What to Expect in a Group

Willow Creek | May 3, 2024

You’ve probably heard about groups in our services; maybe you’ve known folks who casually refer to their ‘small group,’ but it feels mysterious, kind of undefined, and even risky.

As a 30-something who was proudly agnostic and changing the tuner in my brain whenever God tried to break through the noise and communicate with me, I was invited into a group of women through whose influence my life was radically changed. The traditionally-formatted Bible study group made space for skeptical (and nearly silent) me, and listened when I took a chance and spoke, and served me with encouragement and safety. Twenty years later, I see how that group was foundational to where I am today!

Let’s unpack some questions you might have when you think about joining a group:

What if I’m not super outgoing?
A lot of us aren’t! You will be welcomed regardless of your personality, and if you choose to observe more than chime in, the leader should recognize that and meet you where you’re comfortable.

Who will be there/will I know anyone?
Every group is different, so it’s hard to say who will be there. If you have a chance, you can ask the leader to meet you for coffee or chat over the phone before your first meeting, so you’re a bit acquainted with at least one person. And, you can always invite a friend to join you! 

Where do we meet?
Some groups meet in our church buildings, some meet in homes, and others meet in public spaces. The meeting location should be described on our groups directory!

Is this going to be weird?
We’re hoping it’s not! If it is, you can try another group because each one has its own personality and dynamics. What one group does may be completely different from another!

Can I be myself?
We expect our group leaders to create spaces that are safe and welcoming no matter your background and life situation. In a word: YES!

Will it be fun? Can I make jokes or laugh?
We hope so! But keep those jokes appropriate, maybe?!

Do I have to commit?
Groups at Willow meet in “terms” that last 10 weeks. So, you aren’t expected to commit long-term, but it would be great if you experience a group for that 10-week period! We definitely understand that life brings curve balls and that you may have to drop out. We also know things pop up, so if you’re not able to attend every meeting, don’t let that keep you from joining.

What do I do with my kids during the meetings?
Some groups provide space for their kids during their meetings and get creative on childcare (i.e., parents alternate supervising the kids; a babysitter is crowd-funded). Willow is committed to helping you participate in a group, so let your group leader know if this is an obstacle!

What’s a group meeting like?
Well, it depends on the group! A pickleball group will operate very differently from a Bible study group which will operate very differently from a gardening group. The important thing is that you find a group where you feel comfortable. If you want to know more about the structure or topics of the group beyond what is listed in the description, sign up and chat with the group leader.

Do I have to be a Christian? What if I don’t know if faith is my thing?
Not at all! Groups are open to anyone, regardless of where you’re at in life or faith—you don’t even have to go to Willow. A great place to start is a community-based group, such as a pickleball group or an ice cream shop tour. Just work on getting to know some people, ask them about their faith, and see where you are lead from there!

What if I don’t know the Bible?
Our groups are all different, as are the people in them! You are welcome whether you’re a Bible scholar or have never opened one. A great group has diversity in many forms, including Bible understanding. We offer lots of types of groups, too. Some are serving-based, others are common interest-based or oriented around a season of life. If you aren’t ready for in-depth Bible study, there’s a place for you!

Can I ask basic questions?
All your questions should be welcome in a Willow group! 

In summary, we would love to see you jump in and try out groups! The community you will find in a well-functioning group is a special gift, and those of us who have experienced it pray that you will too. 

Our campus groups pastors and group leaders are praying for you and available to help you take this next step in your journey—reach out to them with any questions or for one-on-one conversations around ways we can walk with you! Learn more about groups here

Willow Groups Team
Becky Dawes, Huntley Groups Pastor