I've had Joe Myers' book The Search to Belong; Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups for a year now, and I finally got around to reading it. I know others I admire have read it and appreciated it, so it was a happy circumstance when the book surfaced from beneath a pile of other books while I was tidying my room. It's somewhat timely as we are embarking on a new round of visioning in my congregation, and many of the ideas put forth in the book are directly applicable.
The main strength of the book is that Myers manages to provide a framework for defining belonging in a way that makes complete and utter sense. Myers exploration of public, social, personal and intimate spaces and belonging rings so very true.
Small groups can be tremendous places for personal growth and the development of relationships - but only with the right people and in the right circumstances. The drive to small group uber-intimacy (intimate belonging) at any cost in churches has been a tremendously damaging one, and this book helps to explain why. If 100,000 fans at a football game can have a great time and feel connected without knowing a single other soul there, why should that not be the case for church? Myers also quotes the tag line from the TV show Cheers "where everybody knows your name"(without attributing credit for it), but isn't it strange that a bar can have a more friendly, personable atmosphere than many churches. (And yes, the bar is fictional, but many English pubs and some US bars are just like that.)
Actually, the delineation of the social and personal dimensions is more important for church, as these are the levels most people need and are looking for, but which small group fiends despise the most.
Myers does lose the plot a bit with his "front porch" obsession and his totally inaccurate portrayal of the development of the US car industry post WW2 and it's being supplanted by the Japanese (I'm still scratching my head over that). That whole story comes out of left field and is poorly thought out, but I can forgive him that because the book ends very strongly with a very relevant case study.
One last thought - the goal of most church small group ministries is to create (but a better approach would be to facilitate) an intimate relationship with God. But having an intimate relationship with God does not mean that one has to have an intimate relationship with a bunch of other people. In fact, trying to force the latter on people is most likely to hinder the former. That is the point that many small group ministries miss. Myers does a great job of exposing the error.