Many people today, especially those under 40, join groups more for relationships than for Bible study. Our lives are hurried and fragmented. We need a place to belong.
Community, or fellowship, can be defined as knowing others and being known by them. It is as essential in developing a good group as the quality of the study. So how do we get there?
1. Start with a like-minded group. If people have several common elements in their lives, community will develop more quickly than if they are all different. That's why the best groups are started by leaders inviting others they know rather than by geographic assignment or sign-up sheets.
2. Structure the early meetings to enhance fellowship. Give people the opportunity to share from several aspects of their lives in your opening exercises. (Beginning a Serendipity Group: Six Sessions to Get Acquainted from Serendipity House is a good resource for beginning groups to build community.)
3. Plan some time for fellowship within each meeting. If you don't plan it, people will take it anywayand probably at times you'd rather they wouldn't!
4. Allow time to linger after the study. Especially in an evening study, I like to serve refreshments at the end, allowing almost an unlimited time for people to connect, but also freeing people to escape if they need to.
5. Include extended times for people to get to know one another outside group time. Plan a dinner at a restaurant, a pot luck, or an outing such as attending a sporting event or going bowling, skating, and so forth. Be sure social times maximize interaction.
As your group jells, you'll find that growth occurs through community in places or ways that it doesn't in Bible study alone.