Two years ago, I was sitting in a small room with my college pastor. It was my first year leading a small group bible study (we call it a LifeGroup) for our college ministry. Three weeks into the new school year, I found myself bored and what I thought was low attendance in my group. I approached my college pastor with questions like “Am I really supposed to be doing this?” and “How do I get more guys to show up?”. The pastor’s response caught me off guard, “Do you know how to have fun?”
I was great at having fun! But not with my LifeGroup.
Trial and error was key into finding where we could impact our guys the most. Not everyone thinks its fun to sit around for an hour. Fun doesn’t have to look like going bowling each week. Fun doesn’t have to look like video-game tournaments. There is balance and options to having fun. Especially when you have fifteen college age guys with a wide spectrum of personalities. So, I hope I can encourage you with these little truths God revealed to me along the way:
1. Create a comfortable environment. You can try to have as much fun as possible but if the atmosphere isn’t comfortable, no one will be. It doesn’t even have to be the same place every week. People will respond to fun and engage more when they’re comfortable in the room they’re in.
2. Calibrate invitation and challenge. Some guys respond well to “What’s Jesus saying to you?” right out the gate, some shy away and give a generic answer. Some respond well to pizza in front of them, some want to just jump right into the meat of The Word and not the meat-lovers pizza. When you know how to engage them with calibrated invitation and challenge, they’ll know how to respond in either situation based on your rhythms.
3. It’s ok to do fun things. Buy pizzas, set up gaming consoles, go bowling, etc. Sometimes the best way to encounter Jesus isn’t sitting in a circle in a room with a bunch of dudes (and sometimes it is). Jesus was a fun dude and you can be too!
4. Failure is an option. And as cliché as it sounds, it is a learning experience. Trial and error was key into finding breakthrough moments in our LifeGroup. Sometimes you learn what’s great by learning what’s not great.
5. Remember that God is still good and is there even in the awkwardness. My prayer during the times of unrest was for God to become greater. Let’s be real, I wanted breakthrough immediately but I didn’t and I became discouraged. I learned to focus on God’s presence during everything we did as a group, from eating pizza to praying over someone. In His presence, it’s not hard to see the breakthrough that’s happening.
Finding ways to have fun in a small group is essential to growth and breakthrough. However, whichever way you find to engage your small group, know that God’s presence always brings breakthrough. And that breakthrough may bring some of the funnest moments of your life.