Cows & Community


Last week I came across an article that revealed recent research about cows. It turns out, cows learn better together. A researcher at the University of British Columbia named Charlotte Gaillard has actually been studying cow learning. She discovered that cows penned individually have more obstacles to assimilating new information than cows penned with a friend. 

Gaillard thinks that the social calves may have learned to be more behaviorally flexible. “Inflexibility in the individually-reared animals can be explained as the result of living in a more predictable environment; social contact introduces variability into the environment, and animals that are reared without this complexity may be less able to cope with it,” she says. By contextualizing her findings within other research, she hypothesizes that the isolated calves may actually have underdeveloped brain tissue in the prefrontal cortex compared with the social calves, or reduced interconnectedness between the prefrontal cortex and other areas of the brain. 

At the risk of comparing everyone reading this to livestock, may I draw a parallel with small groups? 

Christians learn better in herds. 

We need to "stick" small groupies between the scriptures on one hand and their friends on the other. The scriptures themselves encourage this approach. 

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.
— Prov. 15:22 

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
—Eccl. 4:12

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
—Prov. 27:17

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.
—Romans 7:4

As long as our small group members are "stuck" between those two sources of life — the scriptures and their Christian community — growth is more likely to happen. 

There's another example of growth in community from nature: bananas. My staff roll their eyes every time I share this example, but it's true. Christian are like bananas; they grow in bunches. There's a jingle I learned from watching Sesame Street with my kids.

One banana, two banana, one for me and one for you banana.
Count three or four or even more bananas
But bananas can't grow alone. 

This week when you open the Bible with your small group, think about the cows of British Columbia. Maybe raise a milk toast in honor of the spiritual lesson they're teaching us. What's true of cows and bananas is true of Christians. We don't grow alone. We grow in herds…bunches…small groups. 
Ryan SandersComment