Few other tasks in the family of God surpass the contribution by those who are willing to make disciples of Jesus through small groups. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind.
• Remember you are not alone. God knows everything about you, and He knew you would be asked to lead your group. Even though you may not feel ready to lead, this is common for all good leaders. God promises, “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you” ( Hebrews 13:5 TEV).
• Don’t try to do it alone. Pray right now for God to help you build a healthy leadership team. If you can enlist an apprentice, a co-leader to help you lead the group, you will find your experience much richer. This is your chance to involve as many people as you can in building a healthy group. All you have to do is ask people to help and you’ll be surprised at the response.
• Be friendly and just be yourself. God wants to use your unique gifts and temperament. Be sure to greet people at the door with a big smile. This can set the mood for the whole gathering. Remember, THEY are taking a big step to show up at your house! Relax and admit that you are human, when you don’t have an answer, acknowledge it, and apologize when you make a mistake. It will encourage others to know that it is a safe place to share about mistakes and shortcomings.
• Prepare for your meeting ahead of time. Prepare your own heart by completing allowing the Bible study material to soak into your life. Teaching unloved truth can be very stale. If your group is covering the homework from the weekend service, make sure that you complete this assignment and prayerfully consider which questions are strategic for group discussion. The goal is to assist your group to live what the Bible teaches, not just talk about it, so share from your heart how God is leading you in application.
• Pray for your group members by name. Before you begin your session, take a few moments and pray for each member by name. You may want to review the prayer list at least once a week. Ask God to use your time together to touch the heart of every person uniquely. Expect God to lead you to whomever He wants you to encourage or challenge in a special way. If you listen, God will surely lead. Consider having your co-leader, your apprentice come one half hour before others show up, so you can pray together for the group.
• When you ask a question, be patient. Someone will eventually respond. Sometimes people need a moment or two of silence to think about the question. If silence doesn’t bother you, it won’t bother anyone else. After someone responds, affirm the response with a simple “thanks” or “great answer.” Then ask, “How about somebody else?” or “Would someone who hasn’t shared like to add anything?” Be sensitive to new people or reluctant members who aren’t ready to say, pray, or do anything. If you give them a safe setting, they will blossom over time.
• Break into smaller groups occasionally. With a greater opportunity to talk in a small circle, people will connect more with the study, apply more quickly what they’re learning, and ultimately get more out of it. A small circle also encourages a quiet person to participate and tends to minimize the effects of a more vocal or dominant member.
Small circles are also helpful during prayer time. People who are unaccustomed to praying aloud will feel more comfortable trying it with just two or three others. Also, prayer requests won’t take as much time, so circles will have more time to actually pray. When you gather back with the whole group, you can have one person from each circle briefly update everyone on the prayer requests from their sub-groups. The other great aspect of sub-grouping is that it fosters leadership development. As you ask people in the group to facilitate discussion or to lead a prayer circle, it provides them with a small leadership step/opportunity that can build their confidences as future leaders.
• Don’t rush through the lesson. The curriculum is meant to be your servant, not your master. Do not feel obligated to get through all the content in the study guide. Be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit during your group meeting.
• Rotate discussion facilitators occasionally. You may be perfectly capable of leading each time, but you will help others grow in their faith and gifts if you give them opportunities to facilitate the discussion.
• One final challenge. Prayerfully consider that God is calling you to shepherd your Small Group. There is a big difference between someone who is simply volunteering and one who is sensing that this is what God has “called me to do.” This means that you care for them and guide them on the path to spiritual maturity. Read the following passages and prepare your heart for the adventure that the Lord has for you.
- Matthew 9:35-38
- John 10:14-15
- 1 Peter 5:2-4
- Philippians 2:1-5
- Hebrews 10:23-25
- 1 Thessalonians 2:7
- 1 Thessalonians 2:8
- 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12
Healthy groups share responsibilities and group ownership. It might take some time for this to develop. Shared ownership ensures no one person has responsibility for the group. Use the calendar to keep track of social events, mission projects, birthdays, or days off. Complete this calendar at your first or second meeting. Planning ahead will increase attendance and shared ownership as you ask people to provide refreshments, lead in worship, announcements or prayer.