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I recently attended The SGN Lobby Gathering at Saddleback’s Retreat Centre -Rancho Capistrano, California. What an amazing experience, being in such a beautiful environment with so many enthusiastic, talented, passionate and wise small group point people. If you ever wondered whether you should attend this event – stop wondering and go!!
I was stretched in my thinking in numerous ways and I thought I would share a little about a recurring theme which came up for me, creating intentional pathways to small groups. We all have ‘tried and tested’ pathways but I was challenged to think ‘outside’ the box and consider new possibilities.
I confess that this blog probably has more questions than answers – but my aim is to share around my ‘Lobby Learnings’ and give you the space to reflect on whether these questions may strike a chord with you and your small group ministry.
Intentional Pathway #1 – Online worship attendees
There are an increasing number of people who attend online worship services, so how do we create intentional pathways toward small groups for them? Do we have steps in place which ensure those participating will be challenged and receive relevant information about how they can move deeper into authentic community? Either through an online group or accessing a physical group. Do we have a plan? This is a great question for small group point people to consider and Jay Kranda from Saddleback Church has some great practical insights around creating pathways here.
This also made me think about what intentional pathways/opportunities have been developed for those who listen to podcasts of weekend messages. Is this a ‘missed’ intentional pathway? Are ‘next steps’ offered at the end of the content we make available on our websites or iTunes?
Intentional Pathway #2 – Being ‘present’ in the face of loneliness and pain
On the last day of The Lobby Gathering Rick Warren challenged us to consider how small groups can alleviate the deep problem of loneliness which is invading our world. “What the world needs is an antidote to loneliness – and it is small groups! (Rick Warren)
A UK study has “proven that loneliness can be worse for personal health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day and that it can be associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression and anxiety.” As a response to this alarming discovery the British government has appointed a minister and a task force to investigate how they can tackle this problem in their county.
As SGPP we believe that healthy small groups can be an answer to alleviating loneliness – that is one of the reasons we do what we do! BUT do we have a plan? Are we willing to spend time, energy and risk in creating an intentional pathway and strategy for those experiencing loneliness?
Rick also spoke about how physical and emotional pain impacts us all in different and complex ways, he stated that, “pain is God’s megaphone, leave the happy pagans alone and focus on those who are in pain.” Now that is a challenge! How do we create intentional pathways to connect with those in pain and help them take steps toward authentic community? Sounds like hard work! We certainly cannot do it through programs alone, in fact it must start with us and our willingness to develop deep authentic relationships with those who are yet to claim Jesus as Lord.
My hope is that as I take time to reflect on my “Lobby Learnings’ God will prompt and guide me to create appropriate intentional pathways for my small group ministry context and my prayer is that He will do likewise with you!