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Community within the Church

Community within the Church

Ten years ago our church began to formalize and promote the idea of “community groups” within our church. These were small groups of people committed to gathering on a regular basis for the purpose of sharing a meal at the dinner table, enjoying like-minded fellowship, pursuing godward conversations, spending time in group prayer, and basically being there for each other.

The seed of excitement sprouted quickly within me, and my husband was completely on board when I asked him if we could think about being the leaders of one of these small groups. We signed up, reviewed the information about how to start a group, and had our wheels turning as to what kind of a group we hoped to put together. Since we were heading into the “empty nest” years, we thought it would be good to form a group of people in a similar stage of life, who also had at least one public school employee and/or fisherman in the family so that our schedules would hopefully jive well. We invited one couple who had been our friends for many years to be our “wing couple” (side-kick leaders). We then asked 3 other couples who all said “yes” to joining the group. Since that time, we have added another couple, bringing our number up to 12 committed members.

Twice a month we gather in one of our homes, sit down to the best meal we’ve ever had (every. single. time.), share about what’s happening in our lives, tell stories, ask each other questions, listen, and laugh until we have had our fill of food and time at the table. We then move into the living room and begin our time of reading (whether it’s the Bible passage or book we are studying together as a church, or a book we are working through together for the purpose of growth and discussion. Eventually we move into prayer. It might be all 12 of us taking a turn to pray or it might just be a few of us. When we are done we visit some more, eat dessert, and eventually head back home.

Sometimes in the Summer we gather around one of our fire pits for our time together. We have faithfully met twice a month since 2012 with only some breaks in the summer. Even during 2020 we did Zoom meetings to keep in touch and to check in on one another until we could gather safely outside. In early 2021 we began to gather at the newest home that had an air purifying system and enough space for us to spread out and resume meeting in-person. We had missed each other!

An array of life circumstances and challenges have washed across our group in a decade, and as each experience has touched us, we have grown closer through opening up to one another. We have been able to share our hearts, our concerns, our questions, and our challenges, and have encouraged and upheld one another in prayer. We have helped each other face whatever it is that has been hard. We have wrestled with scripture together and grown from each other’s knowledge and ideas. We have celebrated the marriages of our children, welcomed each other’s grandchildren, grieved the loss of loved ones, been concerned and in prayer for one another over health issues faced, walked through the process of retirement, one by one, shared the challenges of how to enter in to the lives of aging parents, helped one another move, made meals together for Faith Recovery Fellowship, fed one another on numerous occasions, celebrated 10 Christmases together, and basically became family. We have lived out Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens and therefore fulfill the law of Christ”.

So…who do YOU do life with in your church? Do you invest in the lives of others? Do you allow others to invest in yours? As a community group, we are currently reading and discussing the book “Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love”. This book explores the idea that we ALL need help, AND we are ALL helpers. Jesus presented us with the concept that “weakness” is the new strength. When we are ‘weak’ (in touch with our need), He is strong. We need help for our souls, and other committed believers can offer strength through encouragement and wisdom. They can help us refocus on our faith in Christ and remind us of who we are as a child of God and what we have in Him. In truly trusted relationships we can also point out each other’s blind spots and help each other to move into repentance and deeper relationship with God.

Is it always easy? No. Things come up. Issues arise. Life gets busy. Do we need any other friends and family? Yes. It doesn’t exclude others in any way. We have committed to this group for the primary purpose of pursuing growth in our spiritual lives…to knowing and loving one another well while learning to love God more.

This community group has never broken my trust and has done nothing but build me up and help me grow. Any hurt that I perceived over the years was basically generated from within me, choosing to interpret something unintentional as a slight or a wound. Those moments are fleeting, but ones that are aimed at moving me away from the source of what meets my deepest need…knowing God…with the help of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Overwhelmingly, being committed to a community group has been a life-source I didn’t realize I had been missing. As we kept meeting and sharing more of ourselves, and praying, eventually we became a tight family of faith that loves one another deeply, from the heart. I hope you have that too, but if not, I share our experience to say that it is possible, and it is worth pursuing.

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