Priceless: Small Groups

Linda Linfors   -  

Open Doors is a St. Stephen small group whose members strive to live out their baptismal vows to resist evil, injustice, and oppression. Open Doors offers occasional commentaries and articles exploring a wide range of issues at the intersection of faith and justice.

What is your experience of small groups in a church? A few weeks ago, our Sunday School class started a new book study, but I was home sick. I missed them and their discussion. I remembered the COVID experience of being out of touch with those dear friends. Every group is different and any one group may not be the right “fit” at every moment of our lives, but, small groups can be the best way to practice community and learn to be a mature Christian.

When John and Charles Wesley were attending Oxford together, Charles, the younger, asked John to lead a small group of friends in Bible study. Over time this group learned the disciplined life and bonded together. They met weekly to share their stories, their fears, and their dreams. The other students at Oxford called them “Method-ists” because of their devotion and the  “methodical way” they met weekly to study together. This was the origin story of the movement called Methodism. The early Methodists’ weekly meetings take their current form in the small group.

My Sunday School group is the Reconciling Discovery Class, but there are many small groups at St Stephen that practice this model of Methodism. More than the chosen topic or study for a Sunday morning, the discussion and the storytelling are the most important. We learn about each other in this community to help ourselves along the path of faith in our life. Are we perfect? Of course not! Our class is not perfect! What is important is that we are devoted to each other. We share our lives, our joys, and sorrows with each other.

Just like the first small group of apostles, we hold at the center of our thought the life and journey of Jesus of Nazareth. We compare our current stories with His Story; we learn from His parables; we study our world and mature in our faith and in helping others.

Groups that practice this dedication to each other and the Good News are successful when most members are together, in conversation. Often, I learn from others and their story. Sometimes I come away with insights into my own story. What is clear is that you are needed for your group to succeed. Your voice, your empathy, and your story are needed for you and others to grow.

Are you a member of a small group? If not, find one! Even if your group doesn’t meet on Sunday, the dedication of a group to the story of faith and to each other can be life changing. What will you bring to your group this week. Is it your story or is it your listening ear? Perhaps both?