Quarantining at home over Mid-Autumn Festival, I couldn’t go moongazing, but I did enjoy a bunny-shaped custard mooncake, which I’d gotten from the women’s growth group I attend. During my lockdown from having been in contact with someone who’d tested positive for Covid, members from that group and the Oxygen young adults growth group I co-lead texted to check in on me and offered help and prayer.
Growth groups, also known elsewhere as small groups, community groups, cell groups, home groups, or Bible study groups, are essentially Christians gathering regularly to read the Bible together, discuss, and pray. My biweekly women’s group has Bible studies that follow our church’s sermon series, while weekly Oxygen groups are going through the book of Romans until July.
Think of growth groups as being each other’s spiritual community where you help each other continue and grow in faith. Think of it as mirroring Christ to each other. “Jesus was in a small group,” my pastor in the US would say, referring to him being with his 12 disciples.
You know the account in Mark and Matthew of the four friends who carried a paralytic on a mat and lowered him through a roof so he could meet Jesus? To borrow that as a growth group illustration, sometimes you’re the one helping to carry a friend to meet Jesus. Sometimes you’re the one needing to be carried to meet Jesus. The carrying would be in the form of reminding each other of God’s Word, sharing Biblical insights and life applications, prayer, and just being there for each other.
Don’t be mistaken: Christian communities aren’t always easy. Anyone who’s been in groups long enough would’ve had their share of personality clashes, conflicts, disappointments, frustrations, awkward situations, and groups disbanding when they’ve run their course.
But I’ve also seen a friend help an elderly member of our group register online for Covid vaccinations and accompany her to those appointments. In my years at St Andrew’s, I’ve also celebrated the weddings of group members, explored new hiking trails with them, and gained perspectives from others in different life stages.
When you join a growth group, you’re giving and receiving the three P’s we mention in Oxygen:
Presence: Commit to the group as others commit to you–sometimes showing up despite all the reasons you’d rather not.
Participation: Share what you know and ask questions to help build each other up.
Prayer: Support others in prayer as you would also be supported.
The growth groups and small groups I’ve been a part of over the years have helped sustain my faith, and contributed to my spiritual formation.