Have you ever lost a loved one? Or been faced with unexpected job loss? Perhaps you were diagnosed with cancer or an autoimmune disorder, and suddenly it was as if your life changed overnight.
Maybe the person you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with, after ten years of marriage up and walks out and you’re blindsided. Or you were living paycheck to paycheck and then an accident caused you to take extended time off from work and you didn’t know how you were going to pay your bills.
Or maybe it wasn’t anything too life changing, but an expensive convenience that’s shaken you. Like when your fridge went out and you didn’t have an extra $2,000 in the bank to replace it immediately (as happened to me some years back). Or your washer went out and suddenly you were making friends at the laundry mat down the road while waiting for the next available machine.
Hard Times Cause You to Lean On Others for Support
Whatever your story, whatever your current circumstances, good times and bad times are part of life.
In fact, it’s not a matter of if you’ll have hard times, but when. And when those hard times strike, you need someone you can depend on to help pull you through. Perhaps you need several someones. Many of us turn to family during hard times. But some of us, especially as we get older, or if we’re an only child, don’t have option. In which case, we need friends. Good friends.
Good Friends Are Invaluable
Good friends are invaluable. They’re people who love you for you. Who are there for you during both good times and bad. At least they should be.
But if you move to a new town, or even change jobs within the same town, sometimes your friend circles change. Distance separates you. Careers separate you. And schedules, especially with children, change.
Circles are Better Than Rows
Have I mentioned that our church, Woodstock City, is family? Yes, truly. This huge, multi campus, megachurch is full of some of our closest friends and despite the ever increasing numbers of guests that glide through their doors, it feels like home.
And part of how we became such a close knit family, despite being a part of a 40,000 member church, is the motto Circles are Better Than Rows.
I love it, I truly do. Not just our church, but this message that they emphasize. Circles, meaning small groups, are better than rows, referring to pews.
North Point Ministries
Our church was created with the intention of reaching unchurched people. People that you would normally see mowing their lawn on Sunday. Or who get up early to go grocery shopping because they would prefer to roam the empty aisles of Target than face the meet and greet before service.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Think circles. Think community. Think family.
And Sunday’s message on the importance of small groups wasn’t even a new one. In fact, the original series came about by our pastor Andy probably 7 years ago.
But old doesn’t mean obsolete. Far from it.
Yesterday’s message was one I know I’ll need to hear again. Perhaps you will, too. It was about Guardrails.
I’ll get to that in just a few, but in the case you can’t wait to hear it, here’s the link www.guardrails.org.
And while I do want to dive into a refresher on Sunday’s message, in case you missed it, I did want to first do a short plug for GroupLink, our church’s way of initiating people into (you guessed it) Circles! Because again, circles are better than rows any old day. The people in the pew next to you, the ones you just shook hands with during the dreaded Meet and Greet? That’s awesome. Probably good people. But. If that Meet and Greet is both the beginning and end of your relationship, it won’t do you much good. Key word: Relationship. Which is why you need a circle.
Within a small group, you do life together. You meet regularly to discuss family, life, and the Bible, and within our church we have short term groups, as well as long term ones. The long term ones are meant to last a year or longer. This gives you time to really get to know the people you’re studying with. Gives you time to talk and learn about and from each other.
God designed us for community. For relationships. And not just to celebrate the good times. Friends are also there to help us through he difficult times. A small group comes together to support one another through triumphs and trials. They are meant to provide a safe space where we can grow in our faith and lean on one another. They can also provide wise counsel.
Why Not Just Rows?
Some may say, well that’s all well and good for some. But most of us? We’re busy. We’re lucky to make it to church on Sunday, the one day we dont’ have any games going on and no work to attend to outside the home. And now you’re saying that I need to attend yet another church related function during the week, too? I don’t think I can swing it.
And I get that. I do. We’re all busy taking kids to school, and going to work during the week. Then there’s practice in the afternoons and evenings, homework to attend to, and then Saturdays we have games. I get it.
But we all really need to have a small group that we can just be ourselves with.
Circles refers to a small group, usually outside of church. Rows refers to pews, or seats, in Sunday service. While both are valuable, the idea behind it is that if you only come to church on Sunday, even if it’s EVERY Sunday, you’re missing out. The people to your left and the people to your right, they’re there for the same reason you are (most likely). To hear a message.
But church is more than a sermon, more than a weekly dose of wisdom and a lesson. It’s about this thing called COMMUNITY.
If you’re having a great season in life, or a really rough season in life, you want to be surrounded by people you can celebrate with or lean on.
It may be a change in finances, or a loss of a job or loved one.
It may be you got a promotion, got married, or had a baby.
Whatever your season, you need a friend. You need family.
And as well meaning as your “pew” neighbors are, they have no way of knowing about those great or awful life changes. But people in your circles do.
Circle Folks are Better
Circle friends know about your trials and your triumphs because they know you.
They meet with you during the week, they call, text, email, and more. They’re friends and accountability partners. They go to church with you and to work with you. Your kids go to school together. They live right next door. And these friends, they become family. Just like they did for us.
So how do you find a small group, a circle? Well, for my church, though every church differs on this, we hold what’s called GroupLink. And it’s held twice a year. GroupLink for us is an organized-chaos meeting to find, well, your group. And it can be based on geography, age, gender, family, and a host of other factors. The point is to try and bring people together who are all experiencing a similar phase of life together so that they can all relate and grow closer.
Here’s a brief video explaining it: https://vimeo.com/52947832
As Andy points out from the guest speaker/advertiser, some of the key quotes were, “We were a good couple, now we’re a GREAT couple” and “I have a full time job, she has a full time job, but in our busy schedule, our small group is the one thing we wouldn’t dare cut out.”
If you’re interested in finding a group of people to form true friendships with, a group that you can be yourself with, relax around, but that will also be there with you through life’s inevitable struggles, I would strongly encourage you to check into joining a small group. Because again, circles are better than rows. Wouldn’t you agree?