This past summer we held six fireside chats. 80 people attended those six chats. Lots of information was shared, but if you had to ask me what was the biggest and most common piece of information between the six chats, without hesitation, I would answer a hunger for more. Every single person was hungry for more knowledge and a better relationship with Christ. I suspect this is the desire for every parishioner who walks through our doors.
Growth is going to be an area of focus in our Evangelization Plan. It’s not enough to know about Jesus. It’s not enough to have an encounter with Jesus. We want to become followers of Jesus, and the growth stage is where that occurs. Coming up with initiatives and plans to help all of our parishioners grow to become disciples will be crucial in our plan. However, just because that full plan won’t come out for at least another year, doesn’t mean we can’t start the growth process now. This year we want to continue that growth process for adults, high school students and middle school students. We’re going to start “small.”
As a parish, we identify at the very least 1000 adult members who attend our five weekend Masses regularly. That’s a lot of adults and doesn’t factor in the children associated with the adults. With these staggering numbers, the truth is, we don’t have the adequate time and space to help all members of our parish grow by attending events at the parish. We can’t house 1000 members in our gym or church for a Tuesday night growth event. We don’t have the time energy and space to host growth events every weeknight or weekday.
So where does this leave us? Small. We can implement small groups that allow people to grow in their faith. There are many advantages to small groups. The bonds of friendship that develop through a small group can last a lifetime. It allows for deeper discussion, accountability and growth. You don’t do it by yourself in a large group setting, you journey WITH other people, the way Christ wanted it.
It also allows for flexibility. Groups can gather whenever is best for them, rather than trying to fit in a large group event at the parish. If schedules change, the group can discuss together another potential meeting time and day whereas in a large group meeting if your schedule changes and you can’t attend anymore, you are usually left with nothing else to attend. Not the case with small groups.
Location is another important element. Instead of trying to find space at the parish, you can meet in your home in a much more relaxing and comfortable environment. It’s easy to have light snacks and beverages for all members and the comfortable setting allows for better discussion and growth. You could also meet a restaurant, coffee shop, or even a bar depending on the demographics of your group.
It’s also family friendly. There’s always a worry about child care for parents attending, but in a small group in a home, parents can bring their children and allow them to play and grow in friendships with other Catholic children to let them know they are not alone. Because the meetings are more informal, it creates less burden on parents to tend to their children if a situation occurs where they need to leave the group for a moment. The group can take a quick break and easily convene again once the situation, whatever it is, is resolved.
The most important element of small groups that make them successful is the willingness of participants to be open and honest with one another. Yes, we can have a topic to study and learn about for our minds. However, the aspect that draws the strongest testimonies from participants is when a deep sharing can occur. If a participant has endured the loss of a loved one, often time’s small groups will take the time to pray for and even over that person during their small group time. This can be incredibly uplifting for the person who is in a tough situation. The small group can organize making meals for that person and even attending the funeral. Accountability often develops as well. Participants may share their struggles with developing a daily prayer life, and the group can help each other stay accountable to their prayer commitments. This is authentic Christian community at it’s finest!
We plan to implement these groups for our adults. We plan to implement these groups for our high school students as well. The benefits of a group like this for those who participate our enormous and serve to make life long apostles of Jesus. This year we won’t be launching any parish wide small group initiative. We aren’t ready for that stage yet, BUT we are willing to help those who are hungry for growth to establish a small group NOW. If you are interested, the best way is to contact Attila Valentiny and schedule an appointment to discuss joining a small group. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can even sign up for an appointment by clicking this link: 1 on 1 Sign Up
Either way we look forward to assisting in any way we can!
In Christ’s Joy