By Rev. Tammy Mitchell
For years, the thought of being in a small group was terrifying for me. I had absolutely no interest in being with people I didn’t really know, or having to pray out loud, or being asked to share something personal. It was definitely not my idea of having fun, let alone having it be meaningful for my life! I didn’t mind going to Bible studies because the focus was more about learning the scriptures, which absolutely intrigued me. However, sharing my story, or revealing any struggles or concerns or even joys…well, how do I put it nicely?….”not your concern.”
Then, during seminary, the unthinkable happened. I was required to be in a small group with other members of my class. Ugh! We were to meet weekly for nine weeks. The small group encompassed time for singing, prayer and “thoughtful discussion” about some biblical theme. The first night I arrived with my bible and a backpack of issues, fears and trepidations. Will I fit in? Does anyone really want to know me? What if I don’t belong? What if I am simply unable to say something intelligent? What could possibly be the benefit of this? Hey, wasn’t the purpose of going to seminary to be a pastor, NOT to be a small group person?
Fast forward 34 years, as I reflect on that first small group experience, I can attest to two things: God certainly has a wonderful sense of humor, and God certainly has my best interest at heart. During those nine weeks of being in a small group, I was welcomed for who I was, encouraged by others’ kindness, challenged in my presuppositions, supported by friendship. I was prayed for, listened to, offered grace, and discovered a community I could never have imagined. It wasn’t all rosy, but my eyes were opened to a realm of faith that I didn’t know existed.
Being in a small group surprised me in a rich and life-transforming way. I now see why Jesus used small groups to disciple and mature his followers. It’s in the small group experience where authentic relationships are formed, where compassion for others is demonstrated, and where the scriptures become alive in one’s heart. It’s a place where Jesus presence is real. Consider being a part of a small group and watch and see how Christ will surprise you and our church as well.
Peace of Christ, Tammy Mitchell