Some people like to work alone. I’m better with people. Of course at times I need some down time to think, create or observe life. But generally speaking, when I need to get a project done, I seem to do much better when working alongside other people.
There is something almost magical about the power of a group. Some call it synergy, when the joining of more than one multiplies exponentially what can be accomplished alone. Group members keep you encouraged, motivated, accountable, sometimes frustrated, yet moving along. Alone, you might daydream a while or just drop off the scene altogether.
I’ve often recalled that authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were great friends who obviously collaborated on ideas that stretched their imaginations, as you can see in some of the parallels found in their most famous works, “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Lord of the Rings,” respectively. They participated in a group of British writers who called themselves the Inklings, and history tells us that they sometimes strongly disagreed. What would those works have been like had they not known each other and shared their skills?
My own writing group met recently for a “let’s get going again” type of meeting. Our leader was to be out of town for an extended period, and it was going to be up to us to press forward. Symbolically, we did so almost effortlessly in our focused hour. Though we had not met through the summer, we re-engaged quickly. By the end of the meeting, we had eaten, set up a new meeting schedule and made plans for the next month. We congratulated a member who recently published a book.
In review of almost three years together, the entire group has done well. One of us is writing a play, another has had an article published in one of the Chicken Soup series. Someone else is hoping to publish an anthology of poetry. Another has done a photo book. During this time we have met monthly to share our ideas, critique each other’s writing, congratulate any and all progress, and grow in our writing.
In a think-tank meeting I attended several weeks back, I was reminded of the creativity that flows when people gather to formulate ideas. As I listened to others, it clarified my own position on some issues and gave me fuel to express myself. I remember college study groups that cut my study time in half, gave me a social outlet and helped improve my grades.
This concept can even work in reverse. As the number of small local churches nationwide decreases, the sizes of other churches have dramatically increased. Due to this phenomenon, it is possible to attend church and not know your pew mates personally nor feel connected to the fellowship in general.
The need for closer connections within churches gave birth to the concept of small groups, which allow people to share their hearts and lives within a smaller fellowship, thereby helping to meet their needs for community in a way that the larger meetings may not be able to. Through the small groups I have been connected to through the years and currently, I have enjoyed loving and energizing acceptance, a deeper understanding of myself and God, and the importance of serving others through the consistency of relationships. The belonging, purpose and united goals that groups offer help us all to flourish.
Tabi Upton, MA-LPC is a therapist at New Beginnings Counseling Center.