SPEAKER NOTES

So here's something we’ve come to believe at this church.

Above all, what all people need in life is connection. SLIDE More than we need answers, we need connection. More than we need resolutions to problems even, we need connection --

Like I was bit of a basketcase after a tearful drop-off with my new kindergartener this past week. I couldn’t fix it. But because I wasn’t alone in those feelings -- I had friends I could text and say, pray for my nerves, pray for my son -- I was okay.

Even in the hardest of things, I’ve learned, I can be okay if I have connection. When I lost my brother unexpectedly a few years ago... I had people in my life that I knew I could have fun with and that I could cry with. I could not change the fact that he had died; I didn’t have all the answers as to how this could happen. But still I was okay.

For our lives to go well, to feel meaningful, to feel worth living even when things are hard, we need connection, above all.

That's a big deal. Really, one of the ways you can explain my and Kyle’s jobs as pastors of this community is, simply: trying to help people experience connection -- with God, and with other people

One of the primary ways we try to do this is: Small Groups. SLIDE Groups of people meeting together regularly to connect -- over food or drinks or some topic of conversation or just to be together --

Twice a year we do a Small Group Kick-off -- And today is one of those times, so this morning is all about small groups. We’re going to hear from a bunch of ppl in the community about small groups And after service today, you’ll be able to sign up for any of the small groups we have currently open at our Small Group & Community Fair in the lobby -- Our hope today: that all of us here feel like the connection we need with other human beings is a little bit easier to access

There are three factors you want to keep in mind to figure out if a small group might be a good fit for you.

SLIDE The first factor is Size Sometimes the “small” in “small group” means as small as 3 to 4 or under 6. Other times small means like 8 to 12, or 10 to 15. In any case it’s because, as much as we love our large-group experience here on Sundays in song and prayer and hearing just stupendous talks, to actually get to know and build connection with other people, you need to interact in smaller groups. But, breaking that down even further, groups of 3 or 4 feel very different than groups of 10 to 15, right? And different things are possible with those different sizes, right?

SLIDE The second factor is Intentionality The goal of all our small groups (whether 3 to 4 or 10 to 15) is to provide just the right amount of intentionality to make connection happen better than if we just trusted it to organically. Connection definitely does happen organically, randomly -- at a party or BBQ or in your neighborhood or at work or whatever -- I don’t mean to say it doesn’t or shouldn’t BUT, in my experience, almost everyone I know (except for a few notable exceptions) seems to think that everyone else is better at making organic connections than they are If we’re all thinking that, I guess it’s not actually true… I mean, if we could just acknowledge that we’re all just as nervous and awkward as each other, maybe we’d break the ice… but that’s also awkward to say so we don’t… and on and on... Anyway, that’s why we like “just the right amount of intentionality” -- it can help break past a lot of these barriers The right amount of intentionality also can mean a couple different things Sometimes that intentionality is still pretty unstructured; It’s just as simple as a leader who guides conversation, keeps everyone involved... Sometimes it's more involved, like content reading a book together and discussing or listening to a podcast together and discussing or hearing a presentation together and discussing We have different versions of intentionality in different Small Groups here because there are different kinds of people among us who all want to connect, but have different starting points Some of the more extroverted among us hate the idea of content and just want to hang out, While some of the more introverted among us feel overwhelmed by unstructured time and love content because it feels safe and helps us open up.

