By Reid Smith
When people visit your small group for the first time, they come with all sorts of questions. “Will we like it?” “Will we connect with the people there?” “Will this be helpful for us?” Just showing up can be intimidating because they don’t know how they’ll be received, if they’ll feel like they “fit,” and if they’ll want to return.
And that’s human nature, of course—most people feel less than relaxed entering a new social situation with new people in a new place. But there are things you can do as the small-group leader to help ease any tension that guests may be feeling. Here are some tips to help your guests feel more comfortable, received, and accepted in your small group.
By: Sam O’Neal
This is a common problem, and usually happens when small groups begin to cool off from their initial period of connection and growth. Let me give you three things to think about.
First, don’t be hesitant to bring this situation to the attention of the group as a whole. Here’s a little excerpt from the Small Group Leaders’ Handbook that gives some great advice:
Over a stretch of time it is not uncommon for groups to lose their focus and grow sloppy in aspects of their group life. Often, as a result, members will become uneasy with the loss of momentum. These times are critical junctures in the group’s life. The group can either continue to deteriorate or choose to “clean up its act.”
… Often it is the leader who recognizes the problem. It is much healthier to address it than to pretend it doesn’t exist or hope it will simply disappear. It takes courage to talk about it with the group, but God will frequently use such frank discussions to trigger a time of spiritual renewal. Go for it; it’s worth it!
by Steve Gladen
Fellowship is the foundation for health and balance in any small group. True Christian fellowship, however, goes deeper than merely “hanging out”. It requires commitment and intentional focus on the part of the small group leader and members. All small groups experiencing authentic fellowship have certain traits in common. I was inspired by a sermon Rick Warren did on the topic of fellowship not too long ago. As you work to build the foundation of fellowship in your small group ministry, you need to keep these questions in mind:
Is frequency happening in your groups? Every group needs face time with each other. If you are going to build a friendship, it is going to take spending time with each other. If you are going to build a marriage, it is going to take spending time with each other. If you are going to build into your children, it is going to take spending time with each other. It is no different with the people in your small group ministry. If they are going to have authentic fellowship with each other, they need to spend time with each other. If they are not friends with each other, then frequency of meeting could be part of the problem.
The people in my small group are my friends. Getting together isn’t a chore; instead, it is something I look forward to. That didn’t happen immediately. When we first started meeting, it took “formal” time together build the groundwork for healthy fellowship. Formal time is the time you get together for your regular small group meeting. For my small group, that is Friday nights from 7:00 to 9:00. You might ask, do groups have to meet weekly. My answer is, it all depends on how quickly you want to build fellowship. The frequency of meeting determines not only if the group will continue to meet, but how deep that group will go spiritually.
Another strong component of frequency is the “informal” meeting times. Those are times when you get together with the people in your group outside of the formal meeting time. It might be for barbecues, coffee, dinner, special occasions, vacations, children activities, shopping, sports, etc. When you start meeting frequently for informal times, you need increases for the formal meetings. When you start meeting frequently for informal occasions, the tendency is to want to skip the formal meetings because you are already spending so much time together. This can be the death of your group. Without the formal time to study and reflect on God’s word, your group can easily slip into a social group with no purpose. The formal group meetings help maintain focus and distinguishes the small group from a gathering of friends. How often do your groups meet?
Is authenticity happening in your groups? James 5:16 in the Living Bible says, “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed…” How do you promote that kind of authenticity in your groups? Obviously frequency of meeting plays a big part in setting the stage. But there is more at play for authenticity to happen in your groups. People can hide all they want, but as Proverbs says, they become a fine glaze on a cracked pot. Authenticity happens when the inside of you mirrors the outside. When what happens in the dark, happens in the light. One of the hardest things to share in a group is your faults, why? Because this shows people you are human, you aren’t perfect, and you are flawed. You think this would be easy, since there isn’t one of us who would say we are perfect. But it isn’t. We don’t want to admit we are not perfect to other people. As the leader of the small group ministry, this starts with you. If you want group members to be authentic, you have to model authenticity and you have to encourage your small groups to be safe places for people to meet. Authenticity can only happen within a safe environment. What is said in group stays in group. This must be clearly and repeatedly communicated to every group. When people feel safe, they are more likely to share a flaw – and be authentic. Are you groups creating environments where members feel safe enough to be authentic? As the leader of the small group ministry, are you modeling authenticity?
Is support happening in your groups? This happens in three primary areas; accountability, encouragement and honoring. Accountability happens through togetherness. Accountability is like having your own personal life coach. When you are alone, you are vulnerable. Ecclesiastes 4:10 in the NLT says, ‘If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble.” When I had my mountain biking accident last December, had I been alone it could have been far more serious than it was. But because I had a friend with me, he was able to help me and calm me down when I wasn’t sure how bad it was. It was bad, but knowing someone was with me helped. Scripture is constantly pointing out that we are always better together than alone. Accountability doesn’t happen programmatically, but organically. You can’t assign accountability; it has to be a desire of the person.
