So let me start by saying this because it’s important to be honest, I didn’t love Jen Hatmaker until recently. I know, scandalous. Back in 2004 I did one of her first bible studies for women and I didn’t love it. Then I was going to read Seven and I just didn’t do it because I don’t even know anymore but I didn’t read it and I was kind of annoyed by her.
A few weeks ago her latest book, For the Love came out and you could do it as a book club for 4 weeks, no prep, no nothing but reading a book, watching a video, eating snacks and chatting with some girls. I thought, “I can do that, even if I don’t love JH, it’s only 4 weeks and a good excuse to get together and
eat chat. This past week we had spicy foods because we’re a spicy family!
So I invited women, ordered my book not knowing what to expect. I started reading the book, she said the word turd burger and I fell in love with Jen. She gets me and I get her. I mean when you wear feather earrings like Jen does, you know it’s meant to be.
If you’re not familiar with Jen, she’s a truth telling like it is kind of girl but with love and grace mixed in. She loves Jesus, I think she also really likes cooking, wine, yoga pants and saying “for the love.” The book is actually a collection of essays, so each chapter sort of stands alone which I didn’t get at first. There are super funny parts that have you texting friends about chapter 9 and parts that make you shake your head yes, like she can actually see you agreeing with her, you may even cry a little when she writes letters to her kids. I’m only half way through the book and so far, my favorite chapter is Porches for Altars.
She talks about how we need God and people. How churches try to foster community with small groups, cell groups, life groups or whatever your church calls them. But those don’t always go so well, when you try to gather people together by asking ” who can meet on Tuesdays?” it can be awkward and weird. It can be great but it can also be a failure. She talks about preferring something more organic and less program driven and I love it, totally what I feel like God has been speaking to me for a while now.
PSA: I am not and Jen is not bashing small groups. They have a time and place, they can be amazing! I know because we’ve been in awesome small groups and also some awkward small groups, we have been small group attenders and small groups leaders. We’ve had small group training, read books on small groups, watched videos from Willow Creek on small groups, pretty much if it said small group, we’ve done it. I’m not hating on small groups at all, I think they are great but what I don’t like is when the church says, if you don’t attend small group, your not part of the church team, you are now blacklisted.
Jen says, just invite people over. You don’t have to be in a small group to have community, to worship Jesus, to pray, to share communion. THIS is where my heart is, an organic gathering of people together in my home, around a table, people invited, not because Tuesday night worked out but because we can create community ourselves with people that live near us or are in the same life stage or work with us or are cute or silly or serious or whatever, people that click. Just invite people. (I’m preaching to myself here).
Lately, in my heart and mind, God has been brewing up a desire for what Jen calls Sunday Night Church and I don’t have a name for it but I have a vision. Here is what I imagine, a group of couples gathering together once a month for a meal and hanging out. Eating, discussing life and being REAL! The bonus besides only a once a month commitment, no feather earrings required!
We don’t have time in this season of our life to commit one night a week to small group but we can do one night a month or a random and spontaneous Friday night. Our life is running kids to tennis, awana, friends homes, homework, piano lessons, playing catch in the front yard, did I mention homework? The little kids that aren’t busy in the evenings are growing into big kids that are busy in the evenings and we aren’t even in that many activities or sports. I want to be there for them while they are still here, these are my disciples, my gifts from God. Yet I want them to see that we have some margin in our life for people, to gather together and do life, even if it’s random and not every week.
Our family learned some hard lessons a few years ago when we were on the hamster wheel and doing good things, serving and helping out. Yes, you can be busy doing good stuff but it doesn’t become good stuff anymore when you are serving empty and from your own well. We burnt ourselves out with too much on our plates and when we moved, we decided it would be different for our family.
And it has been different, it’s still been crazy busy but we’ve said no to a lot of good stuff, great stuff even. For now, that includes saying no to small group for this season and I’m going to stop feeling guilty about it. Even when I get asked 300 times what small group we are in or why we aren’t in one. Instead I’m going to focus on the vision God’s given me and step out and invite some people over. I have much more to say on community but I’ll leave that or another day.
What does your community look like? Do you have your tribe or group of people? Are you reading For the Love? Do you love Jen Hatmaker and are wondering how I missed the boat? Finally, don’t forget to go get yourself some feather earrings and it’s not too late to join in on the book club fun, if you live near me send me a message for the date and time. If you don’t, you can check it out online here!
For the love!