Written By Kelly Wiarda, USA
“Life is more than what happens on Sunday; we want you to get connected and journey alongside other people in our congregation.”
For years, I heard these words at church and let them slip right by me. After all, I’m a working mom of two young children. A wife. We have a social life. Friends. Large families. Like many, we keep pretty busy. The excuses for why we couldn’t join a small group (also known as a community group, life group, crew, tribe, etc.) came easily. That is, I was prepared in case anyone asked. But usually, it wasn’t a direct ask, just a generic call from the altar that was easy to dismiss.
And then one fall day, I was with my sons cheering on the team my husband helps coach, and my friend from church asked me if we were considering joining a small group this fall.
I was taken by surprise. My mind immediately raced, How could she be in a small group? She works. He works at the church and is the head coach. Plus, they have more children than us. My only response was to laugh awkwardly and reply, “Do you mean after the season is over?” I couldn’t imagine adding one more thing to our plate since the sports season tends to be one of the busiest of the year for us.
That day, however, a seed was planted.
After being asked so directly, something began stirring in our hearts. We knew the busyness of raising a family and fostering a career would not slow down anytime soon, but the opportunity for connection was knocking now.
Long story short, after the playoffs ended, we joined a group with five other couples from our church, and began meeting weekly. Weekly. In the end, it came down to the fact that my husband and I really wanted a chance to connect with each other during the week, and had a desire to have more intentional spiritual touchpoints in our life, marriage, and family.
It felt like a leap of faith. There were a lot of unknowns. We had to enlist additional help with childcare and hope they could get our kids to sleep. We only knew one other couple in the group, so we had to endure awkward introductions, hoping we had something in common. I still wasn’t quite sure why God was calling us to a group of almost strangers to join our already busy life.
And yet, a crazy thing happened. Quickly after joining the group, we found ourselves really caring for these people even before we could remember all their names. You see, they all have busy lives, too, and some of them are carrying health and life issues that go far beyond any of my earlier excuses. But in a matter of weeks, my husband and I found ourselves jumping right in to journey alongside them.
Something in hearts changed. Instead of focusing our energy on the logistics and difficulties of raising a young family, we started to be thankful for our health and the fact that we have been blessed to be able to raise children of our own. Instead of focusing on what we have or how much we can earn, we were challenged to look for ways to give.
Even outside our group time, I found myself talking about these couples and their circumstances. It was as if my heart was still wrestling with the fact that people in my town, in my church, who were my age, were dealing with real-life difficulties in adoption, fertility, cancer, and chronic pain. I’m not sure if I was more surprised by their circumstances, or challenged by their hope, even in the storms of life. It became a topic of conversation and processing inside our home and within my close circles.
While my heart grew, I found myself challenged to examine my own life and look for ways to be more intentional with my kids, husband, and close circle. I know that I cannot be everyone’s support, but I have leaned into God’s call to care, to pray, to seek His guidance, and when He calls me, to act and to listen.
Why do I share all of this? Not as a way to guilt you into another commitment, but as a way to encourage you to think a little differently. Sometimes we sit in the contentment of our doubts and excuses for longer than necessary. I know I sure did.
Maybe for you, God has been knocking at the door of your heart with an idea or an opportunity that you’ve left unanswered. For me, it was a call to community. Not just for the sake of opening my Bible one more time a week (although that has been helpful, too). But for a wake up call to be intentionally engaged with His people and gain some perspective on what’s really important.
In Hebrews 10:24-25, in a charge to the church, it says:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
One thing I love about meeting with a group of other Christians, is that we can be inspired by their testimonies of faith and the practical ways they are living out their faith in today’s society. My takeaways from our group come from the Word of God, but also from watching the People of God live out convictions in real and difficult situations.
Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am part of a group text with the wives in our group, and we’re exchanging updates, photos, verses, and encouragement as we face these uncertain days ahead. This has inspired me to reach out and check in on people outside my group, too. To think of those who may be lonely or frustrated, and pray for them and ask them how they’re doing. Since a community doesn’t just start and stop within the confines of a group, we can create it within our circles and by using all kinds of platforms to do so.
My hope for you is that you would answer God’s call and take the next step toward living a better and fuller life in Him.