I remember attending my first group 37 years ago.

I mustered the courage to sign up for a group with women I didn’t know at our church. I must admit, I was a bit nervous because what if I didn’t know enough, which is ironic because that’s usually the reason for joining a bible study! With littles in tow, I needed to get there early to navigate parking and childcare. The study was being held at the church since a childcare center was available for use there.

In all my attempts to be early, I found myself in a dilemma of a full school parking lot and a bit of a walk I didn’t expect. Since it was my first time at the childcare center, I needed to fill out some forms and introduce my children to the lovely caretakers.

Done!

As I rushed off to the study, I felt good about the fact that although not early, I was not late. But when I entered the room where the study was to be, it was dark and empty. I remember feeling like I should just grab my kids and go home but I mustered up the courage and hunted the group down in another area of the church.

I thrived in the group that year despite that shaky start. But it’s curious that I vividly remember that feeling of “I don’t belong here.” Given it was before the age of the internet and text, there may have been a hand-drawn sign I missed with big arrows pointing “THIS WAY” but I don’t remember seeing it. I felt like the group didn’t want me.

I bring this to you because I think it’s good to remind ourselves of a few things as we start afresh season in neighborhood groups.

What is familiar and friendly to us, may not be the same to someone new who enters our group.

So, as you gather again this week and take some time to catch up, remember to give a big welcome to those that are new. It’s hard enough for someone to show up in person but online makes it’s an even bigger challenge to be known.

Leaders, please introduce yourself and the group by email or phone before gathering so any new members are a little more aware of what they are walking into. (Who’s in the group? What are the dynamics and demographics? What is the meeting flow? How does Zoom or whatever your online platform is work?)

And take time to just talk this week.
And listen.
And hear the hearts of those present as it’s been a rough season for some…
And hear the heart of God who loves you all no matter where you are at.

Grateful for you all as you gather in his name!