Misconceptions About Community Groups
Groups have many names. They’re called home groups, small groups, cell groups, D-groups, home teams, life groups, fight clubs, and many others.
Here at Parkway we call them “Community Groups.”
Regardless of what you call them, we know that God uses small pockets of believers who live in community with one another to grow, disciple, and shape his people into the image of Christ.
The first time I visited a community group, I didn’t know what to expect. Was I going to have to tell all my sins to total strangers? Would it be weird or scary or hyper-emotional? Would it be like the Matrix where I would be offered a red pill and a blue pill and then join some elite group of evil-fighting super Christians?
Whatever happened, I knew that if there was any Kool-Aid offered, I was staying away from it.
But it wasn’t like that at all. It was great! Yes, there were weird people. Yes, it’s a bit uncomfortable to tell your sins to others. And yes, it takes time out of your day when you could be doing other things. Discipleship is not a formula; it is a difficult, sticky, life-on-life, mess that involves flexibility and patience. The same is true with groups. And as I found out, being a part of a group was more than worth it.
It is easy to have misconceptions about groups. Maybe you’ve never been in a group. Maybe you’ve been a part of some difficult groups. Maybe you’ve been disappointed by past group experiences. Or maybe someone told you, “Join a group!” without ever talking about the goal of groups.
Below I’ve included 8 misconceptions about Community Groups:
Misconception 1 – A Community Group is simply an in-home Bible study
That’s not a community group. That’s a Bible study. Now, there is nothing wrong with Bible studies. I love Bible studies! But to be a well-rounded disciple we need to practice several spiritual disciplines including Bible study, prayer, confession, accountability, encouragement, service, evangelism, cultural engagement, and more.
Misconception 2 – Being in a Community Group equals discipleship
It is not the case that if someone merely signs up for a community group (and attends the meetings) they will grow in their faith. Community groups don’t equal discipleship; they equal the potential for discipleship. Groups offer a place where you can be put around other believers. However, it will be up to you to engage in the discussions, to be willing to confess your sins and temptations, and to schedule coffee with people in the group during the week. Being in a group is kind of like having a gym membership. Just having the gym membership doesn’t make you “swoll” (whatever that means). Rather, it provides you a context where you can get in shape. You will get out of group life what you put into it.
Misconception 3 – A Community Group only meets a few times a month
Community happens 24/7! One of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome as Christians is thinking that discipleship is a programmed event that we merely plan to show up to. Community has to be organic. If the only time you’re in community with other believers is during group time, you will be disappointed. People in the group can meet during the week for coffee. They can text each other encouraging things or ask for prayer. They can have dinner in each others’ homes. The group meetings are just a rallying point for all the community that is happening when you are not at the group meeting.
Misconception 4 – It’s the community group leader’s job to disciple me
Though it is true that the community group leader will help guide you, ultimately you are responsible for your own spiritual walk. If you want to disciple someone, then find someone in the group you click with and hang out with them. If you want to be discipled, then find someone in the group you trust and ask them if you can meet regularly. The group leader provides general oversight, but group life is more about having individuals in the group disciple each other.
Misconception 5 – Group life is awesome!
There are elements in group life that are awesome. It’s awesome to see someone be honest about their porn addiction. It’s awesome to see marriages talk through struggles. But (and I cannot emphasize this enough) most of the time group life is difficult. It is inconvenient; it takes time; it takes effort. But that is how discipleship works. Discipleship is the most awful, painful, messy, terrible, glorious, amazing thing in the world. So don't worry if it doesn't feel like your group is awesome. You'll find through difficult times that the Lord is building a foundation of meaningful relationship and community that is truly awesome.
Misconception 6 – People grow quickly in groups
When I first started doing groups ministry I thought that people would get into a group and in about a year would be levitating, praying in Latin, and wouldn’t struggle with sin anymore. That’s not at all realistic. In real life discipleship happens really slowly. Just think of all the places where you still sin and struggle. We never “arrive” at perfect sanctification this side of eternity, so know that group life is a marathon, not a sprint.
Misconception 7 – I’ll really like everyone in my group
Actually, one of the ways God shapes us is by putting us around people who we don’t necessarily like, teaching us to deny ourselves and serve others. It’s easy to love people who are like you. It’s tougher (and better for you spiritually) to have to care for people who are different than you socially, who are of a different age than you, who struggle differently than you do, who know the Bible more or less than you do, etc.
Misconception 8 – No one that I trust will ever hurt me
I wish I could say that this is true, but it is not. In fact, God will use conflict and frustration in your group to chip away at sinful patterns in your life. There are times people will hurt you and betray you. Like the old adage that says, “it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” it is also “better to be honest and be hurt than never to be honest at all.”
Now, here is the good news in all this. God is the one who ultimately disciples people. The Father shows his love, the Son sympathizes with us in our weaknesses, the Spirit conforms us into the image of Christ. God is the active agent in making disciples.
What is amazing is that he allows us to even be a part of this process. Community groups are not the end-all-be-all of discipleship. But they are a helpful way that believers can spend time with one another to encourage each other unto love and good works, and to grow together in their love for God, for one another, and into Christ-likeness.