Groups come in three sizes: small, medium and large. We need all three sizes to thrive personally and corporately.
A “small group” can fit in a car - three to twelve people who will show up for you at a moment’s notice. Your conversation is unedited. We might say Jesus’ small group was the twelve, and three in particular who anchored the group: Peter, James, and John. Groups of 3-12 are intimate and spontaneous.
A “medium size” group can gather in your home and consists of several smaller groups. It takes several cars to get everyone there and the house may be full, but you’re together. No one is there every time you meet, but you notice when they aren’t. There is room for people to listen and be listened to. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus sends out seventy people (or seventy-two depending on the translation) to do things they had mixed feelings about. In the Eastern Christian tradition, all seventy can be named. All returned to share stories about the miraculous things they accomplished. If you invite seventy people to a party and two-thirds show up, you have a houseful of people. This is your medium sized group.
A “large group” needs a large hall, like a church “sanctuary." It takes planning and organization to get everyone together. You do things that are fun and meaningful to do as a large group. Music with a group this size is inspiring, singing as one voice. You might even rehearse a few special songs. Someone might tell a story. A ritual, like communion, is especially moving in a large group. You can also accomplish things together like rally behind a common cause. In the Gospels, we see Jesus feeding 5000 with just a few loaves and fishes.
Which group is the most difficult to cultivate?
You might assume a large group is the most difficult to cultivate. What church doesn’t want a big gathering on Sundays? However, it is the medium sized group which is most difficult to cultivate and the most rewarding.
Medium sized groups are the most difficult to cultivate, but can be the most rewarding to those who participate. Most churches expect their large sized group to meet their medium sized group needs. Consequently, their large groups are, well, medium sized. The average size of a church is 70 people. A church with 70 people is a medium sized group that can host a large group, but it is not a large group. Letting a medium sized group grow into a large group means letting go of certain things. In a large group, you might not know everyone’s name. You might not be able to be involved in everything, attend every informal gathering, contribute to every initiative. Consequently, you can feel left out.
How would you describe your “group life”? What experiences have you had in different sized groups?