During recent weekend I drove the hour and a half down the road to be with family for what I could only describe as a pseudo-reunion. (Since we get together once each season of the year, there’s really no need to use the “re-“.) As a card-carrying member of the American South, I understand the significance of family and family relationships, but as I sat in on the conversation and the small-town gossip continued I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, “Is this what it’s all about? Is this the reason I am here?” Since I’m no longer a regular part of this small Kentucky town—and haven’t been for a couple of decades—the moment afforded me the opportunity simply to listen and feel; to indulge the internal dialog that had begun to swell.

In that moment I concluded that if family is not building up, encouraging, and strengthening, and if I am not offering any of this myself, then what is it really about. Yes, there are times during which you just sit. You listen. You enjoy. And maybe there are even times when you have no agenda other than just enjoying company. Maybe. To be honest, I’m still forming a position on small talk. My great aunt told me once, “small-minded people talk about people, other people talk about things, and great people talk about ideas.”

Matthew 12:46-49 at one time for me was a difficult reconciliation. Even though I have never felt like I have to reconcile everything—far from it—this passage of Scripture was problematic.

[Jesus] was still speaking to the crowds when suddenly His mother and brothers were standing outside wanting to speak to Him. Someone told Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to You.” But He replied to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!

Here Jesus is placing his small group at a higher position than his family. Wow. For a boy in western Kentucky putting anything above the family was antithetical to my entire formation. But in the ninety-degree melt of this August afternoon heat, this passage came again to me. Family is a place to find strength. It’s about knowing who you are, from where you have come, and discovering through community where you’re headed. Like many other things, family should also be intentional. Our small-group world works in almost the exact same way.


Looking for a vibrant small-group meeting? Here are 4 distinctives of a successful small-group on the road to redemptive community.

1. Questions and opportunities for group members to tell their stories before getting into Bible study. Many groups utilize “ice-breaker” type questions.

2. Interactive and more discovery-oriented Bible study. The discovery approach to Bible study is one of the expectations of small groups today.

3. Some level or variety of experiences. This can range from creating events as part of the meeting, utilizing the five senses, to engaging a video or movie clip with applicable follow-up questions and conversation.

4. If media is used, the group should focus on a screen for no more than 15 minutes. The longer a group turns away to watch a TV or monitor, the more good group dynamic is lost.