A Co-Ed Affair
At the beginning of last year, we as a staff and a leadership team began asking ourselves “why” we segregate the genders in our community groups. Genders aren’t segregated at school, work, or even church, except for in small groups. It’s not like we split our room down the middle on Friday nights like a Jr high dance and say guys on this side and girls on that side. We worship together. We serve together. We fellowship together. The only thing we don’t do, is spend time intentionally talking about the Bible together and praying for each other.
So it seems odd that we would segregate the genders in a small group. Why wouldn’t we want guys and girls growing in grace together in the context of small group?
Unfortunately, many girls and guys have a hard time talking about spiritual things together. When they fellowship, it’s really just hanging out and having fun. And there’s nothing wrong with hanging out and having fun, but shouldn’t our fellowship also be spiritual in nature? Shouldn’t Christian guys and girls know how to discuss theology, and do ministry together?
When we look to the Bible, we don’t see this kind of segregation of genders being presented:
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” (Romans 12:4-6)
Paul taught that “every member” of the body of Christ has certain gifts that they are to contribute to the common good of the church. And the gifts he lists are not specified by gender. It’s not like he says: “guys usher” and “girls greet” because guys are so strong and girls are so kind. He simply lays out the gifts that the Holy Spirit grants to all people. And what is crucial to understand is that the gifts are both spiritual and interpersonal. What I mean by that is they are not tied to the physical aspect of who we are and they require relationships to exercise them. So the idea is all of us have gifts, regardless of our masculinity or femininity, to use for the spiritual building up of every other member in the church. And there is no better context to exercise those gifts than in a community group.
Inspecting the Fruit
Not only is this truth seen in the scriptures, but we have seen it in everyday life. The more we interacted within small group settings of mixed genders, we could see the spiritual fruit that was being produced. From co-ed leadership meetings to our campus clubs, we have seen how women can challenge the thinking of men in ways that other men would never be able to, and we have seen how women’s mindsets can be broadened by getting a male perspective. The truth is, God has created us differently for a reason. He has crafted each gender with specific strengths and weaknesses that are meant to complement one another, and that’s why gospel-centered friendship within the context of a community group can lead to a lot of growth. But we realize that in a church culture that has done groups very differently for so long there is going to be some growing pains. So here are the two objections that we have heard most often, and some thoughts that hopefully set your minds at ease.
- I won’t be as transparent with the opposite sex.
Certainly there are issues that you will be more likely to keep hidden in front of the opposite sex. Typically issues related to sexual sin and in some cases relationships. A girl in a group whose sitting next to her crush, Joe, probably won’t be like, “Hey everyone, keep me in prayer I really like Joe and I’m praying he’ll like me too!” There are obviously things that are best kept to just your guy-friends or girl-friends. And we recognize that there is a very important place in a community for same gender discipleship.
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” (Titus 2:3-5)
Because of this truth, we are dedicating one meeting throughout the month to be just the guys hanging with guys and the girls fellowshipping with the girls, so that those issues can be properly worked out as a group. Also it’s important to understand that community and accountability are not restricted to that 1 ½ hour window every week. You can meet up with your leader at other points, text your friends of the same gender, or talk over girl or guy issues over coffee with a friend. We aren’t saying there’s no place for same gender ministry. But there’s no good reason why most issues and struggles can’t be shared in a co-ed group. Why can’t you discuss pride, your temper, your struggle with trusting God to provide for you, your confusion over a passage of scripture, your lack of desire for reading the Bible, your concern for your unsaved family member, your problems with your co-worker or a million other issues? In truth a coed situation will help groups to stop only talking about particular issues and broaden the discussion a bit.
- Won’t people come with ulterior motives?
Like what? To find a spouse? Probably, but don’t single people come to church in general with that motive at least buried down deep in their list of motives? Aren’t all of you hoping to at some point meet your spouse here? “No, church isn’t for that. I’m hoping to meet them at the bar!” Come on. If some of you met your spouses in community group, I’d see that as a win. That being said, I know that there’s the fear that someone could come to the group who is a total creeper and is only there for the ladies, or some stocker-girl that’s only there to find her ‘Adam.’ In those extreme cases (which happens at church too, not just small groups) it’s your leadership team’s job to identify that issue and to deal with it accordingly. Don’t let that stop you from joining meaningful community.
Change isn’t easy, and there’s no doubt that there will be a few kinks in this new co-ed community group system, but ultimately our conviction from the scriptures and our experience has taught us that this endeavor is well worth the effort. Don’t isolate yourself and slow your spiritual progress. Get into a community group today and see how the grace of God that flows from His people can transform your life.