The small group I’m in at church just branched out and started a new small group—attracting several new people and a few I had already met. At our first meeting last week, the leader handed us two index cards and asked us to write down a question on each one.
Each question was supposed to be an ice breaker—something a person might ask a stranger to get to know a little about the person. After we wrote our questions down, we handed the index cards back to the small group leader. He shuffled them and each of us drew two questions, and then we answered them as best we could.
One of the questions I drew asked me to name three people I consider heroes, and then I was supposed to explain why they were my heroes. One of the people I mentioned was my grandfather. He died in 1985, when I was 19 (no doing the math regarding my age!); he taught me so much.
My parents divorced when I was eight years old and, for obvious reasons, their relationship was strained after that and it left a male void in my life.
My grandfather tried to fill that void by being a positive male role model. He did a great job. He’d take me into his workshop and allow me to “help” him with various fix-it projects. He took me hunting and fishing. When I was old enough, he took me out on a dirt road and taught me how to drive. And he showed me how to treat a woman with respect by treating my grandmother with respect. Basically, he modeled manhood for me.
I explained this to my small group and a couple of them asked me follow up questions. By the time I finished, they were beginning to see the real me. And likewise, as I listened to the answers to the questions they drew, I got a good glimpse at what makes them tick.
It was a great exercise because the conversation we had went deeper than our thoughts about the latest college football game or what we thought about the most recent FlashForward episode. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with either of those topics, but by digging deeper, we got to matters of the heart.
As I drove home, I thought about how beneficial it would be to have similar types of conversations with fellow singles. So many of us are lonely and I wonder if part of the reason we feel that way is because our conversations with people are often so shallow.
A few days before I attended this small group meeting, I picked up a book called 4,000 Questions for Getting to Know Anyone and Everyone, by Barbara Ann Kipfer. I bought it because it provides great writing prompts for my personal blog. The day I bought it though, I sat with two friends in a coffee shop and used the book to steer our conversation. The questions we discussed dealt with family history, our quirks, our thoughts about free will, etc.
Most of my friends’ answers didn’t surprise me because I know them both well, but I was surprised by a couple of answers—not in a good or bad way. I was just genuinely surprised. By asking them deeper questions, I learned new truths about them in a short period of time, and I suspect they did with me as well. We made a real connection.
All of this makes me think about the next time I’m around a bigger group of singles. There’s nothing wrong with small talk to begin with, but what if the conversation went a level or two deeper? Think about the ministry value. People might not feel so alone in their struggles. And think about the common bonds that people might form. It might even set the stage for a love connection.
Lee Warren is a forty-something-year-old single person who lives in Nebraska. He is the author of the book Single Servings: 90 Devotions to Feed Your Soul, published by Revell. Julie Ferwerda is a forty-something married person who has had a spectrum of experiences in the single’s life after divorce. She is the author of “The Perfect Fit: Piecing Together True Love,” and has written dozens of singles articles for CBN and other publications.