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Being in community in small group is where we believe that you will experience the greatest spiritual growth. It’s in small group that we are able to ask our questions, be vulnerable and honest with each other, care for each other, and encourage each other as we pursue God together.
Here is the full story of Josh Yahoudy’s small group experience.
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Kate Mendoza started a women’s small group in March of 2020 and quickly watched her group grow together and take next steps in their walk with Jesus.
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Gilbert George prayed to receive Christ in the summer of 1962 when he was 10 years old.
Now at 69 years old, Gil has been attending Clear Creek Community Church for just over a year. He’s a member of a men’s small group and has started serving on the Prayer Team at Egret Bay.
But there’s something you should know about Gil. He is visually impaired.
For over a decade he’s lived without sight.
But that hasn’t prevented him from wanting to grow. Although he’s been on the journey of following Christ for a long time, Gil knows he’s still only scratched the surface of who God is and how he loves.
So, each week on an alternating schedule, one of the guys drives to Gil’s home and brings him to small group. And to further include him, they even recorded a special audio version of Clear Creek’s Missional Community small group study, so Gil could study the material and participate in the discussion.
Gil’s impairment also hasn’t prevented him from wanting to serve others. Although he loves to meet new people, Gil knows he doesn’t need his eyes to pray for them. Ears to hear, a hand to hold, and a voice to speak to God are his tools of ministry.
And so each week, when he is scheduled to serve, a guy from his small group drives to Gil’s home and brings him to church so he can passionately pray for people who are hurting and need encouragement.
Growing together to stir up affections for the Lord and caring for one another in order to serve others — this is what authentic gospel community looks like.
And even if Gilbert George can’t see it all for himself, he knows it deeper still.
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” Romans 12:4-6a
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“I had tried to read the Bible on my own… but once I was in the group doing it together there was a lot more accountability.
Each week different perspectives come in to play, too. There’s lots of different views and points of view in our small group, which is awesome because then you hear other people’s interpretations on things.”
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In 15 years of membership at Clear Creek Community Church, I have been part of so many small groups I had to check with my husband and a friend to count them all up. When I look back at my experience with small group, I can recall so many good things: deep friendships, laughter and tears, friends that became family, and a slow sharpening of my walk with God.
Other important things have come from these years too, primarily having to do with growth in my love for the Bible and my understanding of God. And how I have needed and still need those!
But the absolute best part of small group for me has always been the gift of being known.
For some reason I am that person who will dive in deep during the first meetings and tell everyone my greatest, heart-wrenching prayer requests. I love to share the story of how God saved me and how he’s been working in me the past few decades. And I always want to know everyone else’s story, too. That part of small group where we all share our stories is my jam.
But I wasn’t always like this. I grew up quite shy. But, during my college years, I distinctly remember telling a not-so-close friend about some burdens of my past. We swapped stories for hours, and afterward I felt such a great release. Here was one more person in the world who really knew me, and that was freeing.
In her book The Life You Long For, singer-songwriter Christy Nockels writes, “I’ve found that you can’t live abundantly in your God-given capacity as the Beloved [of God] without first being in true community with others” (109). This is an amazing truth about our God: we see his love for us most vividly as we walk alongside others who love him.
There’s something special about a group of people with whom you know you share one singularly important commonality. You feel freer to speak God’s truth to one another. You feel more enabled to share your neighbor’s hurt. And you feel more at ease saying, “me too.”
In Philippians 2, Paul encourages the brothers and sisters of the faith to be of “one mind” and to “look not only to [their] own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Certainly there is an aspect of this that is meeting one another’s physical needs, but I believe this also means we should be interested in one another. We should be shouldering burdens and helping our siblings in Christ continue to follow him with perseverance.
Listen, small group is not a perfect community. Tensions happen. We’re all sinners, so you’ll likely be hurt and hurt others as well. It’s possible you’re reading this right now thinking you’ve been hurt too much by other believers to ever truly be open in a small group.
I’ve found that you can’t live abundantly in your God-given capacity as the Beloved [of God] without first being in true community with others.
– Christy Nockels
From perceived slights to deep wounds, vulnerability can be difficult when we come to community hurting. But be encouraged that God can use this pain. He is the champion of using our human weaknesses to display his glory.
There is so much more beauty to be grasped when we allow ourselves to be known. Think for a moment on the wonderful truth that God shows himself to us in such a variety of ways, including through the love and acceptance of other people. I have found that when I open up to others, I open up to God much more readily. Community is the place where God primes the pump to show us more of his great love for us.
