Tag Archives: Connection

Small Groups Are Scary

Small Groups Are Scary

Small groups are scary.  At least that’s what I thought most of my life as I skillfully did everything I could possibly do to avoid being a part of one.

They gave me visions of sitting criss-cross applesauce in small circles, singing kumbaya, with forced sharing of intimate stories and lots of crying.  Not my thing.

It wasn’t until I arrived in Cedar Rapids in my late 20’s that I made any real effort of actually trying one.  I’ll be honest, the first couple I tried to be a part of eventually flopped, ended, or disintegrated into messes, which just cemented in my head even more that they weren’t worth my time.

So with a not-worth-my-time attitude and my propensity towards being as introverted as one can be,  I thought my time in small groups was over. JUST NOT GOING TO DO IT. No, no, no, no, no. No Thank You.

Until last year. I tried again. This time, it was a Bible study group of women. I only joined it because my husband was a part of the same Bible study organization, as were my kids—and even though each met on a different day, we’d be studying the same curriculum and daily questions together. So weighed down by sheer mom-guilt alone, I decided I should try it.

This particular group was super-structured, and involved intense, weekly individual homework. It wasn’t too big, or too small. We (15 ladies) had a set timeframe of starting and stopping, set number of questions to answer, and a set number of minutes for “socializing” which was great for my general let’s-just-dig-in-the-Word-and-get-on-with-it mindset. You know what?? I LOVED IT!!!!  Turns out, I just do really well with structure. Like, SUPER structured. No sugary snacks, no coffee time, just a tiny bit of socializing, and lots and lots and lots of Bible study in and out of the meeting.

This revelation has been huge. Small groups are scary when they are a structure that doesn’t fit how I’m wired, but there are so many out there! And so many options!

So if you have given up on them, or are weirdly wired like me and just need structure to function, can I encourage you to try again? And maybe again? And then maybe one more time? And maybe once more after that?

Leah Carolan
Director of Worship & Media

 

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    My Small Group Is Better Than Your Small Group

    My Small Group Is Better Than Your Small Group

    In truth I hope your small group is ‘as good as’ or ‘even better than’ mine!

    I wish I could wave a magic wand and grant everybody the kind of small group experience that I have. My small group is made up of six women. We’ve been meeting for two years. We have seen some of the highs and lows of life and we have borne them together. When it’s time to celebrate, we do it together. When it’s time to mourn, we are there with good food and a listening ear. Of course we all have families, responsibilities, and work waiting for us. However, we prioritize this time together because we are called to be in community. One that points us towards others and towards Christ.

    The truth of it is that because we have chosen to be vulnerable, to reveal our hearts and our sins with each other, this has allowed our group to flourish. There is unity is knowing the struggles are shared. We bear each other’s burdens in this way.

    Staying at a surface level and refusing to reveal the actual details and sin in your life is the kiss of death for a group.

    It’s tempting to hole up in your own home, your own mind, and your own heart. It’s so incredibly tempting to say NO to the invitation to be vulnerable. It’s so comfortable to sit on your own and ignore the call in your heart to connect, because connection takes WORK, and who wants to do more work?

    More than likely if you are saying no to connecting, to being vulnerable, it’s because you’ve been hurt before. You can’t live for long without getting hurt in this broken world, however I encourage you to take the risk. God will see the step you are taking to connect and He will honor that.

    If you are ready to take the step of joining a small group, or taking your current small group deeper into connection, I’m ready to help you.

    At Cedar Hills we are committed to seeing small groups grow and mature into a beautiful group of Christians who are speaking truth and love to each other.

    It takes guts to be in a small group, but it also reveals God’s glory.

    Lindsey Ungs
    Connection & Communication Architect

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      Life Together

      Life Together

      Loving my neighbor doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s not like I dislike my neighbors, but it is difficult to love people you don’t know. Authentically speaking, apathy is my basic feeling toward my neighbors. It is far too easy and comfortable for me to isolate myself in my home. I’m not sure if it is my own struggle with the busyness of life, or feeling relationally spent by the time I see my neighbor as I return home from work, or take out the trash, but God uses my kids to challenge me to better love my neighbors. For my kids it just seems so simple.

      “Can Roman stay for dinner?” Abby asks as they play together in our backyard. There is no concern; what are we eating? Did we make enough food for a guest? Does Roman’s family have plans? Did Quinn’s family already prepare their dinner? My adult brain can overcomplicate it, but my kids understand there’s food and we can share.

