The Christian faith is certainly held in a personal way, but not in a private way. Without Christ-centered friendships, our walk of faith will most certainly be a slower, less steady one, and we’re far more likely to fall and fail. Through the years in many Roman Parishes, fraternal societies, guilds, clubs, and organizations like CYO, Catholic parishes were excellent centers of friendship and fellowship.
Unfortunately, these days, parishes are no longer the social centers they once were. One of the things that is such a draw to many at Saint T’s is the family/friendship that has been developed here.
Now we are starting to grow to a new level. Do we face the risk of losing those connections? Only if we allow that to happen. Do we run the risk of becoming a Church that is like so many others, where we don’t even know everybody? Only if we allow it to happen.
By the same token, we must understand that everyone is engaging their faith at a different point, and from a different perspective. There will always be those folks who feel that Church and the rest of their lives are entirely separate and distinct, and want to keep it that way…and that is completely fine. That’s what is wonderful about our God, He doesn’t come with rules as to how we engage Him – He just wants us to engage Him!!
And so we introduce the concept of “Small Groups”. Small Groups is not a bible study, or a support group, or a prayer group; it’s none of these things, and yet it’s all of these things. It’s an opportunity to share your lives, in a faith perspective, with other members of our faith community. It’s an opportunity for folks to engage the Parish from a non-Liturgical access point, and come to know folks in a different setting that they may find more comfortable.
Here’s how Small Groups work;
- The Pilot Group
An initial group is formed, of a very small group of Parishioners. This group goes through a month or two of meeting and experiencing what small groups are designed to be. In the meanwhile, members of the initial small group are also being trained as how to be good group facilitators.
This pilot group should not grow or shrink, as it is also a training to give folks the skills needed for this role. The folks asked to be a part of this pilot group will likely be folks who are not involved elsewhere in Parish Ministry.
Once the group has been meeting for a while, they begin to invite others to join the small group. When the group reaches it’s maximum, the group splits into two, and the facilitator ensures that which each break new mixes are formed, so that small groups don’t turn into cliques.
- What does a Small Group Meeting look like?
Well, it looks like a group of believers talking about their week. The structure of a small group meeting is about a 90 minute gathering. The first 30 minutes of which is small talk and coffee. Then a simple prayer. Then by following the materials provided by the Parish the group is led through a discussion about their week, with reference to the message from the weekend.
By way of example: If the message theme at Church has been “Discipleship”, members of the group will have an opportunity to discuss that theme in their own lives as it was lived (or not lived like they had hoped) that week. Maybe someone is having a difficult time at work, and they are having a hard time applying the Gospel to their day to day routine. Maybe someone in the group is having a difficult time making some decisions with regard to their personal lives, and they need a sounding board.
The facilitator is trained to ensure that the discussion is just that – a discussion. They ensure an environment where everyone is comfortable with the conversation, and no one feels forced to talk when they don’t want to.
- Is that all we do is talk?
Talking is at the core certainly. Small groups also may be in charge of things like social gatherings. Maybe a small group volunteers to coordinate a Pot Luck for the Parish, or the Parish trip to LaSalette, or maybe one Small Group works with another to help steer the arrangements for the Parish’s annual representation at Pride. Maybe a small group coordinates a coffee hour after Mass one weekend.
Maybe someone in the small group is sick, and the group gets together and makes a get well card to cheer them up. Maybe someone in the small group has had surgery, and needs help getting around to doctors appointments, so the small group works together to make sure they can get everywhere they need to go.
- Disciples being Disciples!
Small groups is an opportunity for every single person in the Parish to be a minister to someone else. It’s an opportunity to come to know your fellow Parishioners better, and a chance to grow as a family of faith.
Small groups magnify what we do on Sunday, because in the Eucharist we become what we receive: The Body of Christ. One body, made of many parts.
- So, in a nutshell…
Small Groups run the length of the Program Year: September – May
The job of the Small Group Facilitator is to make sure no one dominates, everyone talks, and the conversation doesn’t get stuck in content.
Be open. Be honest. Be loving.
Make use of the “Small Groups” link on our Parish Website for resources and discussion questions to guide small group meetings.
Keep inviting other parishioners to join you, and encourage people to be committed in their involvement. Folks coming and going from Small Groups makes building those bonds more difficult. Small Groups is not for everyone; and that is perfectly ok!
When you grow beyond a dozen members, divide into two groups.
Grow. Divide. Repeat.