Some families obviously love each other. You know, the kind where the dad adores the mom so much that his voice softens when she calls him at work. The kids laugh with—not at—their parents, and you know that they have spent hours of quality time together. The parents value every school function as though their children played first horn or were the star running back. The teen hugs Mom (though out of sight of his peers) when going off to basketball camp.
Families with strong relationships pique outsiders' interest. You know they are not perfect, and everyday ups and downs are not hidden behind masks, but they talk, trust, and walk through life together.
This same dynamic occurs in small groups whose members have jelled into a family. We often look for deep friendships and high trust but find them elusive. That's why these groups sparkle in the face of others, attracting attention. People in other small groups want to emulate them and wonder how to achieve this in their group. They see something working and ask, "What is the difference?"
Relationships. That one word says it all. For a small group to grow into a living, thriving, basic Christian community, the members have to stretch through levels of ever-deepening relationships. They have to learn to like each other. Not everyone in a small group will be "best buddies," but a network of meaningful relationships transforms a stagnant group into a loving and appealing family.
The journey to becoming family is bumpy and sometimes long, with a few wrong turns along the way. Just as a solid friendship does not appear out of thin air, neither does family life in a small group. It comes through the practice and commitment to a process of developing relationships with others. ...