At present, four out of every ten Americans belong to a small group that meets regularly and provides caring and support for its members. This means that 75 million adults are now banding together in Sunday school classes, Bible study groups, Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs, youth and singles groups, book discussion groups, sports and hobby clubs, and political and civic confraternities. Together this adds up to over three million active groups.
In this book, sociologist Robert Wuthnow looks at this phenomenon and what it all means. He has interviewed 1,000 support group members and closely studied 12 groups in a three-year research project.
Nearly two-thirds of all small groups have some connection with churches and synagogues. For millions of Americans, membership in a small group has become a shared spiritual journey where emotional support is provided.
The three top reasons for joining a group are the desire to grow as a person, being invited by someone you know, and wanting to become more disciplined in your spiritual life. Wuthnow provides insights into the ways these groups operate. The most interesting section of the book is on small groups and the sacred. Here Wuthnow looks at faith, closeness to God, answer to prayer, Biblical knowledge, and the power of stories.
The author is critical of what he calls the spread of a "domesticated" spirituality which is shallow and too accommodating to the secular culture. He challenges small groups to move on to a higher plane by serving a wider community and providing a more in-depth vision of the sacred. Sharing the Journey's main virtue is its excellent overview of an important subject.