Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Shallow Small Group — putting the "super" back in "superficial"!

A moment of levity might be a nice break just now, eh?

Starts out okay and somewhat amusing... then gets better and better.

(h-t The Thabiti)


Scooter said...

"cause when it gets too deep, people drown."

Loved the ending!

The end of the video pointed me to the RightNow campaign. Interesting group as I saw names that make me go "Ahh! and "Oohhh".

Fred Butler said...

I know this sounds a bit bad, but I have actually attended small group Bible studies where I wished they were more like what I see in this video.

Sir Aaron said...

@Fred: me too, me too. Most "fellowship" meetings I'm a part of involve somebody teaching a lesson from a chapter of a book I've already read, group prayer, and then everyone goes their own way. So we talked about theology but I don't know anything about the other people present.

JackW said...

Me Three! Sit like a bump on a log and listen to what sounds like a regurgitated lecture from seminary with no interaction. I guess I should like it because you don’t have to really do anything to prepare and all the notes are handed to you so you don’t have to do anything while you’re listening. It does appeal to the lazy side of me I guess.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

While I laughed along with "shallow guy", I'm not terribly attracted by the alternative he's mocking either. Too many "small groups" seem to be nothing more than a bunch of angst-ridden people talking about their feelings, a study of a popular book, and a bunch of cliches. ("Let's unpack that...") Ugh.

Why have (trendy?) Small Groups replaced (old fashioned?) Bible Studies???

Merrilee Stevenson said...

And to springboard from Julie's last question, why have "small groups" replaced old fashioned hospitality?

It seems (and I'm preaching to myself here as well) that we have decided to make fellowship into a program that people have to sign up for, rather than God's people deciding to show hospitality to one another without a 12-week time limitation and agenda beyond getting to know one another.

Why is that?

Robert said...

I would say that we need some type of venue for Christians to come together and confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). Also, we are supposed to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, meet together, and encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25). And we are supposed to admonish, encourage, and help each other as needed (1 Thessalonians 5:14). We are told in Ephesians that we are supposed to be building each toher up and be unified.

While I can see the problems with just getting caught up in emotions, I can also see the danger of just coming in with Bible in hand and not really getting to the heart of our problems so that we can receive and offer the truth in love to one another. Are we just supposed to hide our struggles and pretend like we're doing fine? I don't think that is what the Gospel is all about. And if we can't put ourselves out there for people to see, then we are missing out on the opportunity for people to see our blind spots and offer uis some loving counsel.

Bible study is great, but knowledge needs to be balanced with application. I feel this is sorely needed in the church today because the longer we put on our masks and hide what is going on, the more and more we become removed from the correction and reproof that a loving brother/sister can offer us. At least I know that I need more of this.

Rita Martinez said...

lol that was hilarious!! especially that last quote "cause when it gets too deep, people drown." and "and who doesn't want to be super"

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Dan aims for a moment of levity, and this is what happens…

Robert – a hearty amen to iron sharpening iron. The catch is, that happens best in relationships. My experience with Small (Care/Life/Community/whatever) Groups has been… underwhelming - an unhappy blend of pseudo-Bible study (more likely to be based on a trendy book) and forced/artificial-feeling “fellowship”.

I’m sure – or at least I’m hopeful – that most people have a better experience, but that’s been mine.

Not recently, hallelujah. Actually, I'm very, VERY thankful for the church body we’re part of, because relationships can and do form much more naturally. Still takes effort, but it happens. We hadn't been attending there long before we were being invited to people's homes for meals, and reciprocating. I'll never forget the first family to have us over - our family of five squeezed in with their family of five (now six) and a couple of extra kids, for lunch on a rainy afternoon in their tiny, treehouse home. No kidding.

I’m with Merrilee in lamenting the development of fellowship into a scripted program. True hospitality is a million times better (not exactly a mathematically proven fact), more genuine, a lot more fun, and kinda Bibley, yah?

Still, I don’t know how that plays out for you folks in Big Churches.

P.D. Nelson said...

So is there a signup sheet?

No really.

lee n. field said...

"I would say that we need some type of venue for Christians to come together and confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). Also, we are supposed to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,

Sometime when we can all get together. Say, Sunday?

Bike Bubba said...

I gotta admit that I was waiting for the brewskies to come out. Or do people open up with each other more at a bar than they do in certain small group/church settings?

Come to think of it, I had a high school teacher who wanted to be a bartender because he loved helping people with their problems. Katie Luther, looks like there is a small group that needs your help!

Kirby said...

@Merrilee & Herding:
You are spot on! Why do we need to program that which Scripture commends as a natural part of, at least, an elder's life? Hospitality. Inviting people over to your house to develop a friendship, without the official sanction/push of the church programming impetus. Ooh, aah, that's a novel idea. What will we call that? (besides dangerous)?

