What Small Groups and Baking Have in Common

By Bryan McAnally, Pastor of Discipleship and Groups

I’m not a good baker. My main problem is that I just don’t understand how the ingredients combine to make baked yumminess. Perhaps this is why I (unexpectedly) have come to love the TV show The Great British Bake Off. I’m not sure which I enjoy more—watching hosts Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry create their baked masterpieces of bread, cakes, pastries and pies, or watching the competitors unsuccessfully try to repeat those successes.

This show has inspired me to see what’s possible in my own kitchen, and has taught me a lot about baking, which, in theory, should make me a better baker. For example, I now understand what gluten is and its role in the roll; that “working the dough” is something that you do on a knead-to-know basis; and that having “a soggy bottom” is never good, no matter the context. So now, when my bakes are overdone or fail to get a good crisp, I’m starting to understand why. Not coincidentally, it serves as an apt metaphor for the ingredients required for getting real in the context of community at SBC.

From Baking to Community
Every week, we welcome thousands of people to our campuses to experience a small slice of warm community. Most people who get a taste of it agree that it is both satisfying and pleasing. Our message is, “If you thought that was good, join a small group and enjoy the full meal!” Many of you have looked at the church’s proverbial menu and joined a group, finding real relationships with other people and experiencing real life change. You’ve seen God bring hope and healing to broken places. You’ve “tasted and seen that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

While many have done this, many more have not. When it comes to joining a small group, you may be as uncertain as I am when I’m around a mixing bowl. You hear what’s possible, or you see the community that can potentially exist, but you just aren’t sure what the ingredients are, much less how they’re supposed to combine to make a small group work. If you’ll indulge my inner Paul Hollywood, let me share the recipe:

The ingredients of a great small group:
• You. A great small group starts with you. You can’t have one if you aren’t part of one. That makes sense, right?
• Others. You need other people. The great thing about “others” is the amazing variety that you can both pick from or add to make up your group. They can look like you in terms of your stage of life or relationship status, or they can be completely different from you, and those differences create some exciting conversations as you gather.
• God’s Word and God’s Spirit. Without God’s Word and God’s Spirit, your group is just a social club. But with God’s Holy Spirit present and His Holy Word as your guide, your group has power, purpose and potential!
• Authenticity. It’s in the context of your group that you have the best chance to get real with both God and others. You can be real about your dreams and your disappointments, your fears and frustrations, your successes and setbacks, your faith and your fears, and so much more. When the ingredient of authenticity is missing, the result is a group that is shallow, bland, weak, and will not grow over time.

Your small group, successfully baked
As your small group begins to rise, with people coming and communication stirring, you’ll see your community begin to take shape. God’s Spirit will unite your hearts around His Word and His work. Your group will increasingly be your spiritual core as you play and pray together, sing and serve together, worship and work together, and learn and live life together.

For groups already in the making
You might be tempted at times to look at your group and compare it with another’s—the same way I might compare my effort at a Baked Alaska to Mary Berry’s, and be similarly frustrated or disappointed. When or if that happens, I encourage you with Mary’s advice to the practicing baker: “give your recipe more time to prove.” Authenticity is the yeast of the small group relationship. It takes time to build, to rise. The other ingredients are vital because they cause authenticity, like yeast, to activate. It doesn’t happen instantly, nor automatically. It takes time, sometimes a little kneading, sometimes a little warmth (or even heat), but it will happen. Don’t give up. Give your group time to prove.

Ready… set… bake!
Scottsdale Bible is a small group kitchen, where we are starting new batches of new groups year-round. We have many ways for you to join in and start cooking in a small group environment. Come to Connecting Point to begin getting connected. We also invite you to consider hosting a small group in your home if you have the room and the hospitality to do so. SBC’s group ministry is heating up—join us and let’s create something special, together!