Tons of research is available on the tasks, challenges, and opportunities of progress through the stages of life. Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, and Theology have identified and described the ways organizations, families, and individuals deal with life change.
Developmental stages of life present issues to us, they arise, we don’t create them. Children want to get older and do things the “big kids” do. Adolescents will go to almost any lengths to fit into a peer group. As adults, issues of freedom vs. responsibility are fully presented. The story of the Prodigal Son in Luke chapter 15 resonates with us; even with different individual outcomes, it is our common experience. Adults move through identifiable stages in physical, mental, social, and career arenas. Later in life, aging itself is a presenting issue, and new issues present themselves till the very end of life.
*All lifestages have “rites of passage” that mark achievement or accomplishment, and there is a sense of urgency to achieve them. Getting a driver’s license, the first job, marriage or not, moving up whatever “ladder” one identifies, all are marked by visible, measurable symbols of achievement.
* Success is not guaranteed! Each stage presents issues and challenges, and we don’t always deal with them well. The human condition means there are times we stumble and fall. We become lost personally, emotionally, financially, socially, and certainly spiritually. The Bible has much to say about sin and lostness. The bottomline? It’s a place you don’t want to be. Jesus cared for lost people, lost in any context. I believe we all have a God-given desire to live a redeemed life, a full life, a good life. Jesus came to give that full life, and give it abundantly. Redemption is available to all who want it, and that’s Good News.
Here are ways small groups provide a context for our spiritual, personal, and emotional growth regardless of lifestage:
* Small groups provide COMMUNITY. In Western culture, society often produces a culture of individual competition, oneupsmanship, and encourages a façade of material success. This fosters a sense of isolation, transience, and “rootlessness” for many in our culture. As a result, people are ravenous for community.
* Small groups create a real, genuine, true place to LAY ASIDE THE MASKS we wear, regardless of lifestage. We all wear masks in different contexts, and that’s not all bad. We all have to get along, provide for those we love, and do what needs doing. Wearing masks all the time kills the soul, quenches our spirit and the Holy Spirit. Small groups provide a place to “be you”.
*Small groups provide the neglected but much needed spiritual, physical, and emotional experience of HOSPITALITY. Sharing food and beverage, sitting in someone’s home, it’s a whole different vibe from the formal corporate worship experience. Hospitality includes sharing our laughter, tears, struggles, and victories. This hospitality can be experienced in a small group where members are physically present, it can also be genuinely experienced in online groups as well.
*Small groups provide a context for PERSONAL SPIRITUAL GROWTH like no other. When the Word is shared, prayers are offered, personal struggles are made known, victories are shared, the result is transformed lives. I believe everyone longs to tell their story, and as a small group leader, I seek to weave each person’s story into the stories of others, and into God’s Story.
Small groups nourish the soul, engage the spirit, and break down isolational barriers at every stage of life. Regardless of lifestage, small groups are a vital blessing no one should miss.