We are fast approaching the end of January, the time of year when the new resolutions and routines we started are beginning to seem just a little bit tedious. Maybe you just started noticing a little dust on the new exercise bike you got for Christmas or your wallet is feeling a little lighter even though you promised you wouldn’t buy lunch at work.
Nothing sustains motivation better than accountability. And a great place for accountability is a parish small group. It transforms a personal quest into a shared one. That’s why small groups are a cornerstone of parish life at Nativity. This weekend, “Small Group Launch Weekend,” as we wrap up a month-long series about ‘Habits,’ parishioners will have the opportunity to learn more about our small group program and sign up to join one for Lent. Check out the Concourse after Mass.
Our small groups are successful because they are not just one program among many but because they are built into the very fabric of our parish. They are, simply, a part of our culture. And it’s built on habits. Small Groups….
1. Get everyone moving in the same direction
We learned early on that small groups can be a powerful uniting force within the parish. While we organize small groups by demographic (men, women, couples, young adults), every group uses the same materials and discusses the same topics (almost always matching my weekend message). This sets up a pattern by which small group members hear the message on Sunday, have a chance to digest, and then discuss with others. In the process we’re all growing in the same direction. The importance of this dynamic cannot be overstated in the life of the parish.
2. Form the basis for student and kid’s programs
For small groups to be embedded into the culture of your parish, they need to be built into ministries across ages and life stages. All the benefits of adult small groups – community, accountability, faith sharing – apply to students and kids, too. Try dedicating a part of your regular student ministry to small groups and see what happens.
3. Meet outside the church building
Our small groups meet outside of our church building whenever possible. Not only does this reduce the strain on your time and physical resources but it also allows conversation to happen in an environment that is more comfortable and neutral. This lowers people’s natural defenses. It also empowers group leaders, teaching them that we are called to share our faith outside the church building.
We even host online small groups, which meet each week via video chat. This enables our members who travel often or are seasonally away, like college students or military members, to participate. While we will never completely move away from in-person small groups, we have to continue adapting to what technology enables us to do.
4. Focus on life change
Small groups give people the opportunity to respond to the conversation started in the weekend message. Conversation leads to conversion. That’s why our small groups aim at nothing less than life change.
Check out parishioner’s comments on this Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/churchnativity
where members are sharing their own stories of the impact small groups have had on their lives.