An Open Letter to Small-Group Pastors

An Open Letter to Small-Group Pastors

Why you need to focus on fun with your small groups, and how to actually do it

Note: This article is excerpted from the SmallGroups.com training resource Making Small Groups Fun!.

Dear Small-Group Pastors,

I just want to take a minute to say that we're all proud of the way you've done your research and found the most biblical curriculum. You've trained your small-group leaders to have airtight, foolproof theology. They can move from a discussion on the Nephilim to ecclesiology, then weave in a bit of distinction between Calvinism, the resurrection, and eschatology.

You've taught your group leaders how to facilitate a discussion, minister to the EGRs, fill the empty chair, raise up apprentice leaders, and plant new groups. You've helped groups become more "missional" by consistently serving their neighborhoods and communities. Group members are working to baptize and make disciples of all nations, starting with their families and neighbors.

But one thing is missing. Small groups aren't fun. Sometimes they're boring, actually. Sometimes people only come because they feel like they are supposed to.

So here's my plea to you, small-group champion: incorporate fun, life, and humor into the small groups at your church.

Why to Focus on Fun

Before I get into the practical steps of "how" to make your group fun, here's why I think it's a big deal when fun and humor are missing from a small group:

  1. If it's not fun, people won't come back. It's possible to get more information in a more convenient time in a more convenient way through many other means. Podcasts, books, blogs, and forums offer information and discussion environments at any time of the day, every day of the year. What separates small groups from each of these environments is the relationship, face-to-face aspect. Make sure you maximize this!
  2. If there's no fun, it's not reflective of real life. If your group is intensely serious, it can drain the life right out of people. We're only wired to take so much seriousness. And often, our work environments give us plenty of seriousness.
  3. If there's no laughter, people are missing out on great medicine. "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" (Proverbs 17:22). Maybe what hurting people need isn't more medicine, but a healthy small group. They need to laugh together so hard that they snort. They need to laugh at themselves. They need to laugh at a corny joke. Because God has wired us to receive healing through laughter. I'm not sure how it works, but after a difficult day at work—with the kids, with finances, with in-laws—laughing helps to melt away stress and anxiety, bringing healing to your aching bones.
  4. Have you ever belly-laughed? Seriously, there's not much that's more redemptive than belly-laughing with someone in your small group. If you've laughed that way, from your gut, you know what I mean. If you haven't, then I sincerely weep for you. Join my small group, please—we'll show you how to do it.
  5. When we have fun together, we show others that we serve a good God. Check this out: "Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, 'The Lord has done great things for them'" (Psalm 126:2). Did you catch that? When our mouths are filled with laughter, others are convinced that God has done great things among us. Could the flip-side be true? If our mouths aren't filled with laughter, could people become convinced that the God we serve isn't good? That he doesn't take delight in loving is people? That the God we give witness to is ultimately boring, and the eternity with him that we say will be wonderful is painted as dull and lifeless?

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