Living in Life-Giving Community
Updated: Nov 4, 2021
In May, I was on the "Live in Love" Podcast where Lauren and I got to sit down and talk about what it looks like to live in love in Community. It was so fun and special and clearly a lot of you connected with it because since then, my DM's have been flooded with questions about how to find life-giving community, and specifically about our small group (lovingly known as Hosanna's Homies). Soooo I thought I'd write this post to give some advice to those who lack community, as well as answer yall's questions as best I can.
I'd like to preface this by saying-- we're created for community and longing for deeper connection is not only normal, it's GOOD! And that desire for relationship is not surprising when you remember that we're created in the image of the most relational God. I hope this blog encourages you and helps you find or create authentic community that encourages you, points you to Jesus and does life with you, like ours does 🥰
First off, I feel like the people who message me generally fall into 1 of 3 "camps," and I'd love to talk through some thoughts/advice for each one :)
Camp 1: you don't have community at all & you desire it
A lot of these cases are people who moved to a new place... i.e. starting college, moving to a new city, etc. If that's you, my advice is three-fold.
1) PRAY that God will bring the right people into your life. Write it on your mirror, set reminders on your phone... this is one area where I truly believe if you ask, God will show up. He WANTS us to do life with other believers-- it's biblical and I've seen in my own life that God knows what you need/desire, and He brings the perfect people along at the perfect time.
2) This may be a cliché "Christian" answer...but "church-hop" until you find a church where you feel at home. If you're a believer and want friends/community who share your morals and make you better, your odds of finding those people increase significantly if you're looking at church.
3) Get out of your comfort zone - 99% of the time, community doesn't just fall into your lap. Be quick to introduce yourself to people, get people's contact info and make plans to grab dinner! You'll be surprised that a lot of people you meet are searching for the same thing as you.
Camp 2: you have "friends" and "community," but they're not life-giving
I've experienced this in different seasons, especially through college. I was CONSTANTLY surrounded by people / friends and always going to social gatherings, but (with the exception of a few friendships), I felt really empty in my relationships. I was going out to the bars every weekend, had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and (while I still love them), the people I surrounded myself with did not point me to Jesus.
With that said, I'd like to share one of the best pieces of advice my mom gave me growing up: YOU'RE NEVER STUCK. There are life-giving friends out there, you just have to be willing to step out and find them. If I could go back and re-do college, I would have gotten more plugged in at church, joined a small group through the church, and tried to meet friends that way. You can find friends who are fun and social, but still hold you accountable and point you to Jesus-- I promise those people exist, you just have to be willing to walk away from situations/relationships that don't make you better and get out of your comfort zone to pursue them. And now that I'm on the other side and do life with incredible people who make me better every time I'm around them, I can say with confidence that it's SO WORTH IT.
Camp 3: you have some life-giving friends, but you want to start a small group/Bible study where your time together is intentional
This is how our small group started, and I'm going to answer some questions I get a lot about our small group below... I think it will help if you find yourself in this category ☺️
HOW DID YOUR SMALL GROUP GET STARTED /
HOW DID YALL FIND THE PEOPLE THAT ARE IN IT?
My cousin Landon and his wife Alex approached me, Davey, Lauren and TR about starting a bible study/small group for married couples. We were all craving richer community, so we said yes and then we asked 3 other couples to join (Lauren's sister Macy & her husband Tyler, my high school friend Kate and her husband Ben, and Davey's college baseball friend Rex & his wife Jill). There wasn't really a method that we used to "choose" who was in it, it was just people we were around in that season of life that were pursuing the Lord and craving deeper connection, and 6 couples felt like a pretty good number.
THOUGHTS ON JOINING A SMALL GROUP THAT ALREADY EXISTS THROUGH MY CHURCH vs. STARTING ONE?
Sooo here's my thoughts about small groups through a church. They are an AMAZING way to meet people and create community on a large scale, and I would highly recommend them if you don't have life-giving friends/community -- it is definitely the best place to start.
BUT, most of the time they have a "come one, come all" mentality... which is great, and totally necessary as a lot of people are looking for that large-scale community.
