One of the things I am thankful for in my life is my time in the US Coast Guard. I spent eight years in the military and about seven of them on different ships at sea. I learned sooo many different skills and life lessons in those years. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was the absolute need for a strong community of friends in my life. Spending long periods of time at sea can be very lonely, just as much as being stationed in a city or state far from home can be. It was the strong community of friends I had during those days that helped get me through those tough days.
One of the amazing opportunities I have in my role as a small group point person at Newbreak Church, is to help our military men and women find their strong community of friends. Our campus is located next to one of the largest military family housing units in the US. There are 2073 housing units with over 10,200 occupants and all of them are in need of community.
I wish I could say I have figured it out and have everyone connected, but that’s not reality. I have though learned some lessons through the years and would love to share two of the biggest ones with you as small group point people, especially if you have the awesome opportunity to serve our military men and women at your church.
- Listen To Them
I know this sounds simple, but for me it was one of the hardest concepts to get. Being a Veteran I thought I knew best, boy was I wrong.
I would have what I thought to be the most amazing connection events planned, the perfect small groups ready to go…only to have them fail time and time again. I had a young Marine tell me the hard truth one day, he said, “Sir, maybe if you asked one of us our ideas and let us help you, some people might actually show up.”
This was a harsh reality check but one I absolutely needed. Instead of me trying to plan the next “perfect” event or small group I formed a think-tank of some of our influential military leaders on campus and worked with them to strategically plan ways for our military peeps to get connected in to community.
As small group point people we may fancy ourselves to be experts at community but sometimes that community may be they very experts we need to listen to.
- Connect Them…Don’t Group Them
I had a military spouse tell me a while back, “I wish the church would stop treating us as some special separate people group.”
This was a key lesson learned for me on how to best connect our military peeps into small groups. It’s when we stopped trying to have military specific groups and just focused on helping our military peeps connect naturally that community started to happen for them. They didn’t want to be treated as a special people group; they wanted to be people connected in to the community of the church.
Some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned are from some of the biggest struggles I’ve had when it comes to helping our military peeps find community. But the thing I love most about our military community is that they are some of the most loving and caring people I have ever had the chance to serve.
I would love to hear some of the ways you are helping our military men and women find community at your church.
Please leave your comments.