When we first started studying healthy, growing, Evangelical churches around the country one of the things we learned about was Small Groups. The concept was not entirely unheard of in Catholic parishes, as the Renew program, widely used a number of years ago, was based on small group discussion, as a form of adult education. But the idea that parishioners would commit, in an ongoing way, to an additional weekly gathering, in their homes, for the purpose of faith sharing and spiritual growth seemed like an impossible idea.
In fact, the first time we attended a church conference at Saddleback Church, as avidly interested in everything they had to tell us as we were, we actually skipped the sessions on small groups. It didn’t occur to us that they could even be attempted in a Catholic setting. Eventually we came to the realization that we’re simply never going to get people to go deeper in their discipleship, if all they’re doing is showing up on Sunday mornings. We learned that they’ve got to serve, they’ve got to give, and sooner or later they’ve got to share their faith. And one great way to do that is through small groups.
We say small groups are our Schools for Discipleship. It is where our great big church gets small. In church on Sunday there are 4,000 people and it is mighty easy to get lost in the crowd. In a group we can be accountable for growing as disciples. In church parishioners sit in rows and listen to me, in groups they sit in circles and they get to talk. My whole aim in the weekend homily is just to get the conversation started. The conversation happens in small groups.
Groups are also our delivery system for member care. Our church is too large for the pastor to provide the care that is requested and required. In a small group we can make sure members are never lost sight of, their group members can walk with them through difficult seasons. Time and again I have seen inspiring examples of small groups gathering together in support of a group member. On the other hand, when people have complained to me about a lack of support from the parish at some critical moment, it always turns out they weren’t in a group and they really have no one to blame but themselves.
Anyway, this weekend is our Winter Small Group Launch, we’ll be helping you connect with a group, as an ongoing commitment, just for this semester as a limited commitment, or just for Lent, to give it a try. We’ve got all kinds of groups that meet every day of the week at all different times. We even have groups that meet online.
If you’re not going to be here on our Ridgely Road campus this weekend check it all out on line: churchnativity.com
Do yourself a favor and get into a group in 2018.