I have often thought about this for about 10 years when it comes to Titus 2 women's groups. Why are we programming that which the Scriptures commands older women to do - go find a younger lady and be the mentor?

I yearn for a bit more organic versus organized. Perhaps a thought for a blog post. Am I too idealistic?


trogdor said...

So am I the only one here who's ever been in a good small group?

As to the questions about why we would need to schedule/organize this: for the same reason my wife and I schedule date nights - it's too important to just assume we'll get around to it otherwise. If we don't plan for it, life can get so overwhelming and consume every last available second. We certainly can and do spend a lot of quality time together besides that, but we want to ensure that no matter what, we at least get that.

And no doubt there are plenty of things you do that are similar. You know it's important to read scripture, so you designate a time for it, and anything else you can do is a great supplement. You know evangelism is important, so you plan to go somewhere every Saturday and talk to people about Jesus, in addition to your 'organic' witness to neighbors/family/coworkers. You set aside time for exercise, or yardwork, or finishing that boat, or whatever it is, rather than just getting to it when you have the time. Why? Because if you don't plan for it, it's too easy to let it not happen, and you may not even realize it until it's been several months.

Seriously, now. Does it really indicate that scripture reading is not a priority if you set aside an hour every morning for it? Who do you think is going to read scripture more and in a more focused way - the person who has a dedicated half hour per day (plus whatever else he can), or the one whose idea is that he's the type of person who wants to read scripture enough that he doesn't need to plan it? In all but extremely rare cases, I'll go with the guy who's on a program, even though he's apparently less spiritual or mature or whatever.

So why would it be any different with fellowship? Is it really condemnable to prioritize it such that, regardless of what other fellowship may develop otherwise, you've got a group of people to meet with every week, study God's word together, pray for each other, confess sins to each other, encourage each other, serve alongside each other, etc?

And my own experience, both for myself and people I've observed, is that if you plan to do these things, it becomes a whole lot easier to do them in the unplanned times as well.

One last thing. Maybe it's because Dave Ramsey's been on in the background, but I'm wanting to compare this to budgeting. Imagine you get paid once a month, on the first. How wise would it be to wait until the last week of the month to see if you have enough left to cover the mortgage and utilities? Obviously, this would be ridiculous. Some things absolutely need to be paid (giving, food, shelter, taxes, etc) and should come out as the first priorities. Others are optional (entertainment, luxuries, etc), and shouldn't be allowed to interfere with paying the necessities. But if you don't budget, and don't pay the top priorities first, it's far too easy to get the lights shut off because you spent too much on restaurants, or miss a month of supporting your missionaries or charities because you bought too many toys.

If that makes sense for money, how much more for things of true significance! We each have a limited amount of time and energy. Why not budget it so that the most important things are guaranteed to be taken care of, before you fritter it away on watching TV or vegging out or whatever? If it's really a priority - and fellowship absolutely is - it's a wee bit problematic to mock those who set aside designated time for it, even if it's through a 'program'.

christianlady said...

Small group time can be great IF you actually do have bible study and don't follow the "split and grow" plan. We did have what we thought was a great group, we went through the book of Acts verse by verse. We prayed for one another, it was great. But our church at the time was into books like "Walk Across the Room" and required it for all groups. So,we would do a meaty study, and then our group would be required a fluff book or required to split up for an all church campaign of some kind. They touted small groups as places to become a family and to really get to know people but then sabotaged the group on purpose. Made no sense. It would be nice to have a real bible study group and then let relationships happen as they happen.

One complaint I had too was that we rarely did anything spontaneously with our small group, it was always planned in advance. What about going to dinner together or having a pot luck on Sunday after church? Nope, it just rarely happened. We had two couple that really understood the aspect of being friends and part of a body that we are still friends with to this day despite us all leaving that same church at different times. We are supposed to be the body of Chist, but it feels more like we were just rushing through books and following some plan. We settled for less a lot because not everyone in the group could handle just studying the bible.

DRL said...

Small groups suck. First, my experience is that they are artificial. They're managed from the top down. Church "leaders" attempt to enforce intimacy by putting a bunch of people arbitrarily into the same room. Nobody really likes anyone else, but we all have to act like we do. Great recipe.

Second, the "deep" small group that this video is trying to encourage ends up being like a police state, where confession of sin is demanded (nothing "shallow" or petty is allowed, no matter how bothersome to one's conscience), and then people end up reporting back to the elders and pastors what everyone's issues are. "Accountability" is a cover for espionage. Yeah, that really encourages opening up to each other.

DJP said...

And your better idea is...?