Call them small groups, connection groups, growth groups, life groups or fun bunch but they are the current trend for mid to large sized churches. I’ve been to several of these and led or co-led a few so I have some tips for members and leaders,
Tips For Members
- Join one if you possibly can. If you want to get the most out of your mid to large sized church join a small group and a serve team. That’s how you get to know people and do life together. It is also the main vehicle for discipleship at many churches (rightly or wrongly).
- Plan carefully – figure out how the group will fit into your current life patterns. Be realistic. Also you have to get there and back, figure that in as well. If you have any bent or skill in the area actually do a daily life flow and see if you can make it work. Also assume that whatever time is posted will be exceeded by a half hour.
- This one won’t be a favorite for some church leaders but if you find you are stretched too thin before the first meeting don’t go to the first meeting. As a leader I don’t worry about the sign ups that don’t show up but if they show up and leave I start to wonder why. Not stress over it but I do wonder. I’m proudest of the fact that even though my recent group was small all but two of the attendees were at the last meeting and attended more than half of the sessions. Two people dropped out but one only showed up at the pre-group meeting.
- Do your reading and other prep work. The group is much more enjoyable and useful when you can participate in discussion with knowledge of what the group is focused on.
- Talk but don’t monopolize the discussion. Two ears and one mouth. The quiet person learns more.
- Whatever the topic the main focus of most groups is building relationships. They aren’t college courses and you aren’t getting credits. Its about doing life together
Tips For Leaders
- Each church has a separate process for becoming a small group leader. But IMHO you shouldn’t be a leader until you’ve attended at least 3 small groups at the church you are planning to lead out by two if not three different leaders. This is in addition to any co-leading your church requires as part of their small group leader training process. In order to be a good leader you should know what the experience is like from the perspective of those attending.
- Careful consider the workload. Some groups require much more than others. If you are doing a DVD based group you might just have to watch the section you are showing, any associated readings and think of a few points. If you are actually teaching a lesson that prep time increases significantly. Also either way think that you have to send emails, get any snacks and aides for studying and that your members might have needs they want you to help them with. Remember that churches intend to farm out some of those pastoral duties to their small group leaders. A church that has a sizable small group program also has more needs than the pastor and staff can handle.
- The venue: a church or public site based group will probably attract more members, especially those who haven’t attended a small group before. A group in your home will be more comfy (assuming your home is set up to accommodate the amount of people that come) and will probably develop that openness and relationships we look to create through small groups.
- If a member drops don’t be offended, life happens. If they are late it is probably a COMPLIMENT and should be treated as such. They find you group important enough that they take time out of their busy lives (hence the lateness) to come. Of course that isn’t always true but unless you KNOW differently assume it.
- They aren’t going to do their reading. Not all of them. So plan ways around that so all your members can participate. The DVD is a easy way but if there isn’t one there are other ways to make sure they can participate. Again, life happens.
- Remember whatever the curriculum its about the relationships your group develops with each other. The actual topic comes behind love God and love others.
- HUMBLE: if that’s an issue for you resolve it before becoming a leader. Its likely one of your members will know more than you or be able to make a point better than you did. Be thankful that they are making your group better. In. most cases you still get the credit! (And knowing that is very humble lol).
- Refrain from unnecessary discussions about politics and ESPECIALLY other preachers. You may think Benny Hinn is a heretic, your group probably doesn’t need to know that. Teach them to discern that for themselves (not saying Reverend Hinn is, just a convenient example).
- Try to avoid direct advice with members who you aren’t familiar with outside of the group. You really don’t know their situation, you only know what they tell you. Try to direct them back to the Bible, to prayer and to come to their own conclusion. There are exceptions. Getting them saved, keeping them and those around them safe and directing them away from obvious sin (“No God hasn’t called you to sleep with another man’s wife”) are a few.
- Plan for a chatty and a silent group until you know what you got. Of course the chatter will increase as the group goes along. If it decreases that might be an issue that needs to be figured out.
- Get them out on time. Respect that they have lives outside your group. Having an end point and an option to stay if desired is a great option.
- Followup. But not too much. No communication leaves people confused (especially for biweekly groups or ones that run through the holiday season), too much makes them feel badgered.
Note: I addressed this to small group leaders, not small group teachers. Obviously if your group is teacher focused you will have to figure out what you are trying to leave them with and how you will get the point across. But many groups use a DVD to teach or are activity based.
The most important thing is that relationships between each other and God are the real goal. Seeing two of the group members in “my” group had met at my group and were sitting next to each other at church was the highlight of my group. That’s what its about.