The Sunday School Class that I lead has reached an interesting point. Over the past nine years we have grown from four young couples with no kids, to over 30 slightly-older-than-young couples with about 75 kids! (Talk about organic growth). I believe the growth is due to the Holy-spirit influenced dialog, support, seeking, prayer, laughter, teaching that we share when we are together inside and outside the church.
Growth is great, but it also changes the dynamic of a group. When we were small, we would have impromptu gatherings after church at people’s houses with the kids. Bring a bag lunch (or fast food) and let the kids go wild while you talked with the other adults. What was possible with 12 couples is impossible with 30+ couples. As we started getting bigger, the church leaders wanted us to split and start a few new groups. The class talked about it, but all agreed there was no good way to split. So, we stayed together and kept growing. Everyone likes meeting new people as they find our group, but we also miss the intimacy of when we were smaller – the days when you knew everyone name and could match the kids with the parents.
I chewed on this problem all fall. The solution (or at least a stab at something new) came from a meeting I had at the Catalyst Conference. During one of the lunch sessions I was eating at the Gwinnett Center food court by myself at one of the standing bistro tables. A couple asked if they could join me. I said sure. We inquired from each other where are you from, what denomination we are (I am Methodist, they were Holiness) and why we were attending the conference. I told them that, among other things, I lead a Sunday School Class of young adults that is growing, and I am looking for ways to keep growing but tap back into the intimacy that we once shared. They told me they had the same problem and decided to do something called Home Groups. They said they randomly divided their entire class into groups of five couples. The groups would meet once a month outside the church with children. After three months, the groups were randomly mixed up and the new groups would meet once a month for three months. The size of the groups was small enough that you could learn everyone’s name and get to know their kids. The duration of each group was long enough to learn something about each other, celebrate together and share each other’s burdens. I thought this was brilliant – worth the price of the ticket to the Conference. (The content of the conference itself was worth about 3 times the ticket price in my opinion – I highly recommend checking it out next year).
So, starting this month the Couples For Christ Class (website under construction) is starting Home Groups. Groups of five families have been randomly formed and the meeting places for the next three months have been selected. Some are meeting in homes, others in bowling alleys. Some are waiting for the weather to warm up so they can meet at local trails. Three months from now, all the families will be in a new group and the meetings start all over again. We are going to do this for one year and then assess if it worth continuing. I am excited about trying something new with the class. We are continuing to meet Sunday mornings as a large group, but the Home Groups give the opportunity to get to know everyone at a deeper level. I truly believe that God intended for me to meet that couple. I will keep you all posted on this group experiment.