In my last post I talked about my journey over the past year to working on my faith. I said my next post would be about sex and dating within the Christian context, so here we go.
Last summer, after attending a few small group bible studies offered by my church (they’re more like book clubs, with the book being a Christian book of some sort), I was nominated to lead a small group for the Fall semester. I was nervous about being nonimated to lead a group so soon after getting back into the habit of attending church (this must be a mistake, didn’t they know I’m not a perfect Christian?), but I prayed about it. Since all Fall semester small groups are assigned the same book to read, I accepted the nomination because it would be the easiest way to get used to being responsible for a group of people’s spiritual growth for a few months.
Yes, that’s how they framed it in small group leader training.
All of a sudden I had a small flock of folks to pray for every day and check up on and make sure they weren’t falling through the church cracks. It may sound a bit extra, but it’s what I like most about my church: it’s big, yet small at the same time.
I did my best to steer this group, but I couldn’t help feel a little detached from our discussions. Even with study guides to help facilitate discussion, I felt a teeny bit bored by the content, but I loved the folks in my small group. It was then I decided the next time I led a small group, I would have a sexy book. Sexy as in, interesting and different.
Enter: dating and the church.
I told myself that I would only do another small group if I were allowed to read the dating book of my choice, Boundaries In Dating. It’s not that the book is particularly racy, but it wasn’t on our regular book list. That’s why I was drawn to it even further. I wanted to talk about things most church folk didn’t talk about openly, regularly: sex and dating. It’s not that I am a rabblerouser, but I think there are areas in our lives where we don’t grow because we don’t really examine them close enough. As a Christian woman, I knew my dating life sucked and I didn’t feel supported in figuring out my dating life within a Christian community. And while I had a basic understanding of how sex in the bible worked (i.e. it’s only for marriage) I struggled with fully understanding how to apply this to my daily modern life. Also, I wouldn’t be able to win anyone over to Team Celibacy if I didn’t have a good grasp of what it was all about.
Anyway. Registration opened. I was elated to find my small group registration FILLED UP. Quickly. Most healthy small groups are about 8-10 people, but mine filled to capacity at 22 ladies within the first few weeks of registration. I was happy.
The book I chose was on point. It broke down my old and current dating issues. It gave me solid advice and things to do in my future dating life. I feel like I don’t need to read another dating book ever in life (not that I read many, but I own several for some reason).
Leading a dating small group was cool. I had 22 ladies to get to know as best as possible. I knew we all came from different walks of life with different upbringings and experiences. Some of us were single, some had boyfriends, some were divorced, and we ranged in age from early 20s to mid-40s. That’s what makes a group enriching, but the topic itself was tricky. The whole point of my group was to give women a (biblically-based) place to talk openly about their relationship issues without (Christianeze!) judgement, however, opening up to a group of strangers is tough. I was also afraid that as their leader, there would be a misconception that my dating/sex life was perfect, when it was so incredibly flawed.
In the end, everything worked out. There were a few weeks when the book talked about sexual purity and I felt nervous for the discussion. I think this is where I feel Christians get real Judgy McJudgerson, and I didn’t want anyone to feel judged for anything they’d done in the past (or for how they currently live). Typically I find that as a small group leader you have to share a lot in order to encourage others to share and so…the sharing of my failures was brutal. I’m already hard enough on myself, now I had to tell others about it too? And say it out loud? It was for the best though. The more I talk about my previous failures, the more I am able to get over them. Not to mention I have made some *awesome* friends during this process, and now they are able to reflect truth back to me when I veer off track.
As for what’s next…summer small group! I’ve recruited a co-leader this time around, and she is awesome. She keeps me in stitches and brings the best out of me. I am excited about leading this group with her if we can pull it off. In keeping with my tradition of a packed growth group and a racy topic, I think we are going to read a book (or books) about *drumroll* sexual purity. We’ve talked about dating, now let’s talk about sex. I like uncomfortable topics among Christians, and I think this is an important one. A big one. I think this issue keeps a lot of distance between God and Christians and I am all about finding ways to close that gap.
I’ll let ya’ll know how it goes.