Groups
When my husband and I first walked into a small group gathering 5 years ago, we were unsure of what to expect. We loaded up the kids in their pjs and headed down the freeway hopeful. Community groups were a new entity to us- supremely different from the program based church model we were accustomed to. As we all piled out of the car and into the home, we walked into the arms of a group of likeminded people who loved Jesus- who wanted to talk about Him, follow Him, and pursue him with vigor. We found authentic relationships; ones in which we could honestly walk alongside each other, putting flesh on what following Jesus might look like in various life scenarios. That initial small group gathering turned out to be the beginning of a way of life that would change our view of community. The small group structure eventually became a second family, buoying up our own family through even the most difficult circumstances.
Consistently meeting together to center ourselves around the truth of scripture is life giving. We prayed for one another, hashed out difficult scripture interpretations and sermon notes, challenged one another to trust Jesus in specific circumstances, and encouraged each other to not grow weary in fighting the good fight. We lived our lives, meeting as usual during the difficult weeks and monotonous days- through the tragic moments and joyful celebrations. We became more accountable and cared for, and we were forced to lift our eyes off of our own current difficulties, and focus on the trials and needs of others. As we stepped into the roll of small group leadership, we realized how even more interwoven, integral, and mutual our relationships with each other had become. We forged deep friendships, shared much laughter, and served our community and one another with joy in our hearts!
Living life together openly and honestly with the intent of growing in our walk with Jesus necessitates weightiness. Small group can be heavy because sin is ugly and supremely damaging. Bearing one another's burdens can be difficult and often inconvenient, and living in a fallen world requires us to come face to face with tragedy of all kinds. Yet, with a steady reliance on the Holy Spirit (and the insightful shepherding of small group leaders/pastors), we learned that nothing is so lost or too ugly to tackle together- even when our convictions of how to handle or respond to the circumstances were different. Jesus our wonderful high priest perfectly sympathized with the strain of trial within the small group setting and proved to be supremely sufficient for every circumstance. Shouldering burdens, even with the help of the Spirit, is never easy. Yet, the experience proved to refine us, change our thinking, and even bless us in the process, equipping us for future ministry. We walked out of seasons of trial with clear eyes and thankful hearts, acknowledging God’s sovereign hand in them and noticing the new creatures we had become, shaped by the adversity.
Obstacles To Overcome- Worth the Effort
As a family with multiple young children, childcare was (and continues to be) a hurdle to consistent gathering. I remember after the birth of a new son, packing up what seemed to be the entire house and heading for the car with great excitement that I might actually get to listen to and participate in the discussion! As I hesitated at the door, literally weighing the importance of the meeting vs the effort required to get there, I remember considering the value of this simple event. It was just another small group meeting, but really it was always so much more. It was the time together as a family unit, even if the babies made the time more difficult! It was those smiling faces who always offered to hold the baby for a little while, sympathizing entirely with my plight as a young mom. It was the comradery- remembering we weren’t alone during the week in the fight for family, Christ-likeness, and holiness. It was the corporate prayer that united the group and forced us to step outside of ourselves to take a broader view. It was the challenge of interpreting scripture accurately and the new, fresh revelations and applications we delighted in together. It was discovering an opportunity to serve in new ways and grow in new obedience. As we hosted and lead in our home, it was that whirlwind of preparation for the evening that left us weary, yet completely filled to the brim with abundant love and energy. It was the opportunity for our children to minister and learn how to serve other children. During a season of personal trial, it was the consistent prayer, faithful gathering, and simple acts of kindness that encouraged us onward. It was the worship we experienced together as Jesus did mighty deeds in our midst. It was all of this- the laughter, the tears, the ordinary days and the days of severe importance that all congealed into one poignant experience that was and still is entirely worth the effort!
Meghan Ross is a wife, mother, and community group leader at The Trails. For more about community groups, click here.