Tag: messy

9 truths nobody told you about small group

Ahh…small group life. You’re in…by the duping of your pastor. Or by the guilting of your wife. Or because you thought you were signing up for a free vacation.

But that was 6 weeks ago. And you’re finding out that what you expected isn’t what’s being delivered. And what you were sold isn’t being given. Group isn’t exactly what you thought it would be.

I don’t know what the hook was that got you “in,” but that won’t be the hook that gets you to stay. Allow me to tell you what nobody else told you when you signed up. And let me show you why each truth will serve you greatly.

9 truths nobody told you about small group

1. You won’t want to go.

As much as you like it, most weeks you won’t want to go to small group. You’ll start making up excuses about your excuses. Then your excuses will start making up excuses.

But isn’t the same thing true about almost anything in life that’s good for us?

2. You won’t make best friends with everyone in the group.

You’ll encounter people that rub you the wrong way. Speak out of turn. Don’t speak at all. And ones that can’t cook a pot of chili to save themselves. These aren’t necessarily people you’d want to hang out with on Friday nights.

But it’s not about making best friends. It’s about growing spiritually.

3. God will change you. And it’ll be painful.

How often in life do we choose what we know will cause us pain, and what we simultaneously know will cause us growth? Very rarely. This is your chance to grow in a safe, loving environment that wants God’s best for you.

Strap on your big boy shoes. 

4. God will use you. And it’ll be difficult.

You thought small group was about you, didn’t you? You thought you were the one that was stretching in this process. You thought the group, and its growth, its challenges, and its joy was about you. Boy, were you narrow-minded. And even though your story isn’t done, and you’re not where you know you want to be spiritually, God’s going to use you. He’s going to use your journey, and the wisdom He’s given. He’s going to use your insights into Scripture. He’s going to use your prayers.

You’ll find yourself surrounded by a group of broken work-in-progresses. And by the grace of God, you’ll be contributing to that work.

5. There are “better” ways to spend your time.

At least that’s what you’ll tell yourself. You need some “me” time. Your kids need you at home. You’re behind in emails. You’re hungry. You’re tired. You’re crabby. You…need to play golf.

There ARE better ways to spend your time. But carving out a couple of hours every week is time your soul needs. Choosing what we need over what we want helps us to mature.

6. You’ll be offended.

There will be times when you’re offended to your core. Sometimes the offenses will be off-base, out-of-line. Sometimes you’ll be offended on behalf of someone else. But the ones that sting the most are the offenses that are rooted in truth. The ones where you know they’re right as their words slice you like a surgeon.

You’re going to be hurt. In the best way possible.

7. You’ll be the offender.

You’ve offended people before. People at work. Family members. The guy that you cut off in traffic. But the difference in offending someone in your small group is that you will have grown to really love them. And you’ll feel just as pained as they are.

You’ll grow to love the people in your small group. And at some point, in some way, whether it’s implicit or explicit, you’ll offend someone you love. In truth and love.

8. It won’t feel natural. For a long time.

Small group will feel awkward and forced. You’ll wonder why in the world you signed up. These people don’t feel like “your people,” and they’re likely not going to be people you’d naturally hang out with.

These are exactly the kind of people God wants to use to grow you.

9. The information you gain isn’t all that important.

A lot of people sign up for a small group because of the content of the study. But that’s just the backdrop. The content you gain will only serve as long as you SEE it lived out in the lives of your group members.

Content is only a part of the value of a group. It’s a small piece of the pie.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – the apostle Paul, Hebrews 10:24-25



Good leaders are good listeners

My son is piecing lots of words and thoughts and phrases together.  It’s quite hilarious, actually.  Here are a few he’s said recently.

Right there!  Daddy…Poppy…eat…hot!

Translation: “I ate dinner there with Poppy one night, and his plate was so hot it burned me.”

Oh no! Wait…Daddy…church…right there!

Translation: “We just drove by the road that we turn down to go to church…turn around!”


Translation: “Daddy and I played on the playground at that school and it was fun!”


Translation: ‘I helped Daddy work outside.’ (see picture below for when he said that)


Translation: “Daddy, would you turn your hat around backwards?”


Translation: “Daddy, you smell bad.”  (I get that one a lot…)

But this is the one that takes the cake:

Daddy die!

Out of context, this statement from my son seems oddly dark and twisted.  In context it makes perfect sense.  I promise you my son is not a weirdo.

See, if you’d been there in the moment, you wouldn’t have thought anything was out of place.  He was riding his four-wheeler, and right in the middle of the yard, the battery died.  All he was doing was letting me know that, so that I’d go plug it back in and charge it up.  Not weird at all.

And that’s what building a relationship does.  It helps put things into context.  It helps make sense of a person.  Learning their story, understanding their struggles, their heartaches, their missed opportunities, their hopes and dreams takes them from being an “outsider” to being someone you relate with and that you can serve with.  All of a sudden, they’re not so un-relatable…you begin to see how your stories at some level mesh, and how you can speak truth into that person’s life.

Relationships are difficult, no doubt.  And they’re messy and frustrating and will test your patience and your life’s calling.  But taking the time to hear someone’s story, helping them pull out the bright spots, shining light in the dark places, will make you a better leader.  Because through truly getting to know people, not just brushing them off and casting them to the side, you’ll grow to love them more.

People aren’t a means to an end.  They’re your calling.  It doesn’t matter what “business” you’re in.

Good leaders are good listeners.



The quest for the perfect cup of coffee

If you’re in the business of leading people, you must also be in the business of building relationships.

If you’re not, you can forget about having any significant level of influence.

Yesterday, I had a cup of coffee from a Chemex.  You know how long it took between the time I ordered it and the time I took my first sip?

Nearly 12 minutes.

