When Kristen moved from Brooklyn to Hoboken four years ago, her biggest fear was that people wouldn’t make room for her in their lives.
“I just thought everyone would already have their group of friends, and no one would make the effort to include me,” she said.
But on the very first Sunday that Kristen and her husband, Eric, attended Hoboken Grace, a complete stranger sitting next to them invited them to a couples dinner group. And so, within 48 hours of first stepping into Hoboken Grace, Kristen and Eric found themselves sitting in someone’s home, having dinner with a group of people who were openly and vulnerably sharing their lives with one another.
“I kind of thought I was going to some sort of class,” said Eric. “But it wasn’t like sitting in class at all. It was more like hanging out in a dormitory. Everybody actually wanted to be there, and no one was trying to show off how much they knew about the Bible.”
What also stood out to Eric immediately was that people were genuinely interested and invested in one another’s lives. People were asking each other for updates on previous prayer requests and checking in about work and family. These people clearly knew and cared about one another on a deeper level, and it felt intimate and sincere.
And best of all, Kristen and Eric felt welcome and accepted right away.
“Even though the group had been together for a long time, it wasn’t cliquey at all,” said Eric. Everyone seemed genuinely enthusiastic about welcoming a new couple.”
Within a year, Kristen and Eric were approached by their leaders, Kelvin and Nancy, about starting a group of their own.
“We asked Kristen and Eric to lead because they were genuinely excited about dinner group and were always talking about it to people at church and friends outside of church,” said Kelvin.
But for more than two years, Kristen and Eric said no. They were busy, and leading a dinner group seemed like a huge time commitment, almost like signing up for a second job.
“I didn’t feel like I had the time, but I also didn’t feel like I met the standard of what a dinner group leader should be,” said Kristen. “All of these people would be looking to me for spiritual leadership and guidance. What if I messed up in my own life?”
But three years after joining dinner group, Kristen and Eric felt like they couldn’t put off leading any longer. The group had already multiplied three times since they had joined, and it had grown again to capacity, to the point where attendance was starting to fall. When everyone did show up, there simply wasn’t time for everyone to speak.
They didn’t suddenly feel more spiritually mature or have more time in their lives — in fact, when they finally said ‘yes,’ they had just discovered they were expecting their first child.
“We put off leading for as long as possible,” said Eric. “But in the end, I came to realize that I may not know the most about the Bible. I’m not the furthest along in my walk with Christ, but I can organize. I can set our monthly schedule. I can ask people to host. I don’t have to talk the most in group. I just have to facilitate a conversation. I just need to be there. And sometimes all I really need to do is listen.”
Eric said he now thinks about dinner group leadership less like being a mini pastor and more like being an administrative assistant for God’s group.
“I think a lot of people feel like in order to be a dinner group leader they need to be a super-Christian,” said Kelvin. “Like you have to know the Bible backwards and forwards, sin only once in a blue moon, be a social butterfly and never be angry at God. But really, as long as you’re hungry to grow as a Christian because of the incredible gift — salvation by grace — that God has given you, then you’ll be an awesome dinner group leader!”
Dinner groups are currently on break but will resume in September, with enrollment beginning this Saturday, August 26th, at 6 p.m. Want to find out more about leading your own group? Click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.