Wanting deep relationships is something built into us but it’s not always easy. It’s hard to get past surface-level conversations or find the courage to be vulnerable.
But just imagine: How great would it be to have a group of friends that supports and encourages us in our daily lives? Journey through the ups and downs of relationships, careers, faith, and more with us? Friends who challenged us to dream big and go deeper? Who shared in our joys and challenges? A group of friends willing to pray for us when we needed it most?
This kind of connection and community is exactly what Jesus had. Though he was the son of God, He still chose to eat, journey, and spend most of his time with a small group of men and women. And they became the apostles—but not before they were Jesus’ friends. And it was in a small group setting where the apostles came to know and love Jesus—just as we can do in our own small groups.
What Exactly Is a Small Group?
The goal of a faith-based small group is ultimately to help every member of the group mature in their relationship with Jesus. Being in a group like this, we benefit from the wisdom, love, and encouragement of others just as they each benefit from the gifts we have to offer. In other words, a small group is founded around one, enduring mission: to grow closer to Christ.
Why Is It So Important Right Now?
It’s certainly reasonable to think that holding off on joining a small group makes sense for now. We may tell ourselves that, once things return to some semblance of normal, that we’ll then be in a position to join a group.
But now more than ever, connection is important. Our relationship with God can get diluted in the chaos of not being able to go to Mass, or seeing as many people in our community. It’s a time that requires intentionality.
Of course, there is something to be said about meeting face-to-face, which many might not be able to do at the moment. But Zoom calls, Facetime, or just a phone call can still work. It’s not always ideal, but we don’t have to be physically present in a small group to still benefit spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally from one.
Should I Put the Effort Into Starting Something New or Can I Just Hang Out With Friends in My Bubble?
What makes a small group unique is a new level of intentionality. While hanging out and talking about life can happen (and likely will), small groups allow a space to be honest about our spiritual lives and relationship with God and others.
Friends are a great place to start when wanting to build a small group. But making it a unique gathering outside of your regular time together helps because everyone is there for the same reason—to grow closer to God.
There’s also some relief in having a specific space to ask the questions that might not feel organic otherwise: What’s going well in our lives? Where can we do better? How is God asking us to grow during this season?
Who Should I Ask to Join?
The best place to start is with people we already know. Maybe we already have a couple of friends who would be interested? Are we friendly with a co-worker who has voiced an interest in growing closer to God? Do we have some acquaintances at church who we’d like to get to know better? Maybe we even have a neighbour or two who could be a good fit?
Alternatively, already built groups are a great place to start if you aren’t sure where to begin. Even in the midst of the pandemic, many parishes are still offering Bible studies, scripture reflection groups, and so on. We can check our parish and diocesan websites to see if there are any small groups available at the moment.
You can find workshops and groups for Vancouver here but you can also check your own parish website.
What Should The Small Group Look Like?
The great thing about a small group is that there is no one right way to run it. We can run one around the table during dinner, outside in a circle of beach chairs, or at a local coffee shop. A lot of this depends on where you live, what’s available, and your comfort level.
Your group can focus on whatever area you want. You can build a structure or keep it loose. You can have people share about an area of prayer, service, and intellect (spiritual reading/learning). You can encourage reading and reflecting on Scripture. You can talk about your faith in the context of a current event. You could invite someone new every meeting to facilitate a spiritual topic for discussion (the sacraments, discerning a vocation, etc.). Or you can cover a range of topics
Here are some question suggestions for the group:
How have you seen God working in your life this week/month?
What’s going well? Where can we do better? How is God asking us to grow during this season?
What is your prayer life like? What do you do to stay close to God?
What verse from Scripture spoke to you this week?
With just a bit of intentionality, we create a space to talk openly and honestly about what’s really going on in our lives. And, remember, it should be fun too! We can also spend part of the time just catching up on life or asking others to pray for us.
Is It Worth Doing a Small Group Online?
As we’ve all probably experienced, online group meetings can sometimes be, well, a bit awkward. But that doesn’t mean they have to stay awkward.
I had the opportunity to be part of one a couple of months ago, and though it wasn't the same as being able to interact face-to-face, it was still really nourishing. We were still able to do those things that make small groups so important: pray for each other, open up about our struggles and joys, and, of course, just laugh and hang out.
Even if we’re new to a group, or meeting people for the first time online, we can still experience the benefits. Just like any relationship, it will take time for our small group to deepen in intimacy.
At first, we may only be comfortable talking about our spiritual life in general. But, eventually, we can hopefully establish a mutual trust that allows us to share more substantial and personal aspects of our lives and faith. Plus, being online does not mean a friendship is disingenuous or fleeting. By forming a community now online, especially if it’s a local one, once things do open up we’ll already have a connection with others that will only deepen even more in person!
The best part out of it all? Connecting with people on a genuine level.
It’s not about making sure there are no lulls in the conversation or how theological we can get. It’s simply about connecting and doing life with people. It can even enrich our lives in a way we may have not experienced before. Having this kind of community is how God calls us into living out our faith because He knows what’s on the other side—a fuller and more purposeful version of our life.
Are you thinking about starting a group? Let us know! Send us a message or tag us online @beholdvancouver.