SLIDE The third factor is Focus-of-Connection There are different types of connection a group might be focused on New Connections The goal for new connections focused groups is making friends... Depth with people can totally be on the table, but it's actually not primary focus... This is more about the step right before going deep: discovering who we might be able to go deep with... who could be my inner circle?... Usually, groups focused on new connections are unstructured groups… the only content is good questions that get people getting to know each other... We often do what we call Examen groups here, which use a simple reflection and prayer practice from St. Ignatius of Loyola (Loyola University’s namesake) to get people sharing about high points and low points from their weeks I remember one Examen Group here I was in years ago when two people became friends -- one guy had shared the week prior really openly and vulnerably that his low point was breaking up with his girlfriend. Everyone was with him in that crappy place, and prayed with him, and (I was particularly proud of this) no one gave him un-asked-for advice. But the following week’s meeting was the most powerful moment of connection, when one of the group members had remembered months ago the guy who had experienced this breakup joking about loving bacon, and so this group member shows up and says to him: I was thinking about you since last week, and I prayed for you, but I also wanted to give you some bacon. And he pulls out a pack of Oscar Meyer Bacon, and it was so funny and ridiculous, but also really connecting. Deeper Connections Groups focused on deeper connections are usually in the 3 to 4 size or under 6 size… They can be content focused or unstructured like "just doing life together" For some of us who are more introverted and feel difficulty in the “getting to know people” phases of relationships (like, you feel uncomfortable with small talk), you may also find that a deeper connection focused group can be serve a "new connections" purpose at the same time for you. Deeper connection groups can be trickier to get off the ground, because by definition they require more commitment and vulnerability But when they do get off the ground they can last years and years and be huge sources of life for people for long periods of time. Allison share-- David share-- Diversifying Connections Finally, in my experience, God also sometimes uses a small group to pull us out of our comfort zones when that is much needed... To connect us with a new, maybe unexpected, group of people. Or to stretch us or grow us when we feel restless or static. Groups focused on diversifying connections for people are almost always around some content Like for example a few years back, my friend Anna started here a group focused on Racial Identity and Reconciliation. We read some articles and excerpts from books together Everyone in the group got to share their story of “racial identity” We talked about racial divides and approaches to racial reconciliation The people in this group came together based on a common desire to be stretched. We did not all know each other coming in, but we certainly did a lot more coming out. And all of that connection was SOOO good for me I learned more about myself and the perspective I inherited growing up where I grew up I learned a ton about other people and their perspectives And as a result I learned a ton about Jesus’ heart for racial reconciliation

So, holding these three factors in mind -- Size, Intentionality, and Focus-of-Connection, I want to start our small group parade. SLIDE (or not) I’m going to call up representatives from each of the groups we have open for sign-up today, and they’re going to give us a taste of what to expect. [PASS OUT SHEETS] Rob - dinner & drinks with the pastor Brian Dinges - finances Abby - Bible podcast Nader - therapy MJ - retreat & brunches… women’s group? Sydney - parents Vince - webinars

Okay, so now we have a bunch of options to think about, and we’re thinking about each of those in terms of size, intentionality, and focus of connecting.

Here’s what I encourage you to do with all of this today: Don't just ask: what sounds best to me? Do ask that, but not just that. Also ask: what ONE thing can I see myself committing to? making a priority? being consistent with?

No group will serve you very much if you're not committed to it. Any group will very much be: you get connection out of it, based on the amount of connection you put into it.

So, what ONE thing would can you see yourself committing to? If you’re feeling like it’s more than one, can I recommend something? It’s probably not. You think you can commit to more than one thing, but you probably can’t. I’m being a little silly, but I actually mean this. And the reason is: when we overcommit, we feel overwhelmed, and then don’t end up not being able to show up or commit to anything. So, start with one.

Lastly, for some of us, we may already have our ONE thing… Maybe you’re part of one of the groups here at BLV that’s already full, so it’s not even represented at the Community Fair Or maybe you’re already committed to one of these groups at the Fair, so we don’t need to visit any of the stations. Or maybe community and connection with other human beings feels like it’s in place for you through an avenue other than BLV Small Groups... That’s great! Here’s what that means your role is today: help provide connection for others Don’t just bolt for the door when we’re done today because you’re covered Instead, if you see someone looking at our list of groups seeming uncertain, can you offer to help? Can you share an experience of your own feeling uncertain and what helped? Who can you personally invite to join you at the group you’re committed to? Sign-up sheets help, but I’ll be honest, far and away, the number one reason people come to a small group is a personal invitation.

Okay, when we dismiss service today, we’ll have our tables ready out in the lobby. For now though, let me invite up our band, and I want to pray for us.

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