For a few years now we have been consistently preaching and teaching about the value of faith-sharing groups we call Small Groups. A while back we started using the mantra that we don’t just want to be a church with Small Groups, we want to be a church of Small Groups. Why?
Well, it’s not about more programs for the sake of programs, that’s for sure. Small Groups are not Bible study, nor are they prayer groups, though both Bible study and prayer are a component. Neither are they adult education or “faith formation” though in successful groups there will doubtless be both. Small Groups are not discussion groups and it goes without saying that they must never become chat or gossip circles.
Small Groups are where our great big church becomes, small, up close, and personal. It is a place to go to grow, to be known, loved and cared for. We believe that Small Groups are our delivery system for pastoral care, where all of our parishioners get the attention they need, which our staff could never give.
But there is an even better reason to get into a group. We believe that faith grows in circles of people who are all trying to do the same thing. Intentional relationships based in faith are key to successful, sustained spiritual growth. We like to call them our schools for discipleship.
Here at Nativity groups usually meet in members’ homes, at mutually convenient times each week (60-90 minutes). We provide resource material, most often in the form of a DVD (which we produce in house). Typically Tom (my associate) or some other member of our team offers a brief presentation based on the previous Sunday’s reading and the message (homily) I gave, but maybe coming at it from a slightly different perspective. Then, members are given questions to lead their discussion, which aims at going deeper than discussion to the level of life: sharing real issues and challenges of their daily lives. People are challenged to become authentic, appropriately transparent, and accountable about what’s really going on in their lives, knowing they are in a safe and supportive environment with others who are not interested in judging them, but helping them grow. Members listen to one another, hold one another accountable, pray for one another and grow in friendship. Most of all they’re sharing in and growing in faith.
And all the while, without even knowing it, they’re growing as disciples. We like to say Small Groups are our schools for discipleship.
If you would like to know more about getting into group life here at Nativity or starting a program in your parish join us on the Plaza at our Ridgely Road campus after all weekend Masses (Sept 20-21) or anytime at churchnativity.tv/small-groups