first impressions & last impressions: a note to summit sg leaders
Hey Summit Small Group Leaders,
Small groups are a pretty big deal. Both fellowship and a deeper understanding of the bible are an essential part of the Christian walk. How often do our pastors push them and emphasize their importance? I hear the "small groups speech" more often than not. Small groups are good for so many reasons, and at the moment, I am looking for a new one.
Please know this: I am aware it's probably not easy to be a small group leader. I'm sure you feel pressure to be a "good" leader. I'm sure you are overwhelmed. I know your small group isn't your only commitment and it isn't always going to be your priority. Things will slip; you're a human and you aren't perfect. However, I want you to know that you signed up for this and it IS a big responsibility. Take it seriously, for the way you treat both your small group members and your visitors impacts each of them in ways you may not know about.
So many of my friends are members of amazing small groups. I see so many testimonies on Facebook and Twitter of how wonderful each small group is and the way God is working within. A small group can foster the best relationships, contain the best prayer times and encourage the most spiritual growth in each member's life.
But what about the negative experiences? In my first Summit small group, I was asked to not bring up a specific prayer request again because I wasn't handling my struggle in the way they expected me to. Essentially, I was asked to do this, or leave. They abandoned me when I needed them the most.
On a lighter yet still unimpressive note, in the next group I visited, the leader clearly patronized me for working at Chick-fil-A and bragged about her excessive income. I also have a friend who was given the wrong address for her first visit for which she had baked delicious cupcakes. She e-mailed the leader to address the discrepancy, and never heard back.
...and then we have the lack of attention that goes a long way. I missed several weeks of a group once and no one noticed, or reached out to me... even when I never went back. At this point, I quit trying. A year later, and last week, I finally decided to give one more try to finding the right group for me. At the end of the night, I snuck out unnoticed as no one made an effort to welcome me to their group. I was also never included on the e-mail list that was spoken about throughout the night. Unimpressed, I stayed home last night and watched a Twilight movie alone and ate a spoonful of peanut butter.
Luckily, I am strong in my faith, I have great friends, am still involved in church and things are fine. I'm not going to quit church, harbor anger over these circumstances or be bitter toward the Summit. I will still encourage friends to find a group and will continue my search as well. But what if I had been the non-believer trying it out for the first time? What if I needed small group to help me through a hard time? What if I were a new Christian? How would your actions be perceived then?
Small group leaders, I just want you to know... I recognize you are busy and I know in most of these instances the offenses were unintentional. I applaud you, because I'd be a horrible leader and I'm glad people like you exist. I thank you for stepping up and for all of your efforts. I'm only asking you to be more aware. You have such power to make a difference and I encourage you to make it one of your top priorities.
**disclaimer: I have been a part of a couple of good groups that have either changed or conflicted with my schedule. my blog is directed toward my other experiences. also, my intentions are not to 'bash' the groups i have visited, but to open eyes to see the impacts that can be made**