CANVAS SMALL GROUPS – OUR VISION
Inviting everyone to join in God’s project of new creation by means of:
- Creating Space for Meaningful Contact with God
- Loving, Authentic Community
- Inspiring CreativityPartnership with Others
- Continual Learning
- Nurturing Children as the Family of Faith
Community an End in Itself:
At Canvas we believe that any step towards love is a step (knowingly or not) towards Jesus. Thus we regard the establishment of loving, authentic community as an end in itself (the only thing that was “not good” in the entire creation story in Genesis was “for the human to be alone”). One does not have to participate in Canvas in any other way to be welcome in a Canvas small group. All that is necessary is a desire to grow in healthy, life-giving relationship, to share the journey of life with others, and to respect the boundaries of individuals and the group.
Intimacy over Intellect:
While we are fans of learning (one of our other six core values!), the main point of small groups at Canvas is not to study things. As we did our initial research and focus groups for Canvas, the most common answer we received from thoughtfully de-churched people to the question: “What’s the one thing you miss most about church?,” was: “I miss my small group.” This was followed immediately by the confession: “We never got to the study questions we were supposed to do. But the bonding meant the world to me.”
Thus it is bonding we are after. Sometimes a book or Bible study can help with bonding. And if it will do so in your case, you are welcome to try it. But books and readings and structured questions can also become a protective shield that prevents us from getting beyond the sharing of thoughts and opinions. (Research shows that intimacy begins by sharing ideas and opinions, but must progress to the sharing of hopes, dreams and fears to become true bonding.)
In short, study is allowed, but slightly discouraged. What is highly encouraged is sharing food together, a good bottle of wine, some slow time to share the events of life and – more importantly – how those events are impacting us. It would be wonderful to have the courage to reflect for a short time on where/how God is present in the midst of both the events and the community as you share (intimacy at this level usually can’t be sustained for more than a few minutes at a time and it doesn’t need to be). Somewhere in there, pray for each other.
Are new people welcome to enter the group? The hopeful answer is: sometimes. There is a healthy middle ground between “just us” and “y’all come.” A group with very permeable boundaries is at risk of never really connecting with each other as people come and go with too much fluidity. A group that is constantly adding new people can’t build the trust required for true intimacy. At the other extreme, a group that walls itself off from others runs all the risks that come from isolation (and isn’t keeping too much with the biblical call to expand the reach of the kingdom!).
A healthy community finds the balance between the extremes: semi-permeable boundaries. As a principle, new people are welcome, so long as the community is in a place to receive them warmly (and if the community isn’t some reflection as to why). Expectations are that people will commit to the group for at least a season of life (knowing that circumstances change).
Does a group need a formally identified “leader”? In general, no. And Canvas does not insist on groups naming one. Some groups function very well with decentralized control (group decides for itself as a group). Others like to have someone “in charge” of one part or another (who sends out the reminder e-mail?). What your group does is up to you, so long as it maintains health.
Health, Health, Health:
The only non-negotiable in a Canvas small group is health. Opinions and feelings can vary widely. Preferences are completely open for discussion. Studying or not is up to the members of the group. But psychological and spiritual health are a must for every group at Canvas (and every ministry, program, meeting, conversation and coffee tasting…). Groups must take responsibility for their health and consciously maintain a proper immune system. If a member of the group is unable to participate constructively, if boundaries and trusts are not reliable, it must be addressed by the group (and in severe cases may need to go to church leadership). Each of us has our neuroses and dysfunctions. And run-of-the-mill conflict and upset is part of the growing process (love is distilled by such events). But should distress reach the point the group itself is being continually affected and/or the health of the group – as a group – is being compromised, it is time for intervention. The one guarantee we must be able to make to those who are new to Canvas is that we will be safe.
Whatever you need to help make your group all it can be, we have it or can get it. We have everything from small group discussion curriculum to instruction on group dynamics. Let us know what you need to continue your growth in love and we’ll work with you to provide it!