I have a confession.
Some time back I wrote a blog post entitled “3 Reasons I Ditched Small Groups.”
I kinda lied.
I haven’t really “ditched” small groups. I just don’t go to one locally.
In fact, I help run the largest online video support group program out there for men and women struggling with sex addiction. We call it X3groups and it’s amazing.
In 2012 this program started with 1 group and 6 guys. Today we have 50 groups with 500 men and women who meet weekly.
And you know what? They pay $39 a month for the opportunity!
Yes, I know … I’m talking about a recovery group program. But make no mistake. X3groups are small groups.
They operate on the same principles and one of the reasons they are so successful is that they hit the mark when it comes to what small groups should be about.
Why do I bring this up?
Is it to hock our program?
Is it to thumb my nose at church small groups?
Is it to say that all churches should charge for small group participation (let’s be honest, there are a few churches out there who would if they could)?
No, the reason I bring this up is to say that there are small groups out there that are killing it and doing exactly what they were purposed to do. Maybe you are part of one? That being said I thought I would give you 5 things to look for in your small group that indicates it’s hitting the mark and worth your investment.
First, conversations are open. In other words, almost nothing is off the table. In X3groups we talk about some pretty personal stuff and because of that, men and women feel empowered to share other things that may not actually be sex-related. Listen, if a guy can talk to another guy about “wankin’ off” last night then he pretty much can talk about anything. Open conversations lead to deeper relationships. It may be uncomfortable or messy at times but that’s a good thing.
Second, you are there for more than just friendships. Somewhere along the line, many churches got this idea that small groups are about making friends. I disagree. Small groups are a tool for something greater, whether that be outreach, care, or discipleship, but all done through the vehicle of community (that’s Christianese for friendships). X3groups are about recovery and support. Guys attend for a reason greater than just having another bro session. They come together to find accountability and support and out of those weekly meetings meaningful relationships are born.
Third, filters are left at the door. I touched on this in my last blog. A great small group is one where people feel comfortable enough to share without the need to sanitize everything they say. I’m not suggesting that a small group is only good if you can drop some “F bombs” here and there. What I am saying is that the people involved are more interested in the substance of one’s sharing than the presentation. Just like an X3group, small groups are no place for judgment, condemnation, or offense.
Fourth, there’s an atmosphere of mutual respect. One thing is certain, you will not always agree with your other small group members. That’s ok. Good dialogue often comes from healthy disagreement. If Joe feels like he can’t share his thoughts because Mary and Fred both think he’s an idiot then Joe will either clam up or probably leave the group. It needs to be understood that it’s ok to “agree to disagree.”
Fifth, the group’s culture is supported by its leadership. Hear me on this. If the group’s leader or church’s leaders aren’t “down” with your group’s vision then it’s only a matter of time until things fall apart or the group is dismantled. The only way this atmosphere of real relationships will grow and evolve is if it’s communicated up front that “this is the culture we are after.” It needs to be clear.
- This is why we do small groups.
- This is what we are after
- We don’t care about numbers; we care about results
In an X3group we have something called a sobriety covenant. The covenant is king. In other words, it spells out exactly what’s acceptable and what’s not. People know coming in what to expect and if they can’t handle it they leave pretty fast. That’s a good thing in my opinion.
I hope these 5 things are what you see in your small group. If so then it sounds like you are pretty fortunate (or “blessed” if you prefer church speak). Don’t discard what you have because it’s super valuable and not really all that common. If not then maybe you want to look for another option.
Note: If you are a person who struggles with sex or porn addiction then do yourself a favor and check out an X3group. You won’t believe how good X3groups are until you get in one!