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Make New Friends

photo by Gretchen EK Engel

Remember that childhood song about making new friends and keeping the old? Silver and gold. That’s been me recently.

We started a new small group at beginning of the academic year. It’s the second one we’ve been in since moving here. Some of my closest friends in my town came from our first group. I knew all of the couples except one but didn’t know anyone well. Now I feel like I know several of them much better, especially the women.

Small groups are Biblical and follow the model of Jesus and the Twelve Disciples. Jesus had other dedicated followers such as Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and Mary Magdalene. Paul had several in his small group as well, with his changing more throughout scripture. He had Silas, Barnabas, John Mark, Timothy, Priscilla and Aquila among others.

In modern times small groups have taken many forms. My husband and I have had a wide variety of experiences. Singles Sunday school then couples and young families, now a succession of two small groups. In the meantime, I’ve had an accountability group of young moms, a couple of close friends, and a mentor.

Here is a question that came up recently. Should small groups stay close with little or no change or should they intentionally evolve/disband every couple of years?

I have mixed feelings. Long-term groups foster intimacy and for some it takes a long time to open up. However, we’ve all seen those groups where they become a clique that is as formidable as Fort Knox.

On the other hand short term associations connect a person with a wider group and make the church more tight knit. But it’s harder to bond and open up if you know your group has a shelf life.

I’m a fairly outgoing person who makes it a point to meet and interact with others. I intentionally don’t spend a lot of time at church with my small group friends. Cliquishness simply isn’t a problem with me. However, I realized that I may appear to be open and “transparent”, but really I wear a bit of a persona around those I don’t know well. I have to be pretty intimate with someone before I reveal myself.

I admit that I prefer keeping a static group and allowing organic growth, attrition, or splitting. At the same time, I’m open to intentionally dividing and rearranging especially if a group becomes too large, isn’t connecting well, or no longer is a good fit for some (or all).

What are your thoughts on small groups?

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About Gretchen E K Engel

Chemical engineer by day, spec fiction writer by night

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