So the other day I had to change my cell phone carrier. Before I could gain the nerve to sign a two-year AT&T contract, I found myself explaining to the sales assistant how I opt for reoccurring six-month leases on my apartment, and how I gave away my cat because I felt trapped in the relationship. I needed him to know that this contract-signing exercise was a very big deal.
I’m well acquainted with commitment phobia. I’m a bona fide P on the Myers Briggs.
And the reality is that there are a few of us commitment-phobes out there. We may be in your small groups; we may even be leading your small groups.
So, how do we create consistent community in a culture that’s skittish about commitment?
There are a variety of ways to encourage people to invest deeply in your group, but here’s one of the best ways: Create a small group covenant.
While I was slightly shaky about signing the two-year contract, I did it. My desire to chat with friends—and to have an iPhone—ultimately won over my fears of locking into a multi-year agreement. Desire conquered fear.
Creating a small group covenant enables a group to collectively voice their desires for the group. Together you can articulate who you long to be, what values you hope will hold the group together and how you will commit, yes commit, to living out those desires.
A covenant also serves as a stellar resource when conflict arises. If someone violates a group value, a conversation regarding that needs not to be a personal attack but a dialogue about how to best live out what you each agreed on as important.
The Process of Creating a Covenant
This can be a rich time of discovery and group sharing. Before you launch into drawing up your Covenant, consider the concept of a covenant in light of Scripture: God, who is the pursuer of our hearts has covenanted with us. He has made a pact to love His children faithfully and tenaciously. He has revealed His intentions (through His Son, His Spirit, His Word and the Church) so that we might best experience life in relationship with Him.
The purpose of your Small Group Covenant is to lay out how your group will best experience relationship with each other and with God during your journey.
1) What are the Values of Your Group?
Talk about Communication Values, Conflict Values, Relational Values and Spiritual Values.
2) What does your group desire to grow in and/or change in your relationship with God? (This topic is relevant for those who are followers of Jesus and those who are yet to believe.)
3) Talk about the rhythm of your group. You may want to rotate between Scripture Study/Book Study, Service and Social Times.
4) Discuss logistics. What time does your group want to begin and end? Will your group meet at the same home or do you want to share locations? If there are children in the group, talk about how to engage them. Also, discuss how you will create space for focused adult conversation.
Do you use covenants with your groups? If so, how has it worked? Are there other ways you’re encouraging commitment in your groups?