Was I frustrated?

Not a bit.

It was a perfect cup of coffee.  Perfect.  It was clean, smooth, and a bit chocolatey.  Its roasty-ness wasn’t overwhelming, but its flavors deep and rich.

With the Chemex, you don’t just hit a button and watch the magic happen.  You have to stand beside it the whole time it’s brewing, continuing to add more water at just the right time.  Then wait for the percolation to happen.  Then add more water (with a very specific type of kettle) to the areas that are dry, starting with the center and moving out towards the edge.  Until finally, after all of the water has percolated through and the brewing process is complete, you get a decanter full of perfection.  The cup of coffee that comes from the Chemex is truly a work of art.

And relationships are no different.

We’d like to think that relationships are microwavable.  Quick, easy, and cheap.  But they’re far from it.

Truths about Significant Relationships

Relationships take time, effort, and expense.

They take constant care and attention.  Don’t walk away, or you’ll miss that key opportunity, that key moment that the next step forward is contingent upon.

Each relationship is different.

Building relationships is not a one-size-fits-all model.  Just as each Chemex cup takes a slightly different amount of time to brew, depending on the grind of the coffee, the speed at which you pour the water, and the temperature of the water, so each relationship takes a different amount of effort, time, and care.

You can’t have significant relationships with a vast number of people.

There’s just too much expense involved.  It’s not possible to give of yourself enough to have deep, significant relationships with significant numbers of people.

Relational investments take cultivation to grow.

Don’t expect to hit a button, wave your magic wand, and voila!  Cultivating important relationships is hard work.  You’ll have to let other things slide.  Other commitments, responsibilities, emails, phone calls, and things less important.

It is worth the wait.

If you’ll give a relationship the time and effort it needs, you’ll be surprised the mutual benefits that will follow.

If you lose sight of the end goal, you’ll get frustrated.

You’ll get burned, feel like it’s too big an investment, and feel the tension to just move on.  Like this is a hopeless cause that’s benefiting nobody.  Offering grace, mercy, love, and hope isn’t something you do because you are looking for immediate results.

“Love is patient…Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7)



Cultivating the drone

Do you celebrate volunteers who do exactly what you ask them to do?

Or do you encourage creativity, outside-the-box thinking, and pursuing God-given passions?

Teaching people to punch a button is easy.  Raising up (and giving space to) leaders who are creative and innovative is not.

Raising up creative leaders is:

1. Messy – When you ask somebody to think outside of the box, it ceases to be “clean, concise, and manageable.”

2. Decentralized – It’s difficult to have a two-hour training on this stuff.  It’s more about cultivating an environment than about transferring information.  And allowing creativity to permeate each person (rather than having those you lead simply parrot back a response) means that you won’t be the sole trainer.

3. Slow – Since it’s not chiefly about transferring information, it takes much longer.

4. Difficult to replicate – Many times, this process differs from person to person.  Creativity is unique to the individual, and thus not exactly duplicate-able.

5. Risky – Asking people to think outside the box means that they may go off in a direction that you didn’t intend.

However, I think that it’s worth dealing with each of the above.  Because in the long run, organizations that embrace and encourage creativity will produce innovators who work through plaguing problems, promote development, and help a company (or a church) sustain long-term growth.

If you’re content doing things the same way you’ve always done them, then you’re going to raise up leaders with that same value.


The power of your story

You have a story.

It may be ugly and offensive.

It may be neat and pretty.

It may be rough and unfinished.

And you’re probably scared to share it, because of what people will think when they hear it.

But sharing your story within community is one of the most powerful things you can do to build community.

I recently shared my story with my small group.

And let me tell you…it felt great.

To have people intently listening to my life story, nod their head in understanding, ask probing questions, and affirm God’s work in my life felt so freeing.

And confirmed to me the value of my story.

You have a story.

And the beautiful part is that God’s still working on you.

Will you consider building community around sharing your story and listening to others’ stories?


You should not be in a small group if…

Here are a few reasons that you should never, under any circumstances, be in a small group:

You should not be in a small group if

…you cannot tolerate messiness. Doing life together with others is often messy, because you are doing life together with sinners (don’t forget that you’re a sinner, too!)!  Don’t always look for a neat bow to be tied at the end of each week of meeting together.  It’s just not going to happen.  Your story, and those in your group, is ongoing.

…you cannot tolerate a bit of chaos. Coordinating schedules, activities, emails, curriculum choices, food choices, etc. can be a big headache.  If you can’t put up with a little bit of chaos, please check out now.

…you show up expecting to receive, but not give. In a small group, you’ll be expected to participate in the discussion.  To reach out and build relationships.  You’ll be expected to, on occasion, host the group in your home…or pray for others…or lead an icebreaker…or lead the group discussion.  If you’re there just to soak it all in, small groups aren’t for you.

…you think that discipleship is limited to information transfer. It’s not!  Read more about my thoughts about discipleship HERE.

…people get on your nerves. It’s inevitable.  There will be “that guy” in your group.  If you just absolutely can’t stand to be around “that guy,” then you can count on God putting him (or her) in your small group (just so you know, I think that it actually works for your good when God puts people who are not like you in a small group together.  Conflict with others often reveals the sinful patterns in our own hearts.  James 4:1-6 speaks to this.

…you are comfortable with your life.  Small groups stretch you to love more, serve more, give more, and sacrifice more.  Small groups are not for the faint of heart.

…you don’t want your faith to grow. Being an active part of a small group will grow your faith.  The early church met in a gathering service and in homes (Acts 2:46).  I’m not saying that the fact that they met in homes is the sole reason that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved,” (Acts 2:47) but it was surely one piece that God was using then…and that, I believe, he continues to use now.

What can you add to this list?  Why would somebody not want to be in a small group?


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