Real maturity happens when you realize you can’t do it alone and in every facet of life you need someone to partner/coach you so you are better. No one person can support you in every situation life brings. I have different people who coach me in different areas of my life. They help me be better than if I was alone. Who are your coaches?
Encouragement has power. In Hebrews 3:13 encouragement has the power to restrain sin and in 1 Thessalonians 5:14b it can build up the weak, help people feels apart or connected. Throughout scripture encouragement is promoted to build the body up. Do you encourage your small group leaders and members? If not, why not? Does it take too much time? Are you too discouraged yourself to encourage another? Do you feel uncomfortable reaching out to encourage another? Whatever the reason you don’t encourage, the Bible won’t support your actions—I know, not very encouraging! Does encouragement happen as regularly in your groups as you eating? Snacks seem to be much easier than encouraging another Christian. But we need to be feeding each other in spiritual ways.
Honoring is a cousin of encouragement, but it tends to be more of a group event. Whereas encouragement happens more individually, honoring happens best through the group. What are things your groups can be honoring and celebrating? Well it can be anything, but here are a few things you might want to suggest:
Any occasion is a great time to honor someone or speak into their life. How are you encouraging your groups to support each other?
Article taken from smallgroups.net.
NOTE: If you would like to discuss how you can further develop the fellowship aspect of your McLane small group, we’d enjoy talking with you! Just drop us an email at [email protected], or call 814-734-1907 ext. 40.
Looking for a wonderful way to worship with your group? Share the Lord’s Supper together. It can be especially meaningful after a time of confession, a period of loss or grief, or after experiencing an answer to prayer. If you’ve never done this before, the idea can seem daunting, but it’s easier than you think.
A wonderful email popped into my in basket a while ago that impressed me. It was from Andrea Myers to the members of the women’s small group that she was leading at that time. She was getting ready to restart the group following the summer break. With her permission, I want to share it with you as a great example of how all of us can help our groups ramp up to be ready to move into the next study.
We will be starting our ladies bible study this Thursday, September 19 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at my house. If you have not already purchased the book, you can purchase it online using the link below. 2 Peter is a very short book. If you can, please read through all of 2 Peter (there are only 3 chapters) before we meet on Thursday. Study 1 is entitled “The Finish Line (overview)”.
I just wanted to set the stage a little for you. Hopefully, this helps to understand the book a little better:
- The Apostle Peter was the author of the book (although this has been disputed, because of this, 2 Peter was the last book admitted to the canon of the New Testament Scriptures)
- The audience was the church at large
- The book was written approximately A.D. 67
Peter wrote this book kind of like “his last will and testament”…..so that he might preserve a record of what he believed. His fear was that as the church grew and got further away from the death and resurrection of Jesus that it might not be good. We might want to think of 2 Peter as the “original recipe”…. the grassroots of our church…what Peter (the closest apostle to Jesus) thought the church should look like and what should be at the core of our faith.Have a good week and I’ll see you on Thursday,
Thanks, Andrea, and a tip of the hat to all of you who are going the extra mile to help your group members better understand the background of the Scripture that you are studying. Contextual information is one way to make the Bible resonate with readers who are less familiar with God’s Word. All good study Bibles have this kind of material in them at the beginning of each book.
If you don’t have a study Bible, you may purchase a copy of the one we are selling at the Welcome Center for $25. How about your group? Have you tried any ideas to help your gang have success with your study? Maybe you supplemented the study guide with additional resources. Perhaps you used a video to enhance key aspects of the material you were reading. Or maybe a music video helped bring a worship component into your group time. What creative ideas have you tried out that you can share with us and the other group leaders who are reading this? Let us know by dropping an email to [email protected]
For the first time, I’m using a private Facebook group to foster connections within my small group-and it’s been an extremely useful tool. If your group members have Facebook accounts, consider using this free tool that will allow you to connect in new ways throughout the week.
When setting up a Facebook group, be sure to make it a “secret” group. This will ensure that only the members of the group will be able to see posts. This means they will not show up on newsfeeds or on individual members’ profiles. A secret group will allow your group members to share with confidence.
Smart Phone Ready
If you’re looking for a way to instantly contact all your members at once, look no further-especially if your group members have smartphones. Group members’ phones will alert them that there’s a new message for them on Facebook.
You may have seen this funny video already…if not, get ready for a few grins. Hopefully your small group looks nothing like the one this guy is leading!
I opened my e-mail today to find this message,
“I just wanted to touch bases with you and keep you updated about our group. We met last night for the first time. I was VERY nervous going into it, as I have never led a small group before, but I think things went well. We have a little group, but I think it’ll work best for each of us participating. We’re keeping things low-key, because we all seem a little skittish. Onward and upward!”
