Unconventional Friendships: Why Our Small Group Works

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35.

I love our Small Group. God has brought together a group of people representing incredibly diverse backgrounds, and it has been a privilege getting to know those the Lord has brought into our lives. But this diversity wasn’t something I even realized to ask God for until two years ago.

A Trip That Changed Us

My husband Richard and I have served together as Small Group Leaders for about six years, and it’s one of our passions to help others connect in fellowship and support practical application of God’s Word.

Fast forward to 2018. Richard and I were part of over fifty individuals who participated in the first Civil Rights Vision Trip. We had no idea what to expect going in. But when we came away from the trip, it changed our thinking about the depths of racial injustices that still affect our country today.

Our hearts were heavy as we realized how little we knew, and how much we had yet to learn. We didn’t know what specifically to do, but we knew to pray.

Pray and Sit Back As God Provides

Part of our prayers included asking the Lord to lead us into relationships and friendships with those of minority culture. We had no idea that God would use our Small Group as a key part of his answer to our prayers.

We had no way of knowing the blessing that God had in store for us.

During those months of prayer we begin to see a shift. It was sort of like we were sitting back watching these amazing changes take shape as people joined our group. And we now have younger, older, single, married, black, and white friends all participating in our group. What a beautiful array of God’s image bearers!

What’s more amazing is the beautifully unique levels of relationship we have with each individual in our group.

A Friend To Talk About Sensitive Issues

For example, one sister in Christ came into our group a few months after the Vision Trip. She is African-American and was part of the same Vision Trip experience.

Although we hadn’t interacted much on the trip itself, our shared experience of that trip coupled with conversations during Small Group helped foster a level of need and trust to discuss sensitive, and yes—painful—issues relating to the history of injustices. And we’ve been able to do this authentically and biblically together.

As God would have it, we’ve grown to know and love her deeply, and race is not always at the forefront of our relationship. She is a sister that we can consistently go to for advice and leadership in this arena, and we thank God for her!

A Friend To Laugh With

Another woman has become a particularly special friend of mine. We were initially drawn together through my role as Membership Coordinator at the church when she entered as a new member.

She soon joined our group after becoming a member. And while she too is African-American, race has never come up in our discussions. We talk, share, pray, laugh, and share Scripture. She makes my life better, and I love spending time with her.

Friends to Rejoice and Weep With

Richard and I have worked intentionally to reach out and get to know people in our group in a deeper way, spending one-on-one time. These meet-ups have helped us apply Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

In these relationships, we are discovering growth in our dependency and intimacy with God. But we’re also growing in empathy and love for these men and women that he has entrusted us to serve.

Really Loving Each Other

If you’re a Small Group Leader, we encourage you to take the time to create those deeper relationships.

Meeting at a park for a walk, dining together, texting one another through the week are all parts of how relationships are formed. We must be proactive and “others-thinking” in order to create the God-ordained relationships that he wants for us (see Phil. 2:3-5).

It is our prayer that those outside the church would see that God is at work here—because they see him moving in his people who really love one another.

Kelli Ellis

Kelli Ellis

College Park Member

Kelli has been a member of College Park since 2010. She is passionate about welcoming people into the church and connecting them with a ministry where they can find community. She leads a Small Group with her husband, Richard. Kelli enjoys spending time with her husband, two adult children, their spouses, and her incredible grandkids.