With eight of us in our first home group, one person gets the squeaky chair that’s never used at other times in the week.  We often had a giggle when this week’s winner shifted around in their seat during the meeting.  Because we hardly knew each other before being put into the group, things like the squeaky chair helped to break the ice and bring us together more quickly.

As with many small groups, ours included people with very different backgrounds, work situations and experiences of the Christian life.  This is not a self-help group but, by working through the Renovaré Life Streams workbook by James Bryan Smith and Lynda Graybeal, we found that our stories converged more than we expected.  And when it came to doing the various exercises, age and experience counted for very little in how well we were doing.  Here are a few of the things we’ve discovered in our time together:

Size Matters

The larger the group the more it needs a leader.  That somehow goes against the idea of us all being equals and learning and sharing together.  With eight people, we found that we needed to share the leadership around the group and at each meeting to give someone the task of making sure that people have the chance to speak if they want to, and that the meeting ended on time.  These are important ways for the members to serve each other rather than the same person always getting the coffee (or bringing the food).  When our church leaders ask for a meeting of small group leaders we send a different person each time.

Fitting Into The Church

There are a few Renovaré groups in our church but there are also others doing very different things.  When we come together as a whole fellowship, or when small group leaders meet up, it becomes clear that we are sometimes on a very different page.  That’s not a bad thing, but it’s important to celebrate the difference rather than expect every group to be like us, or to think that one way is better than another.  Even if we are having a fabulous time in our group, we need grace to not push or appear superior.

There are churches around that use Renovaré at the heart of all that they do.  It’s great when this happens but imposing one model on everybody can also backfire.  This is because Renovaré works best for people who are hungry for more of God and want to see him working more deeply in their lives.  Some people are not at this stage in their spiritual journey, or they have things that they need to address before joining a group of hungry people.  To pilot the group first and let news about its success spread around the fellowship may have a more lasting benefit.

Best experience: When someone really benefits from doing an exercise that’s outside his or her own Christian tradition or comfort zone.

Worst experience: Smartphones in the meeting are definitely frowned upon

James Catford