Later, a small group host texted me saying,
“Reason #47 for having a small group: It forces you to keep your house clean! (they r coming in 5 minutes!)
It can be a lot of effort to have a small group! The work, anxiousness and questions cause us to wonder if it’s worth it. “Will anyone come?” “Will they come back?” “Will I lead it right?” “Will they like it?” Then there are the calls about scheduling conflicts and cancelations. You may even feel a little put-out that their effort doesn’t seem to be matching your own. If you haven’t felt these things yet, you probably will. Remember, these are VERY normal feelings. I have them all the time, though it gets easier the more you host small groups. I have found a few tips (there are many more) that keep me going.
1. You are part of a team effort that includes many, many small group leaders who are working with you to be salt and light in our region. You are reaching people in a unique way that a church service cannot do. This “team” also includes centuries of Christians (read Hebrews 11 and 12) who have met in their homes to love, learn and live the Word of God.
Colossians 1:6 says, “This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.”
2. You will begin to experience new spiritual growth. Nothing grows our spirituality like taking small steps in leadership. You’ll be forced to grapple with the depth of your faith, because it takes work and commitment. Whether it is cleaning house or hosting a group, spiritual leadership is not as distance and supernatural as we often think of it. The urgency of responsibility will cause you to grow more quickly. But this is what we want, isn’t it? Who wants a watered-down, slow-moving faith? I heard a great quote once:
“Leadership will take you kicking and screaming where you really want to go!”
You will grow more when you host…lots more!…than if you just attend or participate.
Philippians 2:13 “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
3. You will pray with a new humility and awareness. Spirituality for all of us comes from Jesus and we need our confidence to rest fully in Him.
Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
4. Keep things “low-key.” No one likes a know-it-all, so don’t be one. Leaders are learners too.
5. Enjoy the journey. It’s about the people, not the program. People have life journeys they are living. Your program is important, but it must be flexible to people’s real life. After all, God is flexible to meet us in our ordinary life.
6. Share your journey with other leaders. It helps to hear another leader say “Onward and upward!”
7. There are bonuses to small groups that must be celebrated! Friendships gained. Prayers answered. Truth spoken. …And a clean house!
Let’s pray for each other from Philippians 1:
“that our love will overflow more and more and that we will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.”
Have a great week and, as always, keep in touch!
The purpose of this exercise is to help increase each group member’s skill as a listener by practicing “active listening.” Divide your people into groups of three. Each person is to take his turn at being a P (problem presenter), L (listener), and O (observer). Active listening is a way of showing love based on the theory that a person has the necessary resources within himself to solve his own problems, provided he is aware that there is someone interested enough to hear what he is saying in a nonjudgmental way. Therefore, the active part of active listening is the “feedback” that the listener gives to let the problem presenter know he has accurately heard what is being said and felt. The active listener neither judges nor offers solutions. The active listener merely tries to hear, understand, and let the person know he understands what is being said and felt.
5 minutes: P presents his problem while L listens (actively).
2 minutes: P and L talk over feelings and ideas that came out of the first five minutes.
2 minutes: O reports his observations to P and L.
P: Choose a real, current, personal problem dealing with interpersonal relationships that can be presented and understood in five minutes. Try to get real help with this problem. Try to connect any changes in feeling with the responses given by L.
L: Listen thoughtfully to the problem presented. Your task is not to give advice, but to let P know you understand what he is saying. This can be done by remaining silent and just listening, asking open-ended questions that allow P to move forward, reflecting back in your own words what you think you have heard P say, and sharing similar experiences in which you have been involved, not to provide an answer, but to let P know you can identify with his problem.
0: Listen carefully, keep track of the time, and note how well L does on the following checklist:
1. Was L listening for feelings and trying to understand?
2. Did L recognize P’s problem as legitimate?
3. Did L remember that his first aim was to learn to love?
4. Were L’s questions open-ended or were they leading questions?
5. Did L resist the temptation to express his own convictions while he was trying to learn to know P?
Change positions until everyone has played each role.
*Used by permission of Discipleship Journal. Copyright 1989, The Navigators. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. To subscribe, visit www.discipleshipjournal.com, or call (800) 877-1811.
You’ve prepared for your group meeting….prayed for God’s guidance and His blessing on your time together. You’ve reviewed the curriculum and thought through the answers that you think might be given for the questions that will be discussed. Then at the meeting one person in the group asks a question that you hadn’t expected. It’s a good question…and you’re not sure what a good answer might be to their query.
How do you handle this situation? Give a quickie answer that you’ve not really thought through? Ignore the question? Pretend you’re ill and excuse yourself from the room? 😉
If it hasn’t happened to you yet…it will at some point. A prepared leader can handle these situations with wisdom and grace. Check out this video training from RightNow Media* for some tips on how you might react in this situation.