Small groups are an important part of the life and development of a local church. Just knowing that small groups are a good idea isn’t enough. There needs to be some practical things in place to make sure that your “small group” is more than just a group of people hanging out.
Here Are Ten Tips To Make The Most Of Small Group Meetings
- Have a plan. Your small group meetings will flounder and fail without a plan. “Have a plan” sounds like a fairly obvious point. However, often small groups come “just to share what God has laid on our heart,” or “just explain what this passage says to me,” yet lacking a real purpose. There’s no need for a super-structured group meeting, but there should be some sort of plan. “Just sharing” is great, but you’ll probably need more than that to qualify for a productive plan.
- Don’t focus on food. I’m all about food, but it can distract from the goal of a small group meeting. Nothing, of course, is inherently wrong with food, but someone has to purchase it, prepare it, serve it, and clean up afterwards. And then not everyone enjoys Pizza Hut. Or someone’s going to get allergic to the walnuts in the brownies. And, of course, someone has to eat it. If you must, serve refreshments after your meeting. Avoid the distraction.
- Allow a diversity of leadership. Small group meetings are a wonderful way to cultivate leadership in your church. A pastor or elder need not be part of every single small group. This allows more opportunity for others to exercise their spiritual gifts.
- Meet in people’s homes. Somehow, the personal and close interaction of an individual’s home fosters relationship-building on a deeper level. Make it a point to keep small groups in homes, not in the church facilities.
- Keep it small. The whole idea of a small group is that it’s small. Put a cap on the size. 10-12 people is probably the upper end of the small group size spectrum.
- Make it varied and flexible. Small group meetings don’t need to slavishly adhere to a strict schedule. The dynamic nature of small groups encourages spontaneity, variety, and flexibility. Rather than meet in the Smith’s home one night, meet in the Jones’s. Or, if everyone’s itching to get outside, have it on the back porch—or in the nearby park, or by the pool (not in it). You can also vary the approach of your meeting. Perhaps one small group meeting can be devoted exclusively to prayer, while another meeting would be a discussion of a recent sermon that pastor preached.
- Be welcoming. Don’t allow small groups to degenerate into cliques. One of the best things about small groups is that they provide a wonderful evangelistic tool. A group of friends gathering at a neighbor’s house can be a much less threatening environment for your unsaved friend than a church service. Be welcoming to people who aren’t part of the “in crowd” at church, or people who seem to be on the fringes. Small groups can be a lifesaver for such people.
- Practice communion. It may sound avant-garde. Communion, outside the church? Not using the little plastic cup thingies? Not eating the tiny little tasteless crackers? Practicing communion in homes, with a real meal, is a biblically authentic and refreshing alternative to the traditional method. Communion or the Lord’s Supper need not be restricted to the church building, provided it is administered in keeping with the Bible’s teaching on the issue. It is an ideal way to practice the church’s ordinances in a more meaningful way.
- Avoid sermons. Small groups aren’t for sermons. That’s what happens on Sunday morning. Small groups are for sharing, praying, learning, asking, wondering, crying, laughing, and learning in a whole new way. The value of small groups is in the fundamental differences from what happens in other areas of church life. No sermons needed.
- Pray. Maintain a focus on prayer. It’s easy to slip into the spectator-prayer that happens in the local church. Prayer is for all believers, and small groups are a wonderful way to improve the health of a local church.
This is just a start. Is there anything that shouldn’t be on this list? What other things can be done to make sure that small groups are productive and useful?