• Will Spink
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    Chief Musician
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  • Christine Betts
    Assistant Director, Youth/Families
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    Youth & Families Intern
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    Administrative Assistant
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    Assistant Pastor, Shepherding & Young Families
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    Director, Children's Ministry
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    Director, Nursery
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    Director, Community Development
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Small Groups: Deep Gospel Community

When I arrived at Southwood almost one year ago, I didn’t really “know” anyone. I didn’t know where to eat, where to buy groceries, where to send my son to school or where to take my wife on a date. I didn’t know if people would like me, if I would fit in, if I would be able to have close friends, etc. I had a lot of fear, but I also had the church. Now one year looking back, I can tell you that one of the largest ways that God has worked in my life is through the community of our small group. It has been a place where we can be known and get to know others. It has been a place where we can talk about our struggles and about how God relates to those struggles. It’s also been a place where we can laugh, cry, pray, and laugh again.

Our heart here at Southwood is for everyone to experience that kind of deep community that typically develops over time in small group relationships. We’ve all experienced feelings of isolation and loneliness. We know what it’s like to feel distant from others and friendless at times. Let’s face it: community is hard. It takes time, patience, and intentionality. Nonetheless, God still calls us to live in radical community together, a community where we bless those who persecute us, rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. God’s community is designed to be one where we are instructed to show humility to one another, to associate with the lowly, and never to be wise in our own eyes.

Gospel-centered community is at the heart of everything we do at Southwood. God will always exist in a Trinitarian relationship of community. Likewise, God has created us in his image and has called us to be in community with each other that is centered around him. Gospel-centered community is not possible without relationship. First and foremost, we want people to connect to Jesus because a relationship with Christ becomes the foundation and source of all other relationships. As we live out the truths of Scripture while relating to the world around us, we become a part of renovating the world one relationship at a time.

Gospel-centered community provides a harbor of safety in a hurricane world. It’s a haven where people can be known for who they are as opposed to what they have to offer. It’s a home where people can grow in relationship with God, each other, and neighbors. It is this type of community that we all need and it is this type of community that God provides through his church.

As Southwood adds a new opportunity for relationships called “Connect Communities” in September, some have asked how small groups are different from the Connect Communities and whether you need both. Small groups are similar to Connect Communities in that they share the same vision of connecting people to God, each other, and their neighbors.

Though they are similar in purpose, they are different in practice. Small groups are called “small” for a reason, and that reason is fewer people together providing the context for more sharing and deeper relationships. While Connect Communities are a great way to “connect” in some of these life-giving gospel relationships, small groups take time intentionally to go deeper in community. They are not so much a program to be involved in as they are a way of life for which God designed us. Relationships within a small group are often fertile ground for people who know and understand some of our struggles to remind us of God’s grace, pray for his work in our lives, and urge us to see life in the light of his Word. Being connected in small groups also empowers us to move toward others who are also hurting, whether they are “neighbors” living next door or across the globe. From neighborhood cookouts and serving together locally to praying for our missionaries, small groups provide an amazing opportunity for us to share the grace we so desperately need with each other and others who need it, too.

If you’re interested in finding a small group community, right now is a great time to get started. You can contact me personally and I’ll be happy to help you connect, or sign up online at southwood.org/growingsmall.