PG-13 Small Groups

My pastor talked about rape and murder in his sermon yesterday. So there's that. I got an email last night from my good friend Rob who brings his five-year-old and six-year-old to service. He was concerned about having to explain rape to his little girl. I don't blame him. There's a tricky balance in the Sunday services between family and authenticity, between the raw and beautiful nature of gospel and the innocence of children. The worship team at my church does a terrific job of walking that line and I'm not about to jump into that quagmire. But Rob's email made me ask the same question about small groups. Is your small group Rated G? I hope not.

Don't get me wrong. I love to hear about small groups who include kids. What could be more formative for a child than watching her parents struggle with the word of God and their community of friends? Small groups can be a powerful tool in building stronger families.

But if your small group never addresses mature themes, I have to question how mature it is. I'm not sure you can truly embrace the gospel of the Incarnate God without at least talking about the messed up world he came to save. Adults sometimes need to talk about adult issues and, out of respect for the innocence of childhood, leave kids out. The mission of the small groups ministry at my church is "growing deep relationships that advance the kingdom of God in dark places." There are dark places in the lives of the people in your group — places of lust, greed, pride, and fear. If you're not talking about them, that doesn't mean they don't exist. And if your group has managed to escape the dark places for a while, that's still no excuse for fleeing from them. To be ambassadors of light in a dark world means we enter into the darkness. It means we need to expose their our to the horrors of sex trafficking and abortion and mental illness and terminal illness. It means we have to leave our Sunday best behind the way Jesus left behind his heavenly robe, and wade out into the filth that covers the land of our sojourn.

That's a hard idea to embrace. It means small group won't always equate to comfort. Small group should always be a safe place, but not always a comfortable one. And here's an even harder word: the choice is yours. You're a grown-up. You have all the authority and ability you need to decide when and how to include kids. Is someone in your group struggling with a particularly R-rated issue? Is your group seeking to bless someone who is not a good example for your kids? If so, then it's absolutely appropriate to separate from the kids for a while.

For the most part, our church has decided that weekend worship services are rated PG-13. We are deeply committed to addressing real issues in a broken world. We are forging new pathways in care for victims of human trafficking, in poverty and homelessness. So we're going to talk nitty-gritty on Sunday. We won't be offensive or profane, but we also won't whitewash the darkness. I hope your small group will too.

The light of the gospel shines brightest and most beautifully against the backdrop of a dark world. As the children's song says, let's "let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!"
Ryan SandersComment