Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Small Groups


Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Small Groups

Sally Bayless can be found online at sallybayless.com.

My husband, Dave, and I participated in the pilot small group at Athens First United Methodist Church, and I wanted to share what I learned. In short, small groups at Athens First aren’t exactly what I expected, but I found my participation very uplifting.

What Is a Small Group?
A “small group” at Athens First UMC is 3-12 people who meet weekly to discuss how their faith journey has progressed. Each week, each person answers the question: “How are things with your soul?” Sometimes, it’s reworded: “Where have you seen God?” or “Where were your thin place moments?” Basically, though, it’s the same question each week, a supportive spiritual checkup. During the Lenten season, we will be looking at the question from five different angles, one for each week: prayers, presence, service, gifts, and witness.

What types of answers do people give? Well, everything that goes on in a small group is confidential, so I’ll just share some of my answers. Sometimes I felt closest to God because of music. Other times my morning devotional really spoke to me. Sometimes a prayer was answered. Once, I got so caught up in my To Do List that I forgot to look for God for a week. The pilot small group was very supportive that week. I think Wendy Merb-Brown hugged me.

You might think this one question wouldn’t provide enough discussion or would grow old. From my experience, I can’t see either of these things happening.

Oh, and it’s a very Methodist practice. If you want all the history, read “The Class Meeting,” by Kevin M. Watson.

What a Small Group Is Not
It’s not a study group. There’s no book, no reading assignment. (The book I just mentioned gives you information about how to set up a group and lots of history, but there’s no need to read it if all you want to do is join a group.)

It’s not a long meeting each week. Time is limited to 75 minutes.

It’s not a time for the Sacrament of the Casserole Dish. This makes it easier for the host, means I may still lose ten pounds by Spring Break, and lets the focus be on conversation.

What I Found
I really enjoyed my small group experience. First of all, it was time with a handful of wonderful people from Athens First UMC!

Second, since I’m the kind of person who always did her homework and raised her hand in class, I wanted to be prepared. That meant I looked for God’s presence in my life so I could share that one time I saw Him each week. Surprise—I found that if I was looking, I found Him far more than once a week! That made me happy, every time.

And finally, I found it incredibly uplifting to hear of God’s presence in the lives of my fellow group members.

All in all, I really enjoyed being part of the pilot group. I’m praying that God brings just the right people into the small group Dave and I will lead, and I look forward to our five weeks together!