Monday, July 25, 2011

Baby Steps Toward Building a Small Group

To begin with, I HATE What About Bob. Seriously hate it. I spend the vast majority of the movie wishing he would actually suffer the consequences of all the ridiculous situations he gets in. It drives me insane, like Forest Gump meeting a comedy of errors. I also really hate Forest Gump, but that is another rant for another day. As much as I hate What About Bob, it does not negate the point that sometimes, (Is sometimes one word or two? any of my grammar friends out there know that one?) often times, things need to come in very, very small stages. Such is the case with our Fuse Group at church.

This particular group has been through so much transition in the last year. I feel for the students who need stability and have had very little. Let me give you a glimpse into their world. The major changes have been a new format for youth group, the loss of 2-3 adult leaders (that I know of) and the addition of a new location, and 2-3 new leaders. Attendance fluctuates not only with the calendar year and academic year, and in any given week we could have the same number of students, but an almost entirely different group of individuals. And those are only the major changes. Sheesh.

This is what we are up against as we are trying to build some kind of foundation for trust and relationship. Lately we have taken some encouraging steps in that direction. Fuse Groups are interesting in that they can be mixed gender or same gender, depending on the group itself. I suggested and moved forward with having a gender-specific group, and there were objections. This was a leadership error on my part. I should have brought it up and given the students a chance to decide if that is what they wanted before I moved forward with it. I am so glad that there was a facebook revolt of sorts. I find this so encouraging because there is a sense of ownership in voicing an objection. This shows that they in some way think the group is their own and they are invested enough to speak about how they don't want the group to be. Such objections might be complaint at more change, they might come from a genuine concern to be in an environment that feels comfortable or safe, and they might be just a chance to flex the will. No matter what the motive of each student, this was an opportunity to begin to build the trust that is needed in the small group. By opening the conversation, hearing what is behind the objections, and working out an action plan going forward, I think we took several steps toward building a small group. This discussion communicated that each member is valuable, that a small group is a safe place to voice concerns, that this is a place where we bring things out into the open, and that we are not to be undone by opposition. Those are some of the foundational pieces of building a small group.

I am happy we took those steps, but sometimes I am overwhelmed by the distance we have to go. The students still need to get to a place where they feel comfortable regularly sharing their spiritual lives with one another, and that is something that requires many more laps. A thriving small group is characterized by (among other things) its members volunteering vulnerable information, listening well, committing to be present with someone else when they are walking through a hardship, and celebrating one another and the group itself. We have a marathon until we get to that point. It is hard not to be overwhelmed, and, as much as I hate to admit it, that is when I have to remind myself that some things do indeed come in baby steps.

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