I met the king of community last night. He was in my small group, just waiting to reveal himself at the right time.
I’ve seen him before. He’s popped his head in a few times to small group or to random conversations with friends. I’ve seen him at the gym, in the coffee shop, and waiting in line at Wal Mart.
It’s hard to plan for him, because he comes and goes as he pleases. The best thing you can do is to be ready for him, because when he shows up he could destroy a relationship. He could so distract you that you think he’s an annoyance, something you need to move past to get to something else that’s more important. In the moment, nobody really likes him.
The king of community’s name is not “food,” though that helps. His name is not “coffee,” though in my small group coffee is vital. His name is not “funny joke” or “comfortable couch” or “a great Bible study” or “common interests.”
His name is disruption.
He shows up in a number of different ways. He shows up often in small groups, but if you’re not ready for him, he’ll come and go unnoticed as the king. He’ll frustrate, distract, and derail. In fact, when he shows up, he’ll make people want to leave.
But if you’re ready for him, he’ll build a stronger sense of community than you could ever imagine. Small group leader: be ready.
Sometimes this pain is caused outside of your group (losing a loved one, losing a job, etc.). Other times it’s a pain that’s shared together by the group. Either way, pain and difficulty disrupt the “normal” and build community. Neither of these painful experiences can you plan, and neither of these painful experiences would you long for. But either can cause your relationship with that person to go really deep really quickly, knitting your stories together.
The prayer request.
Look out for this one, because it’ll sucker-punch you in a small group. You’re ready to shut the group down for the night when someone brings up the request, “Dave’s not here tonight because we decided to separate.” Or, “Every week I just sit here and listen, but I need to tell you that I’m addicted to _____.” In these moments, slow down and let community happen.
The random question.
You’ll be tempted to dismiss this one as a distraction. And though it may be distracting you from the topic at hand, it can be a great community builder. These questions disarm people, giving them a chance to rally around their doubts, confusions, and curiosities. Chances are good that one person’s curiosities will reveal another’s.
Meeting to serve.
Try putting your Bible study aside for the night and serving at a local soup kitchen. Or going shopping for your neighbor with 3 kids whose husband just left. Or going on a full-fledged mission trip together.
Nothing reveals the depravity of the human heart quite like game night. Gloves come off, ribbing begins, and friends turn on each other. All is fair in love and war…but not in a game of “Cranium.”
The tough saying/hard question.
“What’s God calling you to do with this?” “How are you going to obey Jesus with this today?” “Why does God ask us to ____?” Wrestling through difficult questions and hard sayings builds community. Plan these question-bombs wisely.
Watch for disruptions. They’ll either rip the fabric of your group apart…or weave it together into beautiful community.
Have you experienced authentic community? What helped build that?