I missed a very intriguing article back in 2008. A great friend and co-writer of Small Group Life Manual passed the article The End of Small Groups to me. It was written by Jason Jaggard who is a part of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles. He is also an adjunct professor at Golden Gate Theological Seminary.
The crux of the editorial… Don’t form small groups, help people find friends.
A few comments that caught my attention:
Point #1: “…every human being does community naturally.”
Point #2: “Small groups usually start out great, but then (stop me if I’ve heard this one) they begin to lose their energy after a month or two and the group divides itself into two camps. In the first camp are the committed members who would go to a root canel every week if they made a promise to. In the other camp are those who find something else to do – are sick, had a root canal to go to – instead of going to the boring small group.”
Point #3: “… I’m calling for and end to small groups and crying out for a shift toward friendship. Healthy people don’t need small groups – they need friends. Somehow the world has survived without the strange concoction of the “small group” that churches readily and sincerely embraced in the ‘90’s.”
Point #4: “Rather than a “plug-n-play attitude toward relationships, we should be holding high the value of creating healthy relationships.”
Point #5: “At Pepperdine University we’re currently trying and experiment. “… we are going to try a short-term structure called “risk groups.” We’re meeting four to six times, have dinner together and, after small talk and such, will answer only one question: What risk do I need to take this week to become the person I long to be?”
Point #6: “Will they make friends during this time? Yes. Will some choose to hang out after their risk group has come and gone? Probably. But it will be on their terms and guilt free – because they want to, not because some religious organization is telling them they have to.”
Okay… I gotta tell ya’…
- I’m on board with much of what Jason is saying.
- I think I’d really like Jason. Sounds like he too is a revolutionary.
A few points Jason and I would probably enjoy conversing about (Jason, please forgive me if I’ve accidentally misinterpreted some aspect of this article. As someone who is questioned more than quoted myself, I know that can happen.):
Point #1 above: I don’t believe every human being does community naturally. In fact, most people seem to need help finding one and knowing how to live in community. Many people go to bars to find community, others come to the church. And in both of these settings those involved need help knowing how to live with one another, in community. In fact, much of the New Testament is helping people know how to live in community because they are unable, even with the Holy Spirit and God’s guidance found in the Bible, to do it where it doesn’t destroy itself. It seems it is fairly unnatural to live in community. Community is one of the things the enemy has been trying to separate us from since the fall. And he’s done a very good job of it.
Point #2 above: There is most certainly a third category… those groups that help people find a community, train a small group leader to facilitate community, and continue to be a motivated community for a lifetime. Please know that I’m not insinuating that a group will come together psyched and dancing in the streets through every era of the group’s relationship. Every relationship has it’s flow of ups and downs things to suffer about together and to celebrate together. Every relationship whether it be a dating relationship, a marriage relationship, buddies we golf with weekly, a local church, has it’s times of anticipation and its eras of apathy. Maybe the groups Jason mentioned need to stay together through the era of apathy so they can experience all of the stages of substantial relationship. Experiencing all of life together, not just the exciting times is necessary if someone wants to be involved in an authentic healthy Christian community.
Point #3 above: Me too. Healthy small groups are made up of people who have become friends. Also… the world has survived without many avenues to relationship in generations passed. Generations passed didn’t seem to need assistance in helping people find one another due to the fact that most people were with the same friends and extended family in the same town for a lifetime. Is it possible that small groups are helping to connect individuals to future friends due to the transient nature of the world we live in? I’m wonderin’.
Point #4 above: No doubt about it. Jason is dead on!
Point #5: I am asking this question, not questioning Jason’s statement: Is it our goal (or am I simply dabbling in semantics) to become all we long to be or to allow Christ to shape us into His image through accountable relationships? This is an issue many people seem to be debating now.
I do wonder if Jason’s primary concern with this article is “structuring” small groups. If so, even this one question, “What risk do I need to take this week to become the person I long to be?” invites structure into the group experience.
Point #6: The insinuation of this statement seems to be that small groups formed by churches drive people to group by guilting them into joining up, that guilt is the outcome of joining a group. My experience has been that most people find more freedom and are set free from guilt by being in a healthy small group.
Okay… before someone thinks me attacking Jason, please know that I simply caught wind of the article, read it, and had some knee-jerk reactions.
The truth… I think this is an article that is vital to the small group conversation. Jason is right, too many churches add people to an organizational system of group life without leaving the freedom for the group to naturally become friends being guided by the Holy Spirit to the next phase of doing life together, really.
Thanks for an article that will stretch many of us, Jason.