As I think about the whole concept of Small Groups, I have found that they can be a great tool for teaching people how to have relationships with one another. Maybe it is just me, but I have found a lot of people choose to go about life without really developing or learning how to develop relationships with one another.
As I contemplate the concept, I wonder if the two main reasons people don't know how to build relationships is because one, they are scared to be real with someone or two, they believe a good relationship should be free of conflict.
I can't speak for other cultures, but I find there are a lot of people within the church that are scared to be real with people. Many try to come in, make it to their seats, enjoy the show/sermon and leave without having to really have a conversation with anyone. And we have allowed it. As a good friend put it, "we have boiled down the church to a concert and a lecture." I think that is sad. What happened to the church that was the center of the community? What happened to the church that brought people together to share a meal and enjoy life together? What happened to the church that really made a difference in the life of those around it? We have let people become spectators in a life that is full contact.
I know there are people who look for churches that allow them to just do their thing. I can get that. I also have found though, that very seldom do you come across someone who won't talk to you when you ask them questions about themselves. People have stories. People want to share their stories. Sometimes however, they are scared because they can tell you don't really care to hear their story. Through Small Groups, I have found that it creates an atmosphere where people realize they can share their story, they can develop relationships, they can be free to be who they are, and hopefully benefit from the freedom God offers us when we are real.
The second reason I found is that people believe relationships need to be conflict free and if they are not, then you remove yourself from that relationship. I certainly know I have a great relationship with my wife and it certainly isn't conflict free. One thing I have learned through my marriage is that it is often through those conflicts that we can learn something new about ourselves and we are presented with the opportunity for growth. I think it is our responsibility to accept that opportunity and not run from it.
I can guarantee there will be conflict within Small Groups. They may not always be large conflicts, but it is through the conflicts, differences of opinion and different views that we are able to look at something a little different and can examine ourselves. I don't know how many times recently I have been presented with a bit of information that conflicted with what I was taught or what I had "known" to be true. I could certainly have just ignored them or tried to argue my side, but sometimes examining the new information would shed light on a subject that I had misunderstood.
I think that if we can find a way to help people be real with one another and realize that conflict is not bad then we can move forward with helping people develop relationships that are meaningful and overall will help people see more of who God is and what He has given to us.