Every group is set up in different ways. Some are open while others are closed. Open groups allow new people to join at random. These groups are ongoing and do not have an official beginning or end. Closed groups have a set date to begin and end with no new members allowed to join once the group has started. Either way this rule on timeliness and attendance is essential for success.
If the group is open, the group rules will need to be read and discussed every time a new member joins. This can be tedious, but it is necessary. If it is closed, the rules will only need to be brought up at the beginning or when someone has broken the rule.
The facilitator should let participants know that when this rule gets broken, it can hinder the progress of individuals and the group as a whole. Tardiness disrupts the flow and often requires the facilitator to repeat what they have already said. That is not fair for those who arrived on time. More importantly, a latecomer can ruin an emotional or breakthrough moment. For example, a participant might be processing with the group, allowing themselves to be transparent and vulnerable. If someone suddenly walks in, the focus turns toward them. Meanwhile, the person who was about to experience the benefits of a group dynamic loses out . The moment is lost and so is the opportunity.
To ensure a proper flow from the beginning of group, the facilitator needs to set a time limit for tardiness and be a stickler for it. Some counselors may offer a five minute window while others give 15 minutes. No matter what the time limit is, the participants must know the facilitator will follow through with the rule. If the facilitator lets some members break the rule without any consequences, others will not be worried or concerned when they are late. And it can quickly become a habit for all.
It is good rule of thumb to encourage participants to arrive 10 minutes ahead of time. This lets them relax, get a beverage or talk with the facilitator and other members before the group starts.
If a participant is going to be absent, they should let the facilitator or another group member know. The same is true if they are going to be late. The group members will usually ask where so and so is. It is good to have an answer. Group members tend to worry about each other if bonding has occurred.
The group facilitator needs to set a good example by being at least 20 minute early. It is their job to set the room up and make it comfortable and ready for the participants. A Christian counselor should pray over the room and the members as a whole before the group walks in. Prayer covering is essential to the group flow.