However, I'd say there are 3 major things that make our small group so awesome & they're somewhat counter-intuitive to the structure of church small groups.
It is SMALL. Because there are only 12 of us, it creates a more intimate setting. You get to know every single person on a personal level, and you don't feel like you're addressing strangers or a big crowd of people when you share things. And I don't say this to sound exclusive, but I think if we added anyone else we would lose that intimacy...especially now that we're almost 3 years in & everyone knows each other so well. Not to mention that literally every couple in our small group has multiple friends that they would LOVE to add, so if we opened it up for 1 more couple we'd have to open it up for 10 more.
Commitment. Even on the weeks we don't feel like it, we show up. Every person & couple makes our time together top priority, and that consistency has been vital to the group dynamic. Also, something cool that comes with commitment is that you're forced to come as you are-- whether you've had the worst day ever or the best day ever. There's a lot of depth that comes from showing up + bringing the good/bad/ugly with you...and for me, our small group feels like a space be a safe place to land. PS - this is not to say we never take a week off because we definitely do if everyone has too much going on... But if I had to guess, I'd say we meet 40+ out of 52 Mondays in a year.
Vulnerability. If you want deep relationships, you have to be willing to go deep and share things that might be out of your comfort zone. In order to have friends that celebrate you on the mountaintop AND are in the trenches alongside you through the valleys, you have to be honest about where you're at, your experiences, your mistakes, your emotions... There is so. much. freedom. on the other side of your vulnerability. And when you open up, I guarantee that you'll find that you're NOT alone in your experiences and other people actually feel/go through the same things. Also, very important to note that we have serious boundaries and trust that what is shared in the group stays in the group.
HOW DO YOU STRUCTURE YOUR TIME TOGETHER?
I got this question A LOT and I'm really excited to answer it because this is one of my favorite things about our small group :) ultimately, the way we structure our time together looks different from one season to the next and it's really Holy Spirit-led.
There have been seasons where we meet as a big group with guys and girls. During those times, we usually go through specific books of the Bible where we'll read 1 or 2 chapters per week and then talk about it as a group. Most of us use commentaries (like Enduring Word), which helps us to understand what we're reading and gives us more to talk about. I love this setup because when you talk through the chapter and how it applies to your life, you end up learning so much because what God spoke to you through those verses is probably different from what He revealed to someone else. Also, I can say from personal experience that it's amazing how God will use the reading + other members of the group to speak to specific things I'm going through and tell me things I didn't even know I needed to hear.
In other seasons, we split up guys & girls and meet in different rooms. This is what we're currently doing :) I feel like most seasons where we've been split by gender, each group has picked a book to supplement time with God/reading the Bible (I will drop some book recs for girls & guys at the bottom of this post). But when we meet as girls, we start off with "check-in's" where we go around and each person answers 3 questions: How's your heart? How's your marriage? & how's your time with the Lord?
Sometimes check-in's are super quick, but there have also been weeks when someone is walking through something hard & "check in's" end up taking up our whole time together... and that's okay! Going back to what I said about our structure being Spirit-led-- some of the sweetest, most vulnerable experiences we've had, when I would say I've experienced Jesus the most, have been when we haven't followed the "plan" for the night because the Holy Spirit moved the conversation in a different direction.
FINAL WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO START A SMALL GROUP/BIBLE STUDY:
Don't get discouraged if everyone doesn't deep dive the first week you meet. It takes time to get to know each other, build trust, etc. and it will happen organically so don't feel like you have to force it, or like if it doesn't happen immediately then your time together won't ever be fruitful.
It's okay to sit in silence. I can't count the times that there's been a lull in conversation before someone feels prompted to say something, and that's fine! Being able to sit in silence with people is a valuable life skill & important in relationships, even though it can feel awkward/take some getting used to.
Be fully yourself, and give others the space to be fully themselves :) a "safe space" is a place that's judgment-free & where you'll always be met with grace
If you made it this far, I hope this encouraged you or maybe even gave you that final nudge you needed to start your own small group ;)
Praying for lives to be changed through my community & yours 💙
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." - 1 John 1:7
SOME BOOK RECS (linked on Amazon):
FOR WOMEN: Captivating (female version of Wild at Heart)