The group eventually turned into an all day event: volleyball, lunch, and then attending our 5 pm Saturday church service together. Each week the couple would bow out before service, and while there were plenty of invitations, there was never any attempt to strong-arm them into coming.
One Saturday, they decided they wanted to check it out and snuck in without the rest of the group noticing. Later Amy told me, "I was able to go to church with them twice before they left for St. Louis. They only attended a total of three times, but it was a testament to all of those who were involved and loved on them. And then when they attended services, they felt that same love."
Small groups provide our churches with the opportunity to truly be all things to all people. If you are hyper-intellectual and aren't going to believe in Jesus until you have all of the evidence, there's an apologetics small group that would love to have you. If you're struggling with substance abuse, Celebrate Recovery will welcome you with open arms. If you have zero interest in faith, our volleyball group would still be glad to have you come play and eat.
Church services usually happen in a building, often one that a lot of people might not feel comfortable walking into, and they cast a wide net, needing to minister to a large swath of people.
Small groups happen in neighborhoods, restaurants, and parks. By their very nature they exist out in the community and often fill a specific niche or attract a specific demographic. With a little bit of intentionality, groups can be an incredible tool to reach people on the fringe—the very people Jesus would befriend.
—Will Johnston is the Small Group Catalyst for National Community Church in Washington, D.C.