Leading a small group is tiring. It's frustrating. And it's time-consuming. I'll even admit there are days I want to quit—nights that I get done with my small group and want to scream at how unproductive we were, or how much ground we lost, or how disruptive a particular group member was.
But there are also days when I can't sleep after small group because I'm so excited about what God's doing in our group. There are days when I feel more alive than I've ever felt because I see the body of Christ working together in our small group—through an impassioned intercessory prayer, a plan to scrape together resources to meet a need, or a breakthrough moment that overcomes sin's power in a group member's life.
The truth is, if God didn't call us to gather in community, life would be a lot easier without groups. It's a lot easier to go to work, drive home, and stay home. It's a lot easier to choose the people you hang out with—and stop hanging out with the people who make you uncomfortable. It's a lot easier to live out the "one another" commands when it's just you and your dog at home.
Community is hard work. And if it weren't for God calling us to gather, I'd say let's all quit. Right now.
But it's clear that we're supposed to gather. Even Jesus spent time gathering with others. Carolyn Taketa writes,
When Jesus' ministry began, he called 12 disciples to be his primary relational and ministry community. Did Jesus need this motley crew to help him? Not really. But Jesus chose to love them, teach them, and pour himself into relationships with them, thereby creating the first "small group."
The apostles continued Jesus' model and formed a community of believers who loved God and loved one another. Despite incredible persecution and against all odds, this rag tag group of Jesus-followers launched small communities (i.e. church) that proclaimed the gospel and changed the world forever.
Small groups carry out the mission of the church, and you—you!—get to be part of it. While it's an incredible honor to work alongside God as we lead our groups, it doesn't always feel like that. So here are a few reminders for when things get tough in your small group:
1. Community is hard.
Gather a group of sinful people in a sinful world, and it's no wonder that our small groups are a mess. But God works through the mess to change our hearts and lives. Through community, we become more Christlike. We are supported in this difficult life, and we have someone to celebrate with when God shows up in amazing ways. Without small groups, I doubt I would have found my way back to God, and I can guarantee that I wouldn't be the person I am today. Through small groups I have overcome sin, worked on unhealthy patterns of relating, and had people call me out on bad decisions. I've also developed life-long friends, grown closer to my husband, and learned helpful parenting skills. Community is hard, but boy is it worth it.
2. For every step forward, you take (at least) one back.
I love to see progress—whether it's the progress bar on a survey, the percentage read on my Kindle books, or checking items off my grocery list. I don't think I'm alone. So when we see that for every step our group takes forward, we take two steps back, it's no wonder we get frustrated. How will we ever reach the goal?