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Friday, December 22, 2006

These Are The People In Your Neighborhood

From what I've been reading, it looks like the current Small Group model is having some problems. As a result PD churches are now turning to "neighborhood small groups"

Before, I continue, I would like to say that we used to be involved with a small group for some time, but now I teach adult Sunday School at our church. I love the concept of getting to know a group of believers and "doing life" with them. Heck, our class motto is "Doing Life Together, Not Just Church". We laugh together, cry together, go to birthday parties and baby showers, etc.

One other thing that we also do is learn together. We are a Sunday School class and we have biblically based lessons, not topical conversations based upon the general consensus of "truth". The Bible is the final authority, period.

OK, I'm off my soapbox, but with that being said, here is why they have problems:

Time - In church, there are set times. People that are there are people that can generally be there "at that time" to meet. Outside of church, not everyone gets off work at the same time; then there is extracurricular activities and travel leading people to generally have a group meet at 7:00 or so at night. If a group meets for 2 hours (1 for study and 1 for fellowship), as it gets later, children get fussier, still have to have baths, do homework, etc.

Granted can be made to work during Friday or Saturday evenings or Saturday or Sunday afternoons, but even then, there are the other factors mentioned below.

- When we had a small group, we had 20 people with 20 kids. Where can that size of group meet? Our houses were swamped, families rushed to clean house before and after meetings and were left tired after "hosting".

- This is actually a combination of things. In drawing people from a large church into a small group environment, people come from all over the city.

Does the small group rotate from member's house to member's house?
Do they live at opposite sides of the town?

A comment from Evanston Vineyard Pastors Blog says a lot...

But think about when the average housegroup takes place: about 7:30 at night, right around when kids need to go to bed. Unless you’re holding a sleeping baby, only one parent can make it to a housegroup with any consistency, while the other one watches the kids. So on a typical night, one or both parents come home from work about 5-6 p.m., dinner is made and served, dishes need to be done and kids need help with homework, and if you have any outside of family hobbies or interests, the only time to pursue them outside of the house is after dinner, and little kids seem to not like their parents being gone several nights a week before they go to bed. Whew!

Who has time for a housegroup where you can’t bring your kids? When would you have a housegroup where you could bring the kids? Not on Saturday afternoon, which is often the only time the whole family can do things together. Not on Sunday afternoon; you already had church in the morning and any errands you didn’t get done on Saturday have to get done.

My two year old is on my lap as I’m writing…our kids like to have us around, go figure. The only way they would tolerate (by tolerate I mean not be in tears when we left) an average housegroup (starting at 7:30 p.m.) was if it were at our house after they went to bed…which for us means ensuring a clean house, having a late night of clean up, nothing loud (no singing!) so they could sleep, and kicking people out at a certain time so we could get to bed to be ready for work (I get up at 4:30 a.m.) and for school (Cindy gets up at 6:00 to get our daughter ready). It’s too much.

A quick word about babysitters: They cost at the very bottom end $5 and hour. So a night with a sitter will cost you $15-20. That’s $45-60 a month for three housegroups. For us, especially when we hardly have any dates as it is, it’s a lot of money.

What we end up doing is what it seems all parents of small kids end up doing wherever we have been going to church: We get together on our own with other parents of small kids, on an irregular basis, with our kids, sometimes the whole family, sometimes just one parent and the kids. We hope the kids play togteher so the grownups can talk. Or we call each other on the phone in hushed tones at night, usually after a few nights of phone tag, and talk and pray together. We email a lot. We DON’T talk at church, which is too crazy. But we do many of the things Steve mentioned above, like celebrate (usually kid) birthdays (or marriage anniversaries!), go on family-oriented outings, eat together.

The answer to this is forming Small Groups amongst the people that are already close to you; the ones in your neighborhood. This brings a whole new set of things to be delt with that I'll discuss in a later post.

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