Fellowship is about sharing together. It starts with how we invite people to the group, is it practical and begrudging or warm and authentic. It’s about how we welcome people as they arrive; with a smile and a drink and a conversation where someone really takes an interest. But it’s also about ensuring that as they settle they do not become the backdrop but remain welcome and involved, perhaps increasingly so if that is their desire.
How do you invite and welcome?
How can you encourage communal fellowship of all?
It is about how we react and love each other as members of a group. People need to feel valued for who they are first and foremost. This is easier with some people than others; often people we have more in common with. However, fellowship is not only about the people we naturally gel with but about anyone who is a part of the group.
Jesus often ate with people and the early church continued the idea of eating together. It is an important way of building community as people gather and share together. It is often helpful to have it at the beginning of a small group’s time because it allows people to come into a relaxed atmosphere and simply be together. It can be easy for this time to gradually grow, so it’s important to consider what time that will end, so the other aspects are not cut short.
Doing food every session has a financial and time cost, so how can that be shared out? There are people who love cooking and providing, but then members share the financial cost. Others take in turns to provide. Either way, simplicity is key to prevent over burdening anyone.
Some groups start with a simple meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner). This can be done simply with pastries, soup, casserole, pasta etc. It strongly encourages people to sit and eat around a table together. Particularly with an evening meal this can take around an hour, especially if pudding is included. Special diets need to be considered so everyone can participate. If hot food is being served, time for heating needs to be considered.
Some groups just do pudding. This is helpful if the time means people are coming having already eaten but they still want that sense of sitting together. 20-30 minutes is still a good time to gather and have conversation while sitting together. It is worth considering healthy options for those that would prefer it.
What do you have the time and resources to provide?
How will you physically create a social space for eating?
For some groups, timings, space or complex diets make sharing food difficult. Starting with hot drinks and biscuits does not have the same feel as food that needs a plate and cutlery but does still carry a sense of relaxing and sharing together. But it can help to still encourage that sitting together while you share drinks, biscuits, cake etc.
Beyond the meeting
Being part of a community goes beyond just sharing food but is about sharing lives. This does not have to be seeing each other every day, but it does go beyond the regular group times. It is about being social and supporting each other.
What do you do together outside of the group?
How will you spot specific needs so you can respond to them?
It may be organising social times where you stay in or where you go out together or a group phone chat to share your days. It may be doing birthday cards for each other or hampers to celebrate special events. It is about being present when someone is dealing with real challenge, by actually being there in person or on the phone and may also include providing meals, lifts or other practical help. It is balancing the planned and the unplanned, to both have time and to make time for each other.