It’s hard to believe that Grace Groups have already been running for two-and-a-half years! Our first of these weekly small group meetings took place in July 2011. Perhaps it’s a sign of advancing years (yours, not mine), or even the busyness of those years, but it just doesn’t feel like we’ve been “at it” for that long. The Lord has certainly blessed this ministry and we have seen great benefit to the spiritual and physical life of our body. All glory to God.
The restart of Grace Groups in January 2014 saw us trying a new approach to signups. The intention was to try and mix things up a little; to shake some people out of their comfortable complacency and cause some wider cross-pollination among our members. And to a great extent this has been achieved. We’ve seen new Groups start, old ones blend and various scheduling and leadership changes. We’ve also seen that the vast majority of the people in membership at BBC have signed up to be a part of this vital ministry. By limiting the Group size we have been thrilled to see that just about all the Groups are sitting at capacity, with no Groups being too small or too large.
However, as with any change, some previously unseen and unanticipated cracks were revealed by the big change up. For whatever reason, some Groups filled up very quickly on the day that signups opened, resulting in a number of people finding themselves “displaced” and at a loose end. At the time, there was a certain degree of angst and tension caused by this signup rush and the subsequent pressure of having to find a different Group from the one that was intended. The affected people weren’t feeling the grace in Grace Groups! Thankfully, and as with most things in life, if one lets a little water flow under the bridge and chooses not to get one’s knickers in a knot about it, things work out better than one had anticipated, and I think that is true of where we are in our Graces Groups at the moment. Romans 8 may have something to say about that too! If your nose was a little out of joint at the last signup because you didn’t get to join the Group you wanted to join, I’m sure that you’ve realised that it was never the intention to cause you any trouble—and I’m also pretty sure that you’ve found a gracious new home in your current Group. Nevertheless, the unnecessary turmoil is something that we don’t wish to repeat.
So, where to in future? In an attempt to avoid any discord in what should be a unifying and edifying process, we want to make the signup process and our weekly meetings as gracious and encouraging as possible. We want to get as many people as possible into a Grace Group, and then help them to happily contribute to their Group. This is a complex process and needs to consider some of the following relevant factors:
- As things stand now, each Grace Group has at least two men responsible for the leadership of the Group. Most of these men are married and have children. At BBC, this means that some Groups have already reached their quota of sixteen people before anyone else even gets to sign up!
- The timing of the Group’s meetings and the location(s) of the meetings are a major factor in people’s Group choice. Any Group-planning must consider this. It is interesting to see the spread of Groups fairly evenly across Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
- A real risk with any small group is that it becomes insular and cliquey. While we recognise that many people feel comfortable amongst familiar faces, we must point out that there are many other faces that could also become familiar if we extended our borders (or had our borders extended for us). We need to be encouraged to fulfil our “one another” duties among the wider church body and not just to “one other” in our Group. By spreading your wings a little (or by having a leader push you out the nest) you open yourself to further opportunities to minister, to be ministered to, and to grow together in Christ with people whom you would hopefully soon be tempted to form a clique!
- The frenetic pace of our modern overloaded schedules means that it is the exception rather than the rule that every member of a particular Group is present at any given meeting. Some Groups, for instance those with a number of university and senior school students in, will feel decimated around exam time. There is consequently value in trying not to load any one particular Group with such a burden of absences, but rather to spread the load to reduce such depletion. This indeed has another advantage in that there will be more people in more Groups praying for and caring for the particular Group under strain at that time.
If, after reading these considerations you have some bright ideas on how we can further manage our Grace Groups and their signups, then we would be very keen to hear from you. In particular, if you can see a way of making our Grace Groups more gracious, for everyone at BBC, then trumpet forth!