Small groups build community and help new church members feel more connected to the local church. A smaller setting helps shrink down a large congregation to smaller, more intimate gatherings where members can establish deeper roots.
No matter how each group is formed, there are some practical elements to consider when launching a brand-new group. Here are four steps every small group should take in the beginning.
1. Establish a realistic schedule: Consistency is key for a flourishing small group. Scheduling time around families, jobs and various life circumstances can be difficult. When starting a small group, take an honest look at the calendar to plan meeting times that work.
There is no way to accommodate or anticipate the schedule of the entire group, but it is a healthy practice to set expectations. Make sure each meeting date is treated with a high level of commitment, even if it is every other week. Remember it takes time to adjust to a new routine. Allow grace, but also make sure meeting times are prioritized.
2. Do not commit to a study immediately: A new small group needs time to develop friendships and connections. It might not be the best idea to immediately launch into a full book study when launching a new group. Allow some time for everyone to get comfortable sharing and adjusting to the various personalities.
In the first few weeks, let each member share their testimony or go out and share a meal together. Once a firm foundation has been established, you can open the discussion to a book or Bible study. Finding the right material for a group is easier once you know the personality of the group.
3. Set clear expectations for every meeting: Small groups can easily become a session of oversharing and rambling. Establish a clear vision for every meeting. The format and structure can vary, but make sure every aspect is achieved every meeting. It can be a time of sharing, prayer and Bible study. It is healthy practice to set expectations.
Decide which elements are most important for your small group in order to best reach every member resulting in an effective ministry. In the same way, set a time frame for each meeting. Establish a respectable time cap to prevent each meeting from turning into a two-hour long session. It can become taxing when small group meetings exceed a certain point.
4. Establish a centralized form of communication: Take time during the first meeting to establish a proper form of communication for all members. Find the best form for communication for your group and stick to it. This helps establish a good foundation for your group to communicate any needs or concerns throughout the week.
A group text or a mid-week email can be a simple way to check-in with each member. It is also a helpful way to connect with members who may miss a meeting. A consistent platform of communication helps with making sure weekly studies and prayer requests are shared and accounted for.
Community and small groups are often the entryway for church members to feel a sense of ownership. Healthy, Christian friendships and accountability flourish in small group settings. They are also vital to spiritual growth and discipleship. Take time to establish these foundational pieces to increase the longevity of each group.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article first appeared at Vanderbloemen.com. Used by permission.)