Feel Guilty About Missing Small Group Gatherings? Remember These 3 Truths
While growing up in church, perfect attendance was often lauded as the pinnacle of Sunday School or Awana participation. I never won the “Perfect Attendance Award,” but I had two responses when I pondered what eluded me attaining this prize:
• I would contemplate the circumstances that prevented my presence
• And I would also feel frustrated and guilty for not having perfection in my attendance record like some of my classmates.
These thoughts became yearly moments of regret, guilt and disgrace.
Grown Up, But Still Figuring out Attendance
Sure, these are my childhood thoughts towards attaining an award. But these yearly moments trained me. They trained me to feel guilt when I had to miss gatherings of different sorts. More recently, I have also had these thoughts and feelings about missing Small Group gatherings.
Maybe you have had these thoughts as well. Instead of feelings of guilt and shame surrounding your Small Group gatherings, I want to encourage you towards finding hope with others, regardless of attendance record.
1. Perfect Attendance to Small Group Is Not Mandated…Community Is
I dislike the excuse “because it’s not mandated in Scripture.” This is usually a response from someone as a cop out because they are too lazy to engage in a proven healthy practice. But in this instance, I think this is a helpful truth: there is no “Thou shalt attend every Small Group gathering.” As a ministry team, we also don’t mandate perfect attendance.
Instead, faithfulness to our community is what God wants for us:
• Not “forsaking” assembling with other believers (on Sundays or in Small Group) (Heb. 10:24-25)
• Being involved enough in others’ lives to live out the “one anothers” (see Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 5:11; etc.)
• Making sure that we do our best to keep our commitments instead of finding excuses to back out (see Matt. 5:37)
When you have to miss, allow that to be known between you and your leader and group members. Missing Small Group is likely not a sin, unless it’s a habit that reflects your choice to move away from community. And even if you do sin, you can pursue others and Jesus for forgiveness and start fresh. That’s the gospel.
2. Perfect Attendance Is Not Conducive to Every Season of Life
This is probably the most helpful truth that my heart needs to be reminded of. We have a one-year-old child with an early bedtime and I have a work commitment during every other Small Group meeting. These facts make attending every Small Group meeting impossible. But my wife and I have decided that living life with our Small Group is more valuable than missing life with them.
This is why we think about our Small Group as being with a community and not as an event. We don’t merely attend Small Group; we are a part of a Small Group. In this stage of life, perfect attendance won’t happen, but we value engaging with our community every chance we get: at gatherings, texting groups, and getting together for game nights.
3. Small Group Is a Place to Find Hope with Others…Not Just an Appointment
Even though it’s true that community can be experienced in a variety of settings, our Small Group is the primary way my wife and I have experienced community. It’s become way more than an appointment on our calendar.
Our Small Group is the setting where we have been prayed for and have prayed for others. It’s a community of people who are different in a variety of ways—careers, nationalities, number of kids, married and single, new believers and some mature—and it’s a place where my wife and I have found hope together. We have found hope for parenting, spiritual growth, our marriage, and friendship.
If we made this group into just “something we did” every two weeks, it wouldn’t have nearly the same effect in our lives. Instead of perfect attendance, my attention has shifted to ask myself: “How much can I love these people…even if I can’t physically make every gathering?”
Perfect? …Or Something Better?
So, remember that when guilt creeps in, missing a Small Group gathering may be a way that you are able to honor the Lord in your circumstances. It’s not the end of the world; and it doesn’t have to become a pattern of disengagement. We can be free to enjoy our commitment to our community and do the best we can.
Community Pastoral Resident
Kasey joined the staff as the Community Pastoral Resident in June 2019 and serves in many ways including leading the Young Adult Ministry, developing the Sermon Discussion Guides and managing the Resource Center. He enjoys watching basketball, reading theology and spending time with his wife, Emily, and their daughter Ember.