Editors note: This blog post was originally published April 8, 2016 on this website.
If you’ve ever spent more than an hour in a church, you have a pretty good idea of how awful most small groups are. If you’re one of the few who like them, I guarantee you know a bunch of people who think they’re terrible.
If you’ve never spent more than an hour in a church, you might have no clue what I’m talking about. Good for you. It’s an occasionally nauseating extension of service that panders to clichés and misunderstanding and a ton of superficiality through fancy Bible studies and a whole new breed of slang. I’m sorry. It’s disappointing.
Can you tell how I feel about them yet? Great.
Somehow, though, Resonate Church here in Pullman, Washington has found a way to organize something that helps the healing skeptic respect the intention of small groups.
A Resonate series of small groups called Villages is what I’m talking about. One particular Village I’ve visited a few times this last year is a great example of how special and different these small groups are.
For several months it was led by two stellar people named Nicole and Tyler. Then my friend Jacob, who’d been going to the small group for several months, replaced Tyler. Now Anna and my roommate Cameron are facilitating leadership.
By “lead” I mean they simply bring people together and manage a larger discussion. What’s super cool about these small groups is that the religious or spiritual conversation only lasts about an hour. Another hour is spent eating dinner and kicking it.
The goal of meeting is having solid conversation about what the church is teaching that week. But the intention is getting to know people well and spend time in community.
Something special happens when these people get together.
No one is being force fed knowledge or beliefs. No one is left hiding out in a corner or alone. No one is expected to be anything other than themselves.
People legitimately just kick it and all of the good, biblical, spiritual stuff comes naturally later.
Back in October I worked with Nicole on a PR-style piece of work for Resonate’s website. It never published, but it had some great quotes about the heart of these Villages.
Nicole honed in on some special people working with the church and shaped the piece to reflect her own work leading. Her message, paraphrased, essentially stated this:
Villages provide a comfortable place for building relationships with positive and influential people. They’re the heartbeat of the church. Different people with varying perspectives from all sorts of life walks help each other diversely learn and grow in their faith. Everyone becomes well-known and well-loved through relationships grounded in a love for each other and a love for spirituality.
I find that message pretty rad.
Essentially these small groups are raw and let people manage their own spirituality. There isn’t a ton of superficiality and people get to mature on a personal level.
I attend another small group through the church led by an equally awesome couple of people named Renee and Jared. But Cameron and Anna’s has some special stuff going on. A cool story has been developing. And I love cool stories.
When I first visited in January, the small group was transitioning a leader. About 15 people hung out in the small group each week. Last time I visited, the small group was transitioning both leaders and splitting into two groups. The house was getting too full. Over 30 people hung out in the Village each week.
I find this awesome.
Their story started seeking community, it built into a group of close knit people, it is climaxing with a split into two separate and powerful communities, and will resolve well this summer as everyone parts stronger as a result.
Most small groups suck. I’ll stand by that until I’m proved otherwise. But not all of Resonate’s do. I’m pretty stoked about what’s going on here.
They have small groups for small group haters like me. Thank God.