Then I pulled Amazon.com's recommendation to me for a book about small groups from the pile of "on deck" books -- The Search to Belong by Joseph R. Myers. (Amazon knows what I like. :-) )
What a contrast. I am greatly enjoying it. It talks about how people look for belonging at four levels -- public, social, personal, and intimate. Public belonging is still belonging and not inferior to other levels of belonging. It's the type of belonging people find at bingo night or with a special-interest group, where you know people from the group at a certain level and enjoy being part of the "family", but don't really know (or particularly care to know) them on a personal level.
It turns out the author isn't particularly supportive of the philosophy that says all true ministry in the church happens in small groups. Good things do indeed happen in small groups but it's hard to force people into such fellowship. It's better if the groups form spontaneously in an environment that nurtures such groupings without forcing them.
Although I'm enjoying the book, so far only one quote has made it into my quote collection. I'll share it here:
"Be at peace. People connect and are motivated to connect in all four spaces [public, social, personal, intimate]. It is our charge to invite the stranger in. We do not invite strangers in for intimacy. We invite them in so they will no longer be strangers. We give space and they find family, belonging, and community. So gently knock and wait for them to invite you in."