4 ways to get the most from a Small Things book group

One of the crucial components of The Year of Small Things is starting your own year of small things with other people. In the book we use the phrase “covenantal friendship” to describe the kind of relationship where you and another person (or a couple people) promise to hold each other accountable to certain practices.

Hoping to get out of debt? Your covenantal friend’s going to ask you how that’s going.

Struggling to discern what hospitality looks like in your life? Your covenantal friend is going to pray about that with you and offer some ideas. Then he’s going to circle back in a month and ask again. And again.

Get the idea? A Year of Small Things is more doable when you’re not a lone ranger.

A great way to kick-start a conversation that can lead to a covenantal friendship is a book discussion group.

Don’t overthink this — this can be as organize as a small group (a life group) through your church or as casual as talking about the book on your couch with your best friend. Whatever your discussion group looks like, here are four ways to get the most out of your time together:

  1. Listen more than you speak. Take a note from us – if someone’s venting about how hard it is to get out of debt, don’t interrupt with seven ways they could boost their income or that story you love to tell about the time you went debt-free. That’s an awesome story, but save it for later. Practice the art of listening: respond with a suggestion, a gentle correction, or a word of encouragement as the Spirit compels you, but be slow to interrupt. Active listening wins points, too: sum up what your friend’s said before continuing on so they know you’re understanding their intentions (or they can clarify when you’re a bit off).
  2. When you’re thinking about your small things, remember to keep it small. For instance, don’t make the mistake in the Just Living chapter of making your goal to end world hunger. I hear you, but I’m wondering if it’s instead a better idea to give a grocery store gift card to that family you know who is struggling?
  3. Go back and read the full stories in the bible that we reference. Scripture’s a powerful way to keep the focus on what God’s doing through and saying to you, and not on how impossible your small things might seem.
  4. Go slow. The book covers a year. Reading the book quickly and expecting to start a bunch of new habits and practices isn’t going to be sustainable. Instead, read it all at once if you want, but pace yourself for starting new projects or goals. A calendar can help; so can returning to your book club throughout a year to check in.

    And hey, if you’re encouraged by the book, would you kindly leave a review about it on Goodreads or Amazon? We appreciate you sharing the love.

Mapping out the Year of Small Things

Mapping out the Year of Small Things

Early summer, two years ago:

I (Sarah) pitched an idea to our two families: what if we all took some of the “radical” Christian practices touted by folks like Shane Claiborne and his community The Simple Way and spent a year growing into them? Can downward mobility for Jesus actually happen with debt and diapers and dishes–in suburbia?

Here’s what this looks like on the ground:

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How to find your people (Hint: at church)

How to find your people (Hint: at church)

Dave and I didn’t have a lifelong mission statement, unlike some other people.

We married and had three kids in rapid succession. Since 2008, our lifelong ambition has been to hide the frozen yogurt from the kids.

On the spectrum of radical faith — with Jesus on one end and a bag of marshmallows on the other — Tom and Sarah have been edging ever closer to Jesus since before they were Tom and Sarah. On the other hand, Dave and I simply lived in a succession of beige-walled apartments and one cute single-family house, from Toledo to Lansing by way of Wisconsin.

We spent weeks at our newspaper jobs; weekends doing laundry and watching TV. We have never been arrested for demonstrating outside the Capitol. We haven’t had anyone stay at our house longer than a week or so.

Well, except our children. Do they count?  

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One lunch, one mission: desegregate ourselves by race and by class

One lunch, one mission: desegregate ourselves by race and by class

You know that feeling of regional vertigo, when you’ve been traveling so long that when you climb out of the car or step off the plane you can barely remember your own name, much less what state or country you’re in?

Maybe you’re hungry, and you think, “I’ll just grab a burrito from Cosmic Cantina on the way to the hotel,” and then you realize that Cosmic Cantina is roughly 867 miles away, and you haven’t a clue where to get food around here. Yeah, that. In addition to the bodily weirdness of traveling so far, there’s now a mini existential crisis, a spiritual displacement, as if your very identity, including the God you worship, is now up for grabs.

All because you walk on unfamiliar ground. Which is another way of saying that place matters.

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