A few years ago my father passed away and I recently opened one of the boxes he left behind to find a box-inside-a-box. My father had placed a shoebox inside the larger box for safe keeping. I was understandably curious about the contents of the shoebox, so I took a look at the contents before browsing through the other items in the larger box.
The shoebox turned out to be a wonderful treasure! Inside this small box were a variety of items that brought lots of memories back to me. My father had kept birthday cards I’d given him over the years, some from my days in elementary school! There were two or three hand-written notes I’d given him before I became a teenager…you know, the kind you write as a child to say thanks for the gifts he’d given me and for just being my dad. Then there were my old report cards he’d held onto…and no, I didn’t remember that my grades were as low as some of them were…in my mind I was an A/B student. As I looked at my English grades on the report cards, I suddenly remembered my high school teacher Ms. Nason, a teacher who allowed a friend and I to skip class in order to see the grand opening of Star Wars Episode 4: The Empire Strikes Back. There were even some old photos of my first car, a 1978 Camaro…boy do I miss that car!
Shoeboxes and small groups
A small group that has a shoebox is a group that has a collection of memories that are shared among the group members. My new small group which banded together just this past October has already served in the church’s Fall Festival, been to lunch 4 times (once a month), and ministered together to a fellow group member whose husband was suddenly admitted to the hospital. We also had a SuperBowl party at our home on February 3. We’re building memories together, and memories can act like glue…they can be the thing that makes the group “sticky” so that people feel they belong. Having a history you share together is important.
3 ways to develop a shoebox for your small group
1. Don’t continually borrow stories and memories from the past. The newer members of your group won’t remember the great experience you’re talking about that took place two years ago, long before they arrived and became part of your group. The newer members want to be a part of the history and memories the group has, so keep your stories to the very recent past. Saying things like, “Remember last month when we went out to eat together…” or “Remember how cold it was serving snowcones at the Fall Festival? We should ask for the cotton candy booth next year!” These quick trips down memory lane can help group members feel a sense of history, belonging, and inclusion…they feel part of the group. But they can’t feel that way if we talk about events that took place a long time ago…that was before their time.
2. Regularly do things together as a group. If you’re going to build memories, you must do things together outside the regular meeting time of the group. Mission trips and service projects, Bible studies in homes, meals eaten together, day trips, ministering to people together, and other things are necessary to build memories that are shared.
3. Record your activities and revisit them often. When our new group staffed the snowcone booth at the Fall Festival, I took lots of pictures. I sent them via e-mail a few days later so that our group members could laugh and remember the good time we had serving together. I’ve also snapped a few pictures at our once-a-month lunches that take place after church. As your group engages in activities outside your normal Bible study time, be sure to take pictures and perhaps record some of the moments on video. Most phones today have cameras and video recorders, so you’ve probably got the right tool in your pocket. If you don’t someone in the group will.