by Tyler Quillet
As a former pastor, I led a number of different small groups. Couples groups in our home, Sunday morning groups, men’s groups, young adult groups, you name it. I’ve led enough groups to ashamedly be able to say that I oftentimes preferred comfort and consistency over change. See, when my wife and I were in a group with the same couples, we got comfortable around each other. It was easy to get together, hang out, and talk about Jesus together. There was nothing difficult about getting together with good friends. The idea of bringing new people into the group oftentimes felt like a daunting task. What if they mess up the camaraderie we have? What if people don’t feel comfortable sharing in front of them? The new people won’t get our inside jokes. What if they just aren’t a good fit?
I admit it. I’ve been that leader. I’ve been the leader who got comfy and didn’t want to rock the boat. I’ve been the leader who liked the group I was with and didn’t want to chance shaking things up. I’ve been the leader who was more concerned about my own comfortability than new people in our church getting connected and being discipled. I’m ashamed to say I was that leader, which is no leader at all.
Fast forward from my time in church ministry to a new adventure for our family. We moved five hundred miles from anything we’d ever known. New state, new community, new everything. Before we even found a church home, we met a couple who would eventually turn out to be great friends. They invited us to their small group before we even visited their church! They were willing to invite two complete strangers into an existing group that had been together for a long time. They had no problem with us hopping in and potentially rocking the boat. And, for that, we are forever grateful!
You see, we went from leading groups for years in our own home to needing our navigation app to find the home of our new small group full of strangers. We walked into that house having never met anyone but our new “friends”, who we had just met weeks prior. They all welcomed us with open arms. We ate together, laughed together, got to know one-another, and spent incredible time in God’s word together. They weren’t concerned about someone messing up the good thing they had going. They were only concerned with a new family in town getting connected and feeling loved.
Almost two years later, and this is our church family, who we love dearly. A group stepped outside of their comfort zone, focused on the mission of Jesus Christ and not of their own hearts. This group could have stayed comfy, doing week after week together as friends. Instead, they stepped outside their comfort zone with a missional mindset. For this, we are thankful.
I look back on how blessed we were to be so welcomed into an existing group. At the same time, I feel guilty for not having that same missional mindset with our groups years ago. I made it more about me than I did the mission of Jesus. I wonder now how many families fell through the cracks or never got connected because we were comfortable within our circle. I wonder how many people still don’t know Christ because we never invited them into a discipling opportunity.
If you are a group that has gotten comfortable together, let me encourage / challenge you in five specific ways moving forward:
- Begin to pray as a group for opportunities to invite new people in.
- Have eyes open for potential group members or ask your pastor for suggestions.
- Invite new people into your group and prepare your group to welcome new members.
- Welcome your guests with open arms, make them feel at home, and love on them well.
- Don’t stop inviting new guests and creating new groups!
Throughout scripture, we see those on mission constantly stepping out of their comfort zones. There aren’t many (or any) times that we see those on mission being comfortable amongst their circle, unwilling to step into new and unfamiliar relationships. May we the church, may we as leaders, may we as groups continue to step outside of what is comfortable, trusting Jesus to give us what we need to move toward others with the hope that we may have opportunities to point them to Jesus. What would it look like for your group to look beyond its own comfort today? Go do it, and ask the Lord to be glorified in it!
Tyler Quillet is the Discipleship Strategist for the Custom Bible Study team at LifeWay Christian Resources. He lives in the Nashville, TN, area with his incredible wife, Cathie, and two boys, Cylas and Bowen. Tyler also speaks, writes, and coaches alongside Cathie as they pour into and love on the infertile community through Cathie’s “The Missing Peace Project”. Tyler previously spent 15 years as a pastor and is passionate about serving churches and pouring into church leaders in a variety of ways.