A First Experiment

photoYou may know that Richmond’s First Baptist Church is trying to start 100 new small groups in the next few years. but you may not know that on Monday, February 6, nine of us got together to experiment with the form and content, to see if we could create a small group model that would work for other groups as well.

We met at the Pusey House, just behind First Baptist Church on Park Avenue.  Shirley Seibert showed up early, with refreshments.  I made sure the lights were on, the chairs were arranged, and the name tags were out.  Others started showing up around 6:45 and at 7:00 we got started.

Just to break the ice I asked the members of the group to tell us where they grew up and who their first grade teacher was (we were surprised by how many of us had started somewhere else before ending up in Richmond), and then we shared prayer concerns.  At an appropriate moment Clint Smith lit a candle at the center of the room and we listened to some music as we offered silent prayers for one another.

Then we looked at the lectionary readings for the following Sunday, and volunteers took turns reading.  We saved the (difficult) Gospel lesson for last and spent some time talking about what Jesus meant when he said we shouldn’t be angry, shouldn’t lust, and shouldn’t swear (Matt. 5:21-37).  I asked the group to think about what they might want to pass along to the preacher, who would have to preach that difficult passage from the pulpit, and there were a number of good insights.

The problem, I think, is that we tried to keep it to an hour, and when the clock said it was time to stop we weren’t quite ready.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe it means we wanted more.

We plan to meet again next Monday night to talk about what worked and what didn’t and see if we can refine the model.  Since our meeting Clint Smith has found a church in Alabama that has 4,200 small groups, and encourages people to gather around their natural interests instead of the lectionary readings for the week.  I typed the word “kayak” into the search engine just for fun, and discovered that there are two kayaking small groups in the church–one for men and one for women.

I love that approach, and think it might be a natural fit with one of our other implementation teams: “Building Community through Interest Groups.” When I told Clint about it he laughed and said, “Maybe you and I will be studying the Bible in a kayak this summer.”

Maybe we will.  Stay tuned!


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