When I choose to share my burdens and pursue really knowing the people in my small group, I open up more avenues for God to speak to me. When I receive acceptance, guidance, and even correction from my brothers and sisters in Christ, I feel known. In turn, the reality of God’s acceptance of me in Christ rains down even more thunderously. The gift of being known by others turns into the gift of being known by God himself — a prize above all others.
As you set off to join a new small group this fall, or more deeply engage with the one you’re already part of, I encourage you to open up and be a bit more vulnerable with this family God has provided. Don’t miss the transformative power God offers us through community.
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Diane Stell has been involved in small groups for all of the 20 years she and her family have been part of Clear Creek Community Church. She’s learned from every group experience, and each has been different, but not quite as different as the women’s group she began leading in the spring of 2020.
“It’s been a total, complete, virtual, quarantine group,” said Diane, describing her fledgling small group.
The group began with only a few women right before the COVID-19 pandemic became a reality in the Clear Lake area this past spring.
Then, quarantine and stay-at-home orders put normal life on hold for everyone. As routines were suddenly upended, it became clear that meeting as a church was not going to be the same again for quite some time.
“As time went on,” said Diane, “I would get two or three or four requests a week for women wanting to join our group. So we moved to Zoom really quickly. Now we have ten members.”
Diane spoke with each person over the phone as their initial meeting to tell them what the group was like and give them the option of joining or not. Nobody turned her down.
“I think a lot of these people would not have joined the group if there had not been a quarantine,” said Diane. “I don’t even think some of them knew they needed group as much as they needed group. Everyone I spoke to just needed to be connected, and that’s what group is. God made us that way. The first thing out of pretty much everybody’s mouth was ‘I just need to be connected to other people that are like minded,’ of course that like-mindedness being Jesus.”
Most of the women who joined Diane’s group had never been part of a small group or Bible study of any kind. Diane calls it “the most diverse group” she has ever been part of. It is made up of women aged 30-64 with varying differences in parenthood, marital status, careers, race, and family and church backgrounds.
“In the beginning, and this is typical of all groups, all you see are the differences,” said Diane. “But then very, very quickly, we bonded. And as we got to know each other I started seeing all the commonalities – how connected we are because of Christ. That’s the common thread that pulls us all together.”
In its short time together, this small group has experienced growth and unity in the midst of a difficult and ever-changing season, despite the fact that most of them have never met in real life.
“We’re just making the best out of a situation that’s not ideal,” said Diane. “I’m hoping that in the future we can meet socially-distanced.”
Even so, they’ve still managed to celebrate with one another. Recently, a member was baptized in an elder’s backyard pool. She shared the baptism video with her group and read her story of coming to faith to them at their Zoom meeting the following Tuesday night. It was a special moment they shared together.
Diane has been intentional about doing virtual game nights as well as Bible study. She’s done porch drop-offs for people needing a little encouragement, and group members call her and each other regularly to check in or just to talk and pray together.
“You can still do so much!” she said. “There’s some hard stuff going on. I feel like the group has really helped each other and been what we’re supposed to be as far as being a support for each other.”
For Clear Creek, small group has always been the physical anchor to the church — the way to know and be known by one another. Even though the in-person connection is absent from their meetings, Diane said there has not been much connection lost.
“In some ways it’s easier for people to meet this way — not having to get a babysitter, not having to ‘dress up,’” she said.
For the most part, Diane sees this group much like other groups she has led in the past. They have their ups and downs, their high moments and imperfections. But group now, during this especially strange time, is a special respite away from uncertainty and a step back towards what matters most.
“I’m really grateful for this group,” said Diane. “I’ve loved all of my groups, but I have a special heart for this one. It grounds me. It causes me to want to be closer to God. It’s changed my expectations of people in a good way. I’m having a softer heart and giving people more grace on certain things where before I’d be a little nitpicky.”
As Clear Creek gears up for Group Link in a time of uncertainty, Diane hopes people will remember that small group is still what it has always been.
“I have lots of Christian friends,” said Diane, “but group is different. Group is intentional. Group is prayer. Group is Bible study. Group is connection. Group is supporting each other.”
And she believes that being part of a small group now is “absolutely crucial.”
“I have witnessed just how much difference it’s made, having that connection,” she said. “While I think that’s true always, I think it is particularly true now. If this virtual connection is all we have, I’m so grateful we have it. God created us to be in community. It’s what’s good for us. It’s what’s best for us.”
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