What I mean by “create a magnet” is to make your group attractive. Give it some pull.
At Macalester College in St. Paul, MN where I work, a student named Rut and myself started a discussion on Roger Olson’s The Story of Christian Theology. A wonderful book that surveys the development of theology throughout the centuries, from the early church through the Reformation to our own day.
It wasn’t long before Kyle heard about the discussion, so he joined. That made three of us.
Now it so happens that Kyle and Rut are whiz kids at taking potentially dry topics and turning them to sport (soteriological synergism vs. monergism — the laughs never stop . . . ).
Word of this strange combo of scholarship and mirth reached the ear of our friend Ben. Then there were four.
For two months Ben, Kyle, Rut and myself plowed through St. Anselm, Peter Abelard, Thomas Aquinas and the scholastics. When we hit Erasmus, Bekah joined up, then Andy. That makes six.
* * *
I’ve seen so many times in my travels around the country that mediocrity is everywhere. But quality expands.
If you offer something unique and challenging inside the strong bonds of community, you have a great chance of growing.
In this case, a bit of merriment around the edges of, say, the study of Christological heresies, goes a long way.
Plus everyone is into the discussion and everyone does the reading. And in fact if they don’t do the readings they can’t be in the group — a firm requirement which makes the group even more of a magnet for new people.
Set a high standard and they will come. Set the bar low — perhaps, ironically, to be more accessible and inclusive, and things are likely to backfire.
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