Imagine Charlotte, a typical small-group member. She gets up early to get herself ready before helping her kids dress for school. After a struggle with her daughter over which top to wear, she drops the kids off at school and heads to work. Unfortunately, she leaves work a few minutes late due to a meeting, and is reprimanded by the daycare center for not picking up her kids on time. Then she races home to help one of the kids change into a uniform for soccer practice. Charlotte serves dinner on the road, passing around kids' meals and juice boxes. She helps them with their math homework on the way home. Then it's time for bed, and the next day the same routine starts all over again.
Unfortunately, many of your small-group members lead lives like this—rushed, filled to the brim, and exhausting. I doubt you're going to get your group members to suddenly change the way they live, so it may be important to consider how to have a successful small group when people live life at the speed of light. Allowing them a taste of true community may even cause them to change their priorities or lifestyle over time.
Are Your Group Members Too Busy?
Consider the following questions to determine if your group members' lives are on overdrive:
- When describing themselves, do group members often use the term "exhausted?"
- When describing their lives, do group members often use the term "overwhelmed?"
- Do some or many of your group members attend meetings sporadically?
- if your group is made up of mostly couples, do both husband and wife work full-time?
- Are group members telling you they won't be in a group when this group ends or multiplies?
- Is your group made up of people who have long commutes to work?
- Is your group made up of young households whose kids are involved in sports, music lessons, and other activities?
If you can answer yes to many or most of these questions, you probably lead a small group of people who are too busy for a standard small-group schedule. Below you'll find a list of ways to meet busy people where they are.
1. Host a group meeting twice a month instead of weekly.
2. Follow a rotating plan each month. The first week of the month, everyone meets together. The second week of the month, men do something recreational together and invite non-believers to join them. The third week of the month, everyone meets together again. And the fourth week of the month, women do something recreational together and invite non-believers to join them. When there's a fifth week in the month, everyone comes together to do something recreational and invites non-believers.
3. Meet early mornings before work. It may be easier to wake up a little earlier than to meet at night.
4. If the church has space and is open to it, meet before or after weekend worship. This alleviates the need to get out another night of the week.
5. Meet during lunch. This is possible if a group of people work near one another or work in the same building.
First, be sure to check with your small-group pastor or director. It may be that the goals of group life at your church are not conducive to any of the options just mentioned.
Second, if you choose one of the options listed above, your group will suffer unless you remember a few vital principles and get creative with keeping the group connected.
Principles to Remember
- People become relationally disconnected if they don't communicate with one another regularly.
- Vulnerability and authentic conversations take place between people who feel their lives are connected.
- The fewer meetings you have, the more communication you need between meetings.
- Synergistic conversations can take place without the group being in the same room.
Ideas to Stay Connected
- Set up a Facebook group and invite your members to join. When one person posts photos, ideas, comments or questions to the wall, all members will be notified.
- Set up a group Twitter account and keep a conversation going between group members.
- Call up group members to do recreational things you're already doing. When you decide to see a movie, have a cookout, play cards, go golfing, or go shopping, be proactive and invite group members along. In this way, you can fit community-building into your current schedule.
- Have a set dinner invitation the same day and time each week at the same place. Make this an open invitation for any group members who would like to join you.
- Go on a retreat or a mission trip together. Groups that meet less than once a week have a difficult time breaking through the "acquaintance barrier" and becoming friends. A three-day retreat or mission trip will definitely aid in breaking through that barrier. Be sure everyone in the group is part of this experience, though, so no one is left out.
- use Skype or a similar program to have conversations between meetings. This alleviates travel time but still makes it possible for group members to connect and see one another's faces.
- Do you and some of your group members enjoy playing online games, or do you have access to an online service through your video game console? Take advantage of it. You no longer have to be in the same room to have a robust game night. You can even talk to one another while playing—just be sure you all have a headset.
If you're leading a group of very busy people, ignoring their needs will only frustrate group members and may even drive them to leave the group. Considering and responding to members' needs are vital for small groups that are relevant to life.
—Rick Howerton is the Global Groups Environmentalist for NavPress Publishers and a regular blogger. This article is adapted from his blog; used with permission from the author.