I really enjoy hearing peoples stories. You know everybody has one. It always amazes me the journey of where people come from to where they are headed. Everyone wants to share their story with somebody, to be heard, encouraged, to walk away with hope for their future.
My small group journey started with a women’s young adult group. It was my opportunity to be discipled, transparent, share my thoughts (and therefore my mess). I remember being like a sponge, absorbing God’s Word, memorizing scripture, praying scripture and watching the other girls in the group live their lives “out loud” right in front of me. My group prayed for me and challenged me in love. That accountability was vital to my spiritual and emotional growth and kept me on track. I still stay in touch with some of those women and thank God for positioning me with such a great group. The group eventually grew and multiplied into two groups. I discovered with a smaller group, there is more opportunity for everyone to share and invite new people to join the group.
After I got married, my husband Sam and I joined a couples group. It was a new season in our life and frankly, we had no idea what to do. Nobody gives you a manual on marriage when you say, “I Do.” However, just being involved in a couples group helped guide us and keep us from feeling alone. We grew in our relationship with Christ and learned how to love and respect each other according to the Bible. We were challenged to keep returning to God’s Word to discover what He says about marriage and how to apply it to our own. Being in a small group with other couples gave us the opportunity to have married friends, to laugh, go on dates and share prayer requests.
As you can tell by my journey, I am a strong believer in small groups. In fact, I can honestly say if it wasn’t for the small group communities I have connected with, I’m not sure where I’d be today.
Small groups have provided for me the following:
- Celebrate victories & share burdens
- Place of authenticity – I can be real in my group
- Healing community – where I practically live out my Christian life.
- Fun & laughter
- Be with like minded people who also want to grow
- Make a difference in the lives of others
In my opinion, small groups are most effective when the group, or community, rallies around a cause. For example, Shoreline’s cause is to unveil God’s love to all people. If people know they are loved by God they will be able to pour that same love out to others. I believe each one of us desires to be involved in something greater and bigger than ourselves-a cause that will make a difference and a positive change in the lives of people; a cause that will make the wrongs right in the world we live in. For example, feeding the homeless or bringing groceries to a widow or building Caleb houses for orphans or buying school supplies for children with lower income status or bringing awareness of human trafficking. I’m convinced that people who are in a community rallied around a cause also develop into committed followers of Christ and World Changers for His Kingdom.
We also hear so many stories of unbelievers who are invited by a friend to attend a small group first, and then start attending a church service.
Small groups is a place where we can get to really know people from our church and are able to reach out to our neighbors, coworkers, friends and family. It’s where they too can experience life-giving relationships.
I envision small groups in every neighborhood, workplace and school shining the light of Jesus, where people can be the “church”, and unveil God’s love in their city and world. I’m convinced small groups of believers saturating our city will make the difference in the lives of people, both now and for eternity. Sometimes it really is the difference between life or death. In my case, it was the difference of hope and loneliness. I am confident that if people are in a small group, whatever age or stage we are in, no matter what goes on in our life, we will be alright. Small groups have made a difference in my life and I hope you give it a chance to make the difference in yours.
Kelly Mata is the Pastor of Small Groups & Assimilation at Shoreline Church where she has been in full time ministry for 20 years. Her passion for helping people get connected to God and each other are contagious. She thrives on encouraging people to reach their potential by using their unique gifts and talents to serve the local church, their community and the world. Kelly serves alongside her husband, Pastor Sam Mata and their 2 teen age sons, James and Robert.