I started attending Hope Church (then CCF) in 2010, and in the fall of that year joined my first small group (called a “care group” at the time). I joined this particular group because most of us had children the same age. I was very nervous walking into my first care group meeting – these people had been doing life together for years, and I was a complete stranger. But they welcomed me in, and this room full of strangers soon became dear friends. Indeed, I cannot imagine life without them in it.
After meeting for many years, the group disbanded, although the women are still in a group text, and we frequently send prayer requests to each other. My current community group has people who are at very different stages of life, and I have quickly also come to love each of these people – who were once strangers in the pews around me – dearly.
I cannot begin to detail the blessings that come from a community group, but here are some:
You learn that you are not the only one going through something.
Sometimes it’s easy to look around the pews and think that you are the only one who does not have it together, and that everyone else’s life and family are perfect. When you start sharing life together in a community group, you learn that everyone in the group, and in the pews around you is going through something, whether or not you know what it is. It helps you to have more compassion for others outside of your group and your church as you begin to realize that indeed, everyone is going through something, from the person who rings you up in the grocery store to your mail carrier to your colleague at work.
You are there for each other in times of need.
In May, our basement, with nearly 20 years worth of “stuff” in it, flooded. We were overwhelmed at the task ahead of us as everything in the basement had to be removed, and we were mortified to have anyone help us as our basement was a complete mess (even before the flood!). But we swallowed our pride and asked our community group to help us, and they did, spending a very long evening helping us lug all of our belongings out of the basement and try to stop the incessant flooding. They brought food over so we didn’t have to stop to cook, and just surrounded us with love. One member even came back a few days later on her day off to help me sort through stuff.
You grow in your faith together.
As you laugh and cry and experience life together, read God’s word together, and see how God is at work in each person’s life, you grow in your faith. And when you are struggling with your faith, your group is there to walk through that as well. When one group member was diagnosed with cancer, my faith grew exponentially as I watched her hold on to God and use the cancer diagnosis for his glory.
You display the love of Christ to a watching world.
Besides helping each other with needs, we also reach out to others. We have raked the yards of friends and neighbors, made pies for homeless shelters, put together bags (socks, soap, gift cards) to give out to people begging on the streets, cleaned off the path of a town park, and more. When friends or colleagues mention a difficult time they are going through, I let them know my small group will pray for them. People outside of the church are often surprised that complete strangers will rake their yard or make them food or pray for them.
While there are many more reasons to join a small group, I’ll stop here and encourage you to do so if you have not joined one already. The group – and the lifelong friends you will make – are life changing.