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April 22, 2009

The Power of Relational “Small Talk”

Even talk about nothing can be something



Dan%20Lentz.jpg

I haven't talked to a small-group leader yet who hasn't experienced the issue of time pressure during small-group gatherings. There so much to get done (food, fellowship, prayer, study, curriculum, service, planning, outreach, etc.) and so little time. And, if we're only working with an hour or two each week (or every other week!); there's precious little time for what we at our church call "hanging out."

But part of the power of biblical community comes as we have relationships that include time for "small talk." Small talk is the sometimes superficial conversation that happens when we are just hanging out together.

I was reminded of the power of small talk from an unusual source recently. I was reading an old transcript of the "Meet the Press" TV news show and here's a quote from Jay McGraw that caught my attention:

"If you don't talk to your children about the things that don't matter, they'll never talk to you about the things that do. You've got to talk to them about what somebody wore to school today and this silly movie or this sitcom or just what might be going on in their day that's not of any particular gravity but you're opening the channel, you're opening it for flow. And then when it comes time that they really need to talk to you about something, they don't feel awkward about it because you talk with them all the time." -Jay McGraw, "Meet the Press," Sunday, December 26, 2004

This quote was obviously about parent-child relationships. But it is just as true about relationships in general. Deep things rarely come out if you don't start in shallower water first. Obviously, some small talk can happen spontaneously during group time, but since group time is limited, you have to be intentional about making time for small talk. This, by the way, is why you should always start your small-group gatherings with a safe, open ice breaker question. Get people warmed up to sharing safe or even superficial things first and they will be more open to receiving deeper life changing things later.

So, beyond ice breakers, how can you help people with small talk? Here's some ideas:


  • Have all or some of your group members over to eat with you before group starts. That extra 30-60 minutes is a great time to have conversation.


  • Be intentional about talking to your group members at a weekly worship service.


  • Plan get-togethers and conversations with group members in-between small group gatherings.


  • Be spontaneous: send an occasional email, make an excuse to go to their house and borrow something from them, invite them to go with you to the store or coffee shop, or just show up at their doorstep sometime to say hi.



posted by Dan Lentz on April 22, 2009 1:06 PM

Related Tags: Dan Lentz, discussion, interaction, relationship

Comments

When we started a young couples' small group last fall, we decided to share dinner together as part of the group experience. This was the first time I had done this, and I think it was the best decision I've made for a small group.

In fact, if we had to choose between eating dinner together and doing our "study time," I think I would probably drop the study because it doesn't have as much spiritual value.

How true what Dan writes about relationships. Research has revealed that no matter how innovative worship services, or how attractive church programs (including small groups), if there is no relationship development that is nourishing and fulfilling, people lose their interest after a maximum period of approximately six weeks. These people leave the church group disillusioned, and disappointed, and some lose their interest in Christianity completely. Clever approaches to get people to attend small groups, or high profiled personalities in the pulpits to get people to come to church will work only for a short while. What works better, in making people feel at home in a church, are right relationships. Spot on Dan. Keep on spreading the truth about relationships!

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