Intimacy or Friendship in Small Groups?
Okay, let me just clear some things first. I really do find the word intimacy strange. Intimacy is a word we Christians have created to depict that we are going deeper in a relationship. When people outside the church hears this word, they freak out because intimacy connotes something sexual.
But for the sake of this blog, since most of my readers are from the church world, you would know when I say intimacy it doesn’t mean sexual intimacy. After this blog I vote to remove the word intimacy from the pulpit and from the church language ( are you with me?)
So I think just by my earlier explanation of intimacy, I ought not to have intimacy in small groups, am I right? YES! Definitely.
The goal of small groups is not intimacy. I cannot imagine being intimate with my fellow brothers in the group. We don’t do group hugs, we discourage same sex attraction. We love each other though but not to the point that I can say we are intimate.
Another thing about this intimacy issue is that most small groups think that the smaller the group, the more intimate we can become. This is another problem. Jesus never made it a goal to be intimate with his disciples. It was not the goal or the purpose. The goal was to HONOR GOD and MAKE DISCIPLES.
I have a small group of almost twenty men that I meet regularly. Some of them are my friends, some of them are more like brothers while some are just people I am discipling. I do not go into a discipleship relationship forcing myself to be someone who is closer than a brother. I think it naturally happens as we continually meet and sometimes it naturally happens that it doesn’t happen ( hope you get what I mean). In short, allow casual friendships to develop without feeling a need to force intimacy.
Having a mindset of intimacy would make it hard for the group to grow and expand. The attitude is that this group makes me feel safe and secure. Adding new people is a threat to my security.
A healthy mindset in small groups is to see our small group as friends and an environment where friendships are developed.
” Small groups are not the place for your people to form intimate, meaningful relationships with one another. Instead, they are a place to form new basic friendships. It’s important for us to make another point here that, while controversial, we feel is also quite freeing.” – Nelson Searcy, author of Activate