“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” Helen Keller
It was a cold winter evening, on my first Christmas break from college, that my high school boyfriend broke up with me over the phone. That night, instead of an excited “when can I see you,” I got a distant “we’re just different people now.” I couldn’t believe it. What I thought was the perfect relationship dissipated like it didn’t even exist in the first place. While I remember the heart wrenching feeling of not understanding why, what stands out to me most in my memory was the friend who didn’t have to say a word, but simply sat next to me, with an arm over my shoulder, and comforted me while I cried.
Good friends are people who are as comfortable laughing with you as they are crying with you. Good friends support you in your pursuits, but also don’t hesitate to challenge you when you need it most. Good friends are an invaluable community – they are that strong net of like-minded people who support you at every stage of life.
God, Himself, created our hearts to benefit from this community. Not only are we made in the image and likeness of God – a God who is Himself a community of persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), He showed us from the very beginning that we were not meant to be alone. For, God didn’t leave Adam on his own. Sometimes though, in order to welcome in the community God has in mind for us, we need to put in a little work on our end. God places people in our lives that move us to be better people, but what could you gain by putting them all in one room together (perhaps creating a small group of sorts) in order to grow as a community?
As a start, here are six steps to help you. Think of it as a fun DIY Pinterest project – except without all the glue…
Step One – Determine the Goal
A small group’s purpose is more than just a time to hang out with friends. What is the goal? How do you want to grow as a community? Do you want to grow in prayer, fellowship, faith, understanding of Catholicism? Whatever it is, like setting a fitness goal, determine this aim ahead of time. (See Step Four for picking the program that’s right for your goal.)
Step Two – Send out Personal Invites
Who are those people you want to grow with? Who are those friends and acquaintances that challenge you to be a better person? Ask God to help you determine who these people are and invite each of them personally. In your invitation, be sure to explain the goal and vision. On a practical note, a larger group may be overwhelming and lack a personal feel, so try to stick to 5-10 people.
Step Three – Determine a Regular Meeting Time
Consistency is important, but try to be realistic about the number of times you determine to meet. Understand the busyness of each of your group member’s schedule. If you can meet once a week, awesome! If you can only meet once a month, that’s great too! Just remember to stay consistent. If you don’t make it a point to schedule these days out and commit to them as a group, they will fizzle out fast.
Step Four – Find a Program that Fits Your Goal
What is the goal you determined for your group? Some examples are as follows:
- Grow in fellowship: Schedule an hour to meet. For the first 15 min, socialize, perhaps with a snack or game. For 30, share the “highs and lows” of your week with one another. For the last 15, share prayer intentions and pray for one another.
- Grow in prayer: Pick a new prayer to pray as a community every time you meet. Perhaps utilizing an Adoration Chapel or Mass time that you can all make it to.
- Grow in understanding the faith: Pick a book or Bible study to participate in together. Make sure to pick one that also has discussion questions. (Some examples from Life Teen: Ascend, That One Girl, Man Enough, I Choose the Sky, Building the Kingdom).
Don’t hesitate to reach out to a Youth Minister or priest for suggestions!
Step Five – Commit to that Program
Whatever goal you make, commit to it and see it through. Relationships deserve a chance to grow and flourish. Like anything that needs nourishing, a small group should be tended to with care. Commit to your small group and follow through on those commitments to not only your meeting times, but your individual relationships with one another.
Step Six – Evaluate, Make Adjustments, and Keep Going
As simple as that. Do be aware though the needs of your group. If something is off and you are struggling to keep this small group together, maybe ask for input. It may actually be going better than you realize.
Bonus Step – Remember to Foster Relationships Outside of the Small Group
Don’t forget that hanging out for simply the sake of enjoying one another’s company is important too! Don’t hesitate to hang out outside of these designated meeting times. Go to a movie together, go bowling, go to dances… whatever you do, don’t forget to enjoy one another in a social context. Even Jesus spent an evening with His friends for the sake of nothing else than enjoying each other’s company.