There are a lot of good people writing about small groups and small-group ministry these days, which means there’s a lot of great content available for the good and courageous folks who’ve chosen to lead a group. I’m thankful for that.
But one message is mostly missing from the mountains of material: Small groups should be fun. Just like alliteration is fun. (See what I did there?)
I’ll repeat that: I think the presence of fun is a vitally important element of a successful small-group meeting.
There are two reasons why fun is crucial to a small-group meeting, and everybody understands the first one. Namely, it’s fun to have fun. People like having fun. You, me, your group members, and anyone who might eventually become one of your group members—we all enjoy a good time.
Having fun in a small-group setting creates positive associations. It helps people open up and speeds up the process of building relationships. At the very least, it gives people a concrete reason to come back even if other parts of the group meeting don’t go very well. (Of course, the opposite is true for boring or overly serious group meetings.)
But there’s a second reason why having fun is important for small groups, and that one is a bit more surprising. Namely, fun is a key component of spiritual growth.
If you don’t believe me, check out your Bible. How many feasts does God command the Israelites to celebrate throughout the Old Testament? How many parties did Jesus and his disciples attend? How many times did the members of the Early Church break bread together?
God is a community, after all, and He created us in His image. He wired us to be our best selves when we are part of a network of believers who learn together and work to advance His kingdom together, yes—but He also wired us to enjoy each other (and enjoy Him!) along the way.
That raises an interesting question, though: How does a group leader incorporate fun into the group?
There are a number of things that work for me, but I’d rather open this question to the wisdom of the crowd rather than give any more personal opinions. So, what’s been a fun activity or experience in your group meetings? Or, what would you like to try in order to add a spark of entertainment?
Add your ideas in the Comments section below, and then get out there and have some fun!
—Sam O’Neal is author of The Field Guide for Small Group Leaders (coming in May 2012 from InterVarsity Press) and an editor for LifeWay Christian Resources.