It was a familiar scene. Sitting, once again, at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, with my own frustration about to send me into orbit. Wondering, once again…why am I writing this? For some reason, I had convinced a publisher that I should write a book– Community is Messy. And time after time, I found it was even harder to convince myself to keep writing. So why did I do it?
As a small group leader, I’ve encountered lots of messy situations. Some messes have been as benign as personality differences while others have resulted in people leaving the church. These environments we call “small groups” are messy because they involve people hauling their brokenness and their baggage into our living rooms and dumping it on the floor. I always tried to manage mess and pray it away, thinking it was a hindrance to community. When I stepped into a role of overseeing group life at National Community Church, I approached my job as the chief mess reducer and preventer. Instead, I discovered that there was just more mess to navigate. At a programmatic level, community is messy because discipleship isn’t linear, systems are made to be destroyed, and everything is an experiment. Through the journey, however, I’ve discovered that mess can actually be beneficial; mess may be the catalyst God uses to cultivate the community and drive the transformation we so desperately want to see.
I wrote Community is Messy to encourage small group leaders that mess is okay. It’s normal and it should be expected. But I also want to encourage them that mess may be the catalyst for a better group experience.
I also wrote Community is Messy for small group directors, discipleship pastors, church staff and volunteers who champion group and community life in their churches. It outlines some principles that group life at my church, National Community Church, has built our small group strategy on. They are principles that embrace the mess and the promise that God can write his story of redemption through the mess.