I was speaking to a friend recently about a particularly hard time in his life. Work was a mess, there were family curve balls, and he had some friends who betrayed him. There was almost nothing left to go wrong. Until that final thing went wrong.
“I was turning into a cranky old man that no one wanted to be around,” he told me. The difficult circumstances were hard to manage, but what they did to his personality was the final straw.
He told me that out of necessity he created a self-help program of “forced gratitude.” He set up reminders throughout his daily routine. When he came across one he would stop his thoughts and actions and find something to be thankful for. A conversation, a friend, or something around him like a tree or flower. He would pause his stream of thoughts, focus on the thing, and think about why he was thankful for it.
His attitude switched from one of resentment to one of grateful optimism.
What does this have to do with small group ministry? Well, small groups can be tough for skeptics and pessimists. There’s always gaps. There will always be areas of improvement. The concept of growth is one of the main purposes for small groups. And so it makes sense they’ll never fully reach their destination.
Some of us can become cranky old men when it comes to our groups or our ministries. We see all the things that are going wrong, or we notice all the gap areas.
If we only see what’s wrong in a group then we don’t see like Jesus does.
My friend who was trying not to become a cranky old man told me that gratitude was the thing that saved him. He said that forcing himself to notice gratitude made him realize that he actually was grateful. Even with everything happening. He wasn’t making it up. There was much to be thankful for.
People would ask him how he did after that. He would say, “Grateful” and mean it.
When you ask your small group leaders how they’re feeling about their small groups how do they answer? Are they grateful? Or are they quick to point out what’s missing?
When people ask you about your small group ministry how do you respond? There are innumerable reasons to be thankful to God. How familiar are they to you?
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Jon Noto is a licensed Christian therapist who was called into ministry and served at Willow Creek Community Church’s North Shore campus as Community Life Pastor.
Now Jon works with White Stone Counseling Resources, a Christian counseling practice that serves local churches.
Jon continues to write, teach, and train in addition to private practice. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.
Founded by Saddleback Church’s Global Small Group Pastor Steve Gladen, the Small Group Network is an International and Inter-denominational community that “exists to connect personally with and resource strategically Small Group Point People to impact globally to build healthy biblical communities in their local church”. We currently serve ten’s of thousands of small group point people in over 100 different countries.