      Abby and Cathy are my heroes in loving our neighbors right now. Abby has been attending AWANAs on Wednesday night, so one Wednesday she just says, “Roman, you wanna come to AWANAs with me?” Such a simple, caring, care-free invitation. He says, “Yes.” Then Cathy is left with figuring out all the details. Do we have room in our car? Do we have an extra booster? Has Roman eaten?  Is it ok with his mother to (a) be gone all night at a new place, (b) ride with us, and (c) attend a church function? All issues to which Abby and Roman are joyfully oblivious. Roman is now attending AWANA with Abby regularly, where he sings Bible songs, hears Bible stories, and memorizes Bible verses. This all makes me wonder if I overcomplicate loving my neighbor. Do I allow the messiness of caring for others cause me to miss the opportunity to share the Gospel by raking yards, sharing meals, and talking about my faith? So let’s all grow together as we seek to follow Jesus’ instruction to love others well.

      Steve Poole
      Director of Youth & Young Adults

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        Insert Catchy Title Here

        Insert Catchy Title Here

        I’ve been around Cedar Hills for 14 years—the longest I’ve ever been at any job x7.  Fourteen years is a lot of connections, a lot of friendships, a lot of holidays and team members and special projects. A lot of lessons and one-on-one meetings and coffee dates and times of prayer. And a lot of volunteers. And by the time this article goes out, a lot of Sundays—738 to be exact.

        The title is not a mistake — “Insert Catchy Title Here” really is my title. Because I carry titles—Director, Worship Leader, Worship Pastor, Worship Coordinator, Music Director, Media Leader, Graphic design, Songwriter–all these titles give me privilege to relationships within my church body.  They come easily by nature of the job.

        So in 2021 I had to ask myself, “Where am I NOT connected?”  And the easy answer was my children’s school.

        We ask you all to connect, like, all the time.  But what have I learned going after this myself? Connection takes deliberate effort.  Like rearrange-my-schedule-and-make-it-a-priority type of effort.  I learned that it’s super easy to blow off.  It’s much easier to drop off the kids or pick them up and move a long with my regular day.  It’s harder to connect without a title, where I am just one parent among hundreds.  I have to take real initiative, setup appointments, watch newsletters for opportunities to help and plug-in and most of all LOOK FOR A NEED and be willing to fill it.  As an introvert, this process was sometimes painful.  I’m very happy in my little quiet corner by myself. 🙂  But the desire for connection drove me forward.

        I can’t say I’ve had any major “aha!” moments, but the Word says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…” (Zechariah 4:10).  The work has begun! I’ve connected with a few moms for mentoring, try hard to make deliberate chitchat at birthday parties, and have been able to help out classroom teachers where there was a volunteer hole.  The office staff knows me by face and name.  And I tried to turn my children’s conferences into, “But how are YOU doing?” with their teachers.

        Small beginnings with no catchy title needed.  But you have to start somewhere, right?

        Leah Carolan

        Director of Worship & Media

        Just a Human Trying to Connect

         

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          Physical Connection Leads to Heart Growth

          Physical Connection Leads to Heart Growth

          This year of connection has been inspiring. Some of the most beautiful moments that were relayed to me from small group leaders in the church are moments that cannot yet be shared. That’s because some of those sweet moments are a response by individuals to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to draw nearer to God, even if the person does not yet know Jesus.

          In small groups all across our church, there are a number of people that are just now feeling safe enough to ask questions about God. Tough questions that have kept them from God most of their lives.

          For some, they are opening up to their small group members about things that have been hidden from most people in their lives.

          For others, they are coming to a new perspective or realization that what they once held dear is no longer so important in their life. God is working in their heart. As their perspective changes it is like scales falling from their eyes, and underneath the Truth is starting to take shape in their heart.

          Like the Grinch, I have a larger heart this year because of what I’ve seen and heard from our small group leaders.

          Merry Christmas,

          Lindsey Ungs
          Connection & Communication Architect

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            Deeper Connection

            Deeper Connection

            “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.” Hebrews 10:23-25

            I’ve been wondering lately, if we can stimulate one another to love and good works when we don’t meet together? I’m sure we can encourage one another in isolation but it seems so much easier when we spend time together. Consider my men’s small group as a case study.

            After taking a short break in 2020, our group resumed meeting together in person. Sometimes we simply check in with each other. Sometimes we do a Bible Study. Sometimes we go out for burgers. The key: we come together.

            When we gather stuff comes out. Some tell about their latest challenge. Some share exciting news. Some report on their past. Some show off new tattoos. Some ask for prayer. Some listen without saying much. Some give opinions on current events. Some offer words of wisdom. Some give encouragement.

            Meeting together creates space for connection. For men – generally – connection is not easy, but slowly we open up our lives to each other when we hang out. And now, looking back over the past year, I see deeper connections and realize that we have spurred one another on!

            My small group is one of my connection bright spots from 2021. It started with meeting together.

            Kent Landhuis
            Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

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