We can forget that messy, broken people gathering with other messy, broken people regularly is sometimes going to have messy and broken results. And yet the opportunity for grace-filled acceptance, healing and love with messy and broken people (present company included) is vast.
A Community Group is a family of disciples of Jesus sent to bless a pocket of people.
What is a "pocket of people"? It usually falls into two kinds of categories: Geography (like a neighborhood) or a Network (like Graduate students, Rotary Club members, International students/friends).
Thankfully, our church is built upon men and women of mission. Many of us came out of Young Life, Cru, or a church background that gave a grid for loving non-believers well and sharing Christ with the lost in a relational way. And so we currently have a lot of existing relationships in our work place, our neighborhoods, our social circles, and our families that don’t know Christ - because we are on mission.
But we have often loved our friends alone. We may share about a spiritual conversation we have had with a non-believing friend - but we have not introduced our friend(s) to others who also know Jesus.
A pocket of people may have a heavy connection for just a few of you (maybe just a few of you live in the neighborhood you are reaching) and may not have much meaning to others in your CG. But, regarding a pocket of people, the whole point is that you are loving others together. Introducing that pocket of people to Jesus and to your family in Christ. Together.
Together is the key idea here. We want to introduce those who do not know our awesome King to those who do know Him. You know your lost friends - but they don't know your friends - your Jesus-family. Introducing them to your Jesus-family - to the greater Body of Christ - is a gift you can give your non-believing friends. Something beautiful happens when those who are lost see God's Family treating each other like family; they see an upside-down kingdom and they see the King Himself.
Community (being Family) is a powerful place where we experience God. We are sons and daughters of a good Heavenly Father making us family. Through the Family of God, Jesus and His kingdom are displayed.
Yes, this is a post about the outward movement of a CG - but it absolutely hinges on the inward movement as brothers and sisters in Christ. If we don't love each other well, forgive each other, enjoy each other, humble ourselves before one another - even know one another's story - then loving on a pocket of people together will feel forced and hard. Having a cohesive, strengthened, and positive family culture in your group will be necessary when welcoming others. All to say, being Family and being Sent Ones are interdependent. For more on Family, read Steve Rieske's enlightening blog here.
Maybe you can easily define your pocket as a neighborhood or network and maybe you cannot. Maybe you all have existing relationships in a huge suburb, so your pocket is that huge suburb. But the whole heart behind having a pocket of people is that you are introducing your lost friends to your Jesus-family in tangible, practical ways. And together, as a Family, you are reaching out to love others.
What does this look like? Since this is the outward piece of our CGs (we have three pieces: Inward as Family, Upward as Disciples, and Outward as Sent Ones) we want to think through ways to have our non-believing friends meet our Jesus-family. Put three wine tasting nights on your calendars this year as a CG and invite your non-believing friends to join you those nights. Have 3 summer cookouts with yard games and children everywhere in the warmer months - set aside to invite your pocket of people. Or have a euchre night with drinks, appetizers and a round robin - switching partners after 3 games. There are so many possibilities to reach out to your non-believing friends - together!
After you've done something like that, come together as a Family and share who you met, what you learned, what could be done better or differently. Was it fun? Was it hard? Did you walk by faith - together? See what you find. Who knows what God has in store for your Jesus-family!
As well, even if your pocket of people is easily defined - feel very free to include those you are already WITH and are ONE OF naturally. We have roommates and co-workers and friends and neighbors we have invested in for God’s Kingdom for years. They need a place to experience God’s Family, too. So, of course include them in your pocket of people even if they don’t “fit” into your defined pocket. Walk with God’s Spirit and see how He prompts you to do that. Dive into that defined pocket together as well as include those who God has already made you ONE OF naturally.
May our Pocket of People be roomy and open, not sewn tight.
Listening to anyone about anything means you most likely have to ask a question. And then a follow-up question. And a few more after that. That alone is a Spirit-filled shift from yourself to others. So what are good questions to be asking? What are good questions to have in your pocket as you are living life and loving people?
When is a group too big? When does it need to think about splitting up? How many people is ‘just right’ for a personal conversation? Usually, we’re tempted to believe that these types of questions can be answered by looking at what people we’re talking about--in other words, our answer to how many is too many for social gathering is: “Well, it depends on the people.” While that is certainly a factor, the study of proxemics says that the way people relate to one another in different spaces is pretty predictable. So, what does proxemics say that is helpful to us--people trying to figure out how to participate, lead, and navigate Community Groups?
Some of us have felt the tension, the fight, the chaos of trying to actually have a discussion with many loud and lively kiddos right in the same room (or nearby) - during those Colorful Meals we’ve talked about. We want to have times where kids are involved in our Community Group - but having real discussion, bible teaching, sharing and prayer is quite a stretch during the Colorful times. So how do we do this?
Our Sunday Family Meals are our very colorful time. Sometimes “family time” is just that - we aren’t all circled up and joining in one collective theological conversation - but connecting in the corners with a few here and there. Being family. Rich with spills and wiping kiddos noses and helping each other and dripping waffle messes and loudness. Family is nutty.