Every Monday night, our neighbors must wonder about us. About 6pm cars start pulling up to our house and people spill out of the vehicles carrying books and dishes and babies.
It’s Small Group night, which– in our case– translates to Small Circus Night. When everyone comes we have about seven families. I’m trying to count everyone on my fingers and I’m pretty sure I’ve missed someone. We have four (four!) babies who are about ready to crawl and an almost-two year old and a one year old. We have a slightly-mature couple I begged to join us because I didn’t have enough hands to hold all the babies, and they usually bring their adult son’s girlfriend. And then there’s our own family, with two medium-sized kids.
Pandemonium ensues. The two-year old likes to get into the cupboards and the babies are just starting to scoot and the adults are trying to catch up and I’m frequently setting fire to dinner in the kitchen.
Literally, I mean there are flames involved when I cook for these people.
And yet they keep showing up each week, probably praying all the way to the house that dinner isn’t ruined. Say what you want about church and worship and singing and programs, this is what church has become to mean to me. Church is not a one-hour show about Jesus we attend each Sunday.
Church is made up of people who love Jesus and also take time out of their schedule to care for one another. The craziness is worth it. The time is worth it. I beg of you– get involved in the lives of the people in your congregation! Go through their medicine cabinets and learn where they keep the forks and drag your toddler out of their cat dish. (True stories.)
And also, please note that Jesus did not show up for a one hour sermon each week while he walked the earth. He lived with those disciples of his, sharing time and resources and meals with them. Jesus probably dragged his share of toddlers out of cat dishes, I’m sure.
The pandemonium in our small group is (barely) contained by a few tricks I’ve learned along the way. Here’s how it works for us– feel free to adapt these ideas to your own situation:
- Aim for decent housekeeping, but do not over clean. You are not trying to impress the queen, here. You are enjoying life with your friends. If at any time you think, “Boy, they are going to be impressed with my housekeeping” you have gone too far. Impressing others is not the point. For example, a few weeks ago the almost-two year old was kissing my mirror as I held her up. She got the glass all goopy and I forgot to clean it for almost three weeks. I’m busy, people. And it was small group that got it messy, so small group can politely ignore the goopy mirror for a while.
- Eating together is lots of fun, but keep it simple. I make the main dish each week because I host, but also because my son and I have pretty intense gluten issues. It’s not fair to make young, exhausted mothers dance around our weird dietary needs, so I just handle the entrée. I let everyone know what the meal plan is (many times I forget and Megan has to remind me) and then everyone brings a side dish to go with it. We use a Facebook conversation to discuss what we’re bringing. Our usual meals are chili, sandwiches, breakfast-for-dinner, and Mexican night. We rotate willy-nilly.
- Serving a lot of people is easy if you get it down to a science. Set up a buffet line in the kitchen, put silverware out so people can grab what they need, and then let the good times roll. Oh, and buy enough paper plates. Unless your small group is into environmental activism, and then you can use real plates and bond over doing the dishes together. Whatever floats your boat.
- Do try to have “enough” for guests, whatever that means for your group. Have enough toilet paper on hand, for example. Have enough places to sit, even if that means four babies spread out on blankets while parents surround them on the carpet. Try to make sure guests are comfortable, to the best of your ability.
- Pace Bible study for the group’s needs. After we eat together, we have a time of Bible study or discussion. This is hard for our group, because there’s always a baby doing something crazy and it can make it hard to have a long, deep conversation about what Paul meant in his letter to the Galatians. Your group will have its own dynamics, educational levels, and spiritual maturity. Be thoughtful of the needs you have, and be flexible.
What have I forgotten? What does your small group do, and what works for you? I’m interested to hear your stories!