Small Group pitfall #3: Not taking care of yourself

There are two temptations that I’ve struggled with in my role as small group director.  Both are related, in some sense, to not taking care of myself.  The first way that it’s tempting not to take care of myself is that it’s tempting to not engage in critical activities like prayer and reading scripture.  The second way it’s tempting to not take care of myself is to act like a spiritual super hero.

It’s funny how we can’t escape some ways of categorizing the world, even when we know those categories are wrong.  One wrong-headed category that I engage in all the time is dividing the world up into God-stuff and Not-God stuff.

There are all kinds of problems with this scheme.  The problem I’m focused on right now is this: I rationalize that work I do for my small group counts as God-stuff.  Since this is the same category that I place things like prayer and scripture reading, I can think ‘well, I can skip out on spending time with God today, because I spent all this time planning for Small Group.’

That’s not how it works.  God expects me to do lots of stuff, I think.  He wouldn’t be pleased, I think, if I decided to quit my job and let my kids go hungry so that I could pray more.  Part of the way He grows us, I think, is to challenge us with increasingly complicated balancing acts.

And it is a balancing act!  But when I’ve been investing time into my relationship with God I’m in a much better position to lead.  Preparation or other work that feels specific to my group goes so much smoother when I’ve mantained a balance.  When I fake it, and go all-out on investing all my time on these external things, it is so much more difficult.  It ends up taking more time anyway.

The second way I can fail to take care of myself is by acting like a spiritual super-hero.  If I see myself as to much the leader and not enough a member, I rob myself of all sorts of things.

It can be scary sometimes.  I do have the fear when I’m vulnerable and honest and open that some body is going to think– or say “What right does this guy have to be running the show?”

But when I’m looking at things in the right way, I get it.  The person who is vulnerable, who is admitting his fear, doubts, and failings… That is exactly the sort-of person we want running the show. 


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

4 thoughts on “Small Group pitfall #3: Not taking care of yourself”

  1. So now you can’t whine that I’ve never visited your blogg. I’ll be back later for a closer reading. I liked the smimming poem. I also commented to Nicky.



  2. Hi dad.
    Maybe I’ll whine that you mispelled blog, which only has 4 letters to start with. (weB LOG= BLOG) 😉
    Anyway, welcome, pop.


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