The Importance of Life in Small Group Community
Dear New Hope,
I am an avid road cyclist. No other exercise can trump the joy of cycling in the early morning hours with a cool Northern Michigan breeze, surrounded by the beauty of water and orchard vistas. After I’ve completed 30 or 40 miles, there is the added comedic benefit of returning home sweaty and in my tight cycling spandex, where I offer hugs to my children. In those moments, I have never felt more like a pig at a Jewish feast. They run away from me as if I am unclean and unholy.
Any road cyclist knows the strain of riding solo. Headwinds that inevitably gust against you at 10-20 mph slow you down. Hills which strain at your muscles make your heart race far above its normal operation. Riding solo, without the support of other cyclists, gives you no choice but to endure the agony… square your face into the wind… and persevere.
Contrast the lonely experience of riding solo with cycling in a ‘peloton.’ It is a French word that literally means “small ball” where riders are tightly concentrated together in a pack. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a peloton, simply look up in the sky and watch geese fly in a “V” formation, and you’ll get the idea. In a peloton, a large number of cyclists ride together with a leader out front and a small ball of riders clustered closely behind. A peloton is not just for show, nor is it because sweaty cyclists dressed in tight spandex like to ride close together. A peloton is all about efficiency, speed, and camaraderie.
Efficiency. Recent studies have shown that “riders in the belly of a peloton are exposed to 95% less drag than they would experience riding alone. This explains the sensation all riders describe of being sucked along by the bunch while barely having to pedal” (Wall Street Journal, Riding in the Peloton; July 26, 2018). Unless you’ve ridden in a peloton, you have never experienced this phenomenon, but let me assure you: it is exhilarating! The riders out front are straining through the headwind and grinding away with every ounce of their muscles. Meanwhile, the riders tucked into the peloton are barely pedaling, eating a sandwich, and sipping a cup of Starbucks. Cycling alone does not offer such luxuries.
Speed. The same study showed that riders “in the middle and the back of the peloton were so shielded that they bore less than 10% of the wind. That meant…that the same effort, riding alone, would normally have them going a third or a quarter of the speed.” Translation: riding together with other cyclists enables you to go far faster and far longer than cycling alone. There is something powerful about a small group of cyclists who work together as one unit that accelerates performance.
Camaraderie. There are times cycling alone is fun, especially when you need to think, pray, or just wrap your mind around life. But nothing beats the camaraderie and friendship offered by a bunch of other cyclists. The news article says it this way: “As it turns out, riding in a tight peloton makes life easier than anyone thought.” Not only does a peloton make life easier, but it also exponentially increases the joy of the ride. When cycling with friends or other enthusiasts, there are often conversations about life, discussions of problems, and occasional whining about the physical pain of attacking hills.
What is my point? I advocate riding life in pelotons, or, in other words, doing life together with people in a small group community. As it turns out, traveling through the headwinds of life alone is not only difficult, but it is far less efficient. In contrast, when you ride through life in the “small ball” of a tightly concentrated group of 12-15 people, it has a huge effect on efficiency, speed, and camaraderie.
Efficiency in small group community. The trials and struggles of life create enormous headwinds which strain at the muscles and increase the pain of existence. When we try to handle these pressures alone, the drag we experience can make life feel unbearable. Just as cycling in a peloton exposes you to 95% less drag, so also life in a community of 12-15 people helps shield us from unnecessary drag. The result is that we are able to handle the trials of life with far greater ease. In the peloton of small group experience, we are able to hear stories of success and failure, receive prayer for trials, and experience the great sensation of being ‘sucked along’ almost effortlessly as we eat a sandwich and drink a cup of coffee.
Speed in small group community. Just as cycling in a peloton allows you to go farther and faster with the same amount of effort, so also life in fellowship with a “small ball” of people increases the speed with which you do life. For those who have experienced life in a Christian peloton, you know exactly what it feels like. Being surrounded by people who love you and support you makes trials seem smaller and burdens seem lighter, and it gives added endurance through the difficulties of life. Going through life alone makes us slow down and want to give up, whereas doing life in a small group gives us the courage to press on with greater speed.
Camaraderie in small group community. As it turns out, doing life together in a tight, concentrated ball of people makes life easier. Laughter is shared, meals are eaten, prayers are offered, discussions about life occur, and burdens are lifted together. Sure, there are times to cycle alone. But there is something unique and special about being surrounded by people who meet our deep need for love, attachment, and honor.
I believe every Christian needs a tight fellowship of believers to walk through life with them. It is only in a small ball of 12-15 people that needs can be met, hearts can be opened, and love can be expressed. A small group improves efficiency, increases speed, and makes life more enjoyable. I encourage you to take responsibility and find your life-cycling peloton. Look to surround yourself with a small group of people and, together, face the headwinds of life. And the best part about small group community: nobody should show up at the house wearing cycling spandex.
You are loved,