Search to Belong: Group Dynamics



Currently, I'm trying to post a few times a week summaries of chapters from books I've read over the past few years. These are the books that have really informed my thinking on discipleship and small groups. Hopefully, they'll provide a good opportunity for you to think through some of these same thoughts.

Today, I'm looking at chapter four from the book The Search to Belong by Joe Myers. This chapter is entitled, "Group Chemistry."

The introduction to this chapter includes three important questions:
  • Does everyone need to be in a small group to experience significant, healthy community?
  • Do small groups help or hinder a person's search to belong?
  • Are small groups honestly the most significant way a person can grow in relationship to others and to God?
Meyer's questions are a reaction against the stream of evangelicalism over the past decade which has suggested that "small groups" are a magic bullet to solve all things your church needs. Later in the chapter he addresses the sad truth that many churches have launched small groups as their MAIN THING simply because someone has told them this is the secret element to church growth. However, even with this great focus on small groups over the past several years, most churches consider themselves to be successful if only 35% of their people are participating in small groups. Meyers questions if we might be missing the point if success is less than half our people doing the thing we think is MOST important.

Meyers suggests the solution may be to rethink our ideas on small groups. If "belonging" is the goal, he suggests this might happen in several different kind of environments, which include but are not limited to small groups. Belonging, according to Meyers, needs to be cultivated but cannot be programmed. He suggests we begin to think of ourselves more as environmentalists, and less as programmers. His idea is that we seek to create a diversity of environments in which healthy connections and belonging can occur, rather than trying to force everyone into a small group template which likely won't work for at least two thirds of the people trying it.

These are important words. We need to consider them and seek appropriate venues to implement them. Small groups are a FANTASTIC method by which people can be connected to God and each other. But these same connections can also happen in large groups, in partnerships, and in many other circumstances we may not even be able to think about. We should regularly endeavor to be developing relationships of all kinds which may lead to spiritual connections.

One last thought. There is a danger in Joe Meyer's kind of thinking. Occasionally, I feel like he's lost sight of the ULTIMATE goal, which is not connection or belonging but being right with God. That said, knowing that God has told us in His Word that we grow closer to Him through our relationships, we must make an effort to connect and belong to others. However, those connections can never be an end in themselves, but must rather ALWAYS be a means to closer union with God.

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