In a recent friendly conversation around the offices of SmallGroups.com, someone jokingly exclaimed, "My small group is better than yours!" While we don't want to promote any unhealthy competition, there was a nugget of truth in this statement that we want to celebrate: people love their small groups. So we set out to find out what you love about your group. We even asked our Facebook fans and Twitter followers to share with us. Here are some of our favorite answers.
We adopted a house of adults with special needs. We recognized that there were needs in the residential houses that weren't being met, and that the people who live there were craving closer connections. Our group provides household goods, personal hygiene items, and more. Plus, we hang out with them by watching movies, hosting barbecues, and leading other activities. It's a blessed interaction. —Kathi Waltenbaugh, Washington
The prayer is powerful! The ladies are accepting. I continually learn how much God loves me through these women. —Sara Snyder, Illinois
I started a men's group to raise more men leaders in church. We meet every week for study and prayer. As most of these men come directly from work, we try to have dinner together every week. When we finish a study—every two or three months—we give ourselves a reward and plan a challenging outdoor activity like a wilderness hike or mountaineering. We study the skills required and do quite a bit of running to prepare. That's led to several men taking up running more seriously and preparing to run a half marathon. —Pol Gonzales, Philippines
Our church has tried a variety of different groups that we have labeled "low impact" groups, for people who may not have been in a small group before or simply may not want something really in-depth at the moment. My group is called Soul Food, and we meet together every Sunday night in our church kitchen and cook together! The leader picks out a theme for the meal, and we bring in different recipes that match the theme. Then we split into pairs and cook different parts of the meal. The leader makes copies of all the recipes, so by the end of the group, we will each have our own book of all the recipes. When everything is done, we sit down and eat together and have a great time of fellowship. Plus, we make doubles of everything and deliver the second meal to a family in the community that is in need. No calling ahead; we just show up and bless them. —Erin Bradshaw, Illinois
One reason I love our small group is because we have raised our children together for over seven years. Early on, our five families decided to embrace the chaos of having all the kids (currently 14 kids from 3- to 18-years-old) with us during all group times. Most of us did not have any family nearby and yearned to create an extended family with honorary Christian aunts and uncles. We wanted our children to experience community with one another and see faith modeled by various adults and homes. Although we don't share the same parenting style, we're committed to respecting the differences and give each other permission to instruct or correct the children as necessary. It hasn't been a smooth journey, but it has been very good. If you were to ask my kids which adults they trust the most after family, several of the adults in this group would be at the top of the list. Recently we celebrated the first child of the group graduating from high school, and it was a joy to see how this group has loved her, watched over her, and spoken into her life as she has grown up. I don't think it takes a village to raise a child; it takes a small group. —Carolyn Taketa, California
My group provides practical, real life care for each other. We bring meals when there is a new baby or a surgery, help when someone is moving, cry together when someone experiences a tragedy or disappointment, and more. —April Bodmer, Illinois
The greatest impact my small group has had on me is not what happened during meetings, but what happened between meetings. Not only do the people in my small group give me strength, they give me inspiration. Craig is a member of our small group, and he often shares about his work on cars. Auto repair is a hobby for him, and there aren't many things he doesn't know how to do when fixing a car. Listening to him share about his latest auto repair project inspired me to work on my own car. I heard Craig talk and I thought, If he can do it, I can do it. Since Craig has been in my small group, I have replaced my car's thermostat, serpentine belt, door handle, and brake pads. A member of my small group inspired me to try something new and discover abilities I never knew I had. —Mark Ingmire, Georgia
I led a multi-generational small group for women this past semester that focused on bettering our bodies for God's glory. The oldest one in the group was 79 years old. Ms. Shirley is a testimony to Psalm 71:18, "Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me. I will tell the next generation of your power and might to come." She believes that no matter her age, she has a responsibility to be an example of Christ, even in honoring God with her body. She is a beautiful example for ladies everywhere! —Peri Gilbert, Louisiana
I love what God is doing in our small group, both through creating community and mission. On the community side, it's really fun seeing people connect outside of group, watching and cheering on each other's kids, helping on home projects, being a support network in tough times, and celebrating life highlights together. On the mission side, it's powerful to see what God can do through a small group following him into missional opportunities. Our group has thrown a baby shower for an under-resourced couple, and thrown a 70th birthday party for a lonely man we recently started investing in. We have wrestled through how to help others in need, sometimes coming up with the right solution, and other times having to be content to keep searching and praying together. It's stretched us out of our comfort zones in different ways, and that's where going through it together really pays off. —Carter Moss, Illinois
My community life group is really blessed and fruitful. We care deeply for one another's welfare. We call each other weekly, share resources, and encourage each other through hard times. We are genuinely interested in one another's families and careers, and we mentor one another in investments, mortgages, parenting, career moves, and walking with the Lord. —Patricia Neema, Kenya
At one group meeting, I shared that I was confused about God's will for my life. I wondered out loud if I was in the right career. The group encouraged me and prayed with me to know God's will. Within a month of joining that small group, the company I worked for went through a takeover and my whole department was eliminated. I went to the group that night and told them what had happened. As we sought God's direction, I sensed God was urging me to use my passion for writing. They held me to that as job offers came in, as I turned down job offers, and as I decided to attend seminary. And when I packed up my apartment to move to seminary, they helped me load the truck. It was hard saying goodbye to these friends God had brought into my life, but I knew he put them there for a season and for a reason. As I left to begin this new adventure, I found comfort in knowing my friends would be praying for me. —Michael Mack, Kentucky
I get texts and calls from group members in the middle of the week wanting an update on my walk and my prayer requests. It's awesome to feel supported and loved and held accountable like that! —Jill Hathaway, Illinois
My small group has been reading Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and decided to try out Bonhoeffer's meeting plan, which includes praying from Psalms, singing hymns, reading Scripture, and eating together. It was an interesting experiment. The prayer time at the end was one of the best group prayer times I've ever had. There was a long list of prayer needs, but praying for each of them didn't become just a list to get through. Because the group is slowly becoming a true community, I was able to genuinely pray for the things that they need and the group was able to participate in that prayer without becoming bored. —Will Johnston, Washington, D.C.
Our group is great because we have a shared vision for helping others and we're actively living that out. —Andrew McCann, Illinois
—Compiled by the editors of SmallGroups.com; copyright 2013 by Christianity Today.