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Small Groups, Big Connections

01.18.16 | Small Groups | by Susan Peck

Small Groups, Big Connections

    Small group is a place where we can be our true, authentic selves. We study God’s Word, and how it applies to our daily lives.

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    At HPUMC, we call these Christian communities GroupLife. GroupLife takes on different looks and styles to help accommodate diverging needs and busy lifestyles. Nothing will bring greater joy, challenge or meaning to your life than to live abundantly as God intended. We believe GroupLife is a vital component to living that abundant life in Christ.

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    Walking in to Highland Park United Methodist Church for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. The building itself is a huge, confusing maze, and once inside, the seats are full of picture-perfect families, people who look like they have their acts together and have been blessed many times over. When you sometimes feel a bit like a basket case, maybe a little battered and bruised by life, it can be intimidating. That first Sunday, I remember feeling alone and even a little inadequate as I found a seat and sat by myself.

    Something about that first service spoke to me, and I knew I had found the church where God wanted me to be, so I kept coming back. I started to find my way around. I got involved in a few activities, like joining a UMW Circle. I met some great people. I even joined the church officially. But I still didn’t quite feel like I fit in.

    I knew I was where I was supposed to be, but I didn’t feel like I belonged.

    I was connecting with the message, but I wasn’t quite connecting with the church community. I had found a church, but I still didn’t feel at home.

    Fast forward a few months to March 2015, when I saw a notice about the next Small Group launch. I heard about small groups through StartingPoint, where groups of 6-10 people meet weekly for fellowship, study, prayer, reflection, and service. I decided to try it out, hoping just to get to know a few other members of the church well enough that maybe I would see a familiar face or two on Sunday mornings.

    What I discovered was so much more. To be honest, though, the first few times our group met, I thought maybe God had made a mistake and put me in the wrong group. These were all amazing, accomplished, polished women who had it all together, and I wasn’t quite sure I fit here either.

    But God doesn’t make mistakes. As our group continued to meet week after week, and worked through the introductory exercises designed to help us to get to know one another on a deeper level, the one thing that struck me was how perfectly imperfect each of us were. Everyone has unique strengths and gifts to share, and everyone faces their own challenges. The ways in which we’re similar are so much greater than the ways in which we’re different.

    Small group is a place where we can be our true, authentic selves. We study God’s Word, and how it applies to our daily lives. We share our spiritual journeys, we learn from each other, and we support each other. We discuss our faith and our questions. We share what’s going on in our daily lives. We share our hopes and dreams. We’re there for one another and we have each other’s backs. We pray for each other. We do service projects. And there are times just for fun, too, like meeting for dinner, catching up, sharing stories and laughter.

    In Matthew 18:20, Jesus says “For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.” I’ve seen this passage come alive in Small Group. There’s something almost mystical about the process, total strangers coming together with one common desire to strengthen our relationship with God, and becoming united as the Holy Spirit works within and among us, guiding us along the path to becoming more deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ.

    I found so much more than what I was looking for by joining a Small Group – things I didn’t even know I was looking for, but that God knew I needed – and I’m so glad that I took that first step of going to the Small Group launch to find out more. I’ve grown more spiritually in these past few months than I have in years, or even decades. Our weekly meeting has become one of the high point during my week, a time to slow down and breathe, and to be in God’s presence. These wonderful women have become an important part of my life, and even though we all go to different services and only bump into each other occasionally at church, I don’t feel alone anymore.  I know I belong.

    It takes some commitment, but if you dedicate yourself and your time, week after week, the rewards are immeasurable. It can be an amazing experience. I don’t know where my life will lead in the future, but I know one thing for sure – being part of a Small Group will definitely be part of my spiritual practice from now on. For anyone considering joining a Small Group, I recommend taking that leap of faith, investing yourself in the group, and keeping your heart open.

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