What Do Small Groups and Hot Chocolate Have in Common?

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The day after Christmas, my wife and I, along with our two girls (ages 2 ½ and 6 months), hopped on a plane and flew to southern California to visit my parents and some other friends and family. My parents, being amazing grandparents, had the food items that they knew our toddler loved, like chicken nuggets, cheese, and, maybe most importantly, hot chocolate (or as my two-year-old calls it, “hot choc”). As my wife and I enjoy our coffee every morning, trying to summon up the strength and energy for another day, our toddler loves to have a glass of hot choc.

And again, my parents, being the awesome grandparents that they are, did not just buy any hot chocolate, they bought our toddler Starbucks hot chocolate mix because Starbucks makes a really good hot chocolate mix. It has a deep rich chocolate flavor, way more complex than our average dry mix, not to mention way less ingredients, choosing to focus on the nuances and richness of the chocolate (for instance, their mix has no milk powder in it).

But here’s the problem: my two-year-old did not care for it. Usually when we give her her hot choc, she quickly guzzles it, but with the Starbucks mix, she would take a sip or two and then move on, and really never come back to it. It was just too complex and nuanced for her taste buds at this stage in her development. Do I hope that as she grows, she will also grow in her appreciation for more nuance and complexity? As a former professional chef, absolutely. But right now I am happy to allow her to enjoy her more simple hot choc.

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It was not until we started using some Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate mix that she returned to her guzzling ways.

This episode has me thinking about ministry and the small group ministry which I oversee, and even the small group I facilitate. There is always a temptation to over complicate something that does not need to be the complicated, like becoming a small group leader or even joining a small group. Or to wax eloquently about the nuances of spiritual growth or care in a small group, when really what my leaders want are the nuts and bolts.

Here are some questions you and I might ask ourselves when it comes to keeping it simple:

  1. Is the church’s website easily navigable to find small groups and sign up for small groups?
  2. Does the church campus make it obvious and simple to discover small groups?
  3. What is the process for onboarding new leaders? Are there too many hoops to jump through?
  4. Do you have information and training that is readily available to your leaders?
  5. Do leaders know where to go to get the assistance/guidance they need?
  6. Do you have steps and resources available to those leaders and groups that want more nuance/complexity in what they study?

This is probably nothing new, but for me it was a good reminder as I start 2019 to look and re-examine my church’s processes when it comes to small groups.