Few things frustrate me as much as trying to grow a groups’ ministry in a small town. What makes it worse is all the experts who seem to have groups’ ministry figured out. Somehow, they never seem to have to deal with the same obstacles that I have to deal with.
That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy groups. Quite the contrary, I’ve loved every group I’ve ever been a part of. But I’ve come to realize recruiting group leaders and group attenders comes with a lot of obstacles–obstacles that most books and blog posts aren’t going to talk about.
- What do we do with the kids? That’s easy, right? Hire a babysitter because everyone in a small town has plenty of money to pay another ten to twenty dollars a week to attend a gathering that they’re already unsure about. I have a hard enough time trying to find a babysitter to watch my kids when I want to take my wife on a date. Now, I have to find one during the week.
Simple fix, bring the kids to group with you. What group leader wouldn’t want an extra ten to twelve kids tearing down their house? Overly dramatic? Maybe…maybe not. We’ve seen and heard about multiple things broke in homes, including a kid’s arm.
- How do we find the time? For most people, living in a small town means a longer commute to work for both husband and wife. My wife drives 45 minutes each way. On the days she works, it’s not uncommon for her to arrive home after 6pm. That gives us about two hours to eat dinner, give the kids a bath, and do any homework before their bedtime. Good luck trying to fit a group into that window.
That scenario is not taking into consideration the times during the year when the kids are involved in extracurricular activities. And let’s be honest, if you don’t have your kids in at least one extracurricular activity, you’re the exception not the norm. In the spring, our six year old will be playing tee ball. That means two practices a week, and a game or two every Saturday for roughly three months. Which means I’m unavailable March, April, May, and part of June for All Stars.
- What if someone weird shows up? I’m sure it doesn’t happen at your church, but weird people show up to my church. It’s kind of a side effect of being really nice to everyone and offering free doughnuts. If you need help identifying them, they’re usually the people who hang around after service to talk to the pastor. All the normal people tend to go home.
You may know them by different names such as: the really smelly guy, the woman who disguises gossip for prayer requests, the guy who looks like an 80’s porn star, and the kid who just devoured a dozen doughnuts.
Now you may be so holy that you can’t wait to wash Weirdo’s feet, but for the rest of us, we’re scared to death that they’re going to sign up for our group. By week two, it’s going to be just us and Smelly there because everyone else abandoned ship.
These are just a few of the obstacles I’ve been thinking through, but I’m sure there’s more. This has led me to ask myself, how much community do we really need? I mean we’re already more connected than ever before because of social media. Our families are involved in so many things. At what point are we asking too much of our people? How can we make sure groups are a blessing, and not a burden? That’s the question I’m trying to figure out.
Do you offer groups at your church? Do you think it’s working? I’d love to hear from some small town pastors who have figured this out.