By Robert Noland
Launching a new small group is no small task.
There are several details to think through—what will the group study, who will lead the meetings, will kids be welcome, and will anyone even show up?
Recruiting a leader and group members is only the beginning. These often-overlooked group dynamics are crucial to long-term success.
How often do we meet?
Meeting weekly is best, even though it may be a challenge for some groups. Irregular meetings make it tough to stay current and cultivate relationships.
Children, work, and busy schedules often complicate matters. Everyone is busy these days, but if a small group is going to make a difference in the spiritual growth of its members, it must become a priority.
Anything worthwhile requires commitment, and people will commit to what they feel is worthwhile. Look for intentional ways to keep in touch between meetings. And plan ahead for holidays, summer, and other seasonal events.
What day and time do we meet?
Honest communication from all group members is the only way to sort out this important decision. If everyone works together to find the optimum time, it rarely is a deal-breaker.
Make sure everyone is on board with the final decision of when to meet. Be creative and don’t be afraid to consider an outside-the-norm solution that works best for your group.
Where do we meet?
This is one of the most important elements of meeting together. A quiet, private place where the group can meet on a regular basis is preferable. If you are meeting away from the church campus, ask group members to take turns hosting in their homes.
Consider the three C’s when choosing the location for any small group—calm, confidential, and comfortable.
What if someone makes a habit of no-showing or canceling?
Talk to the person or couple involved. Find out first if there’s any dynamic in the group that’s keeping them from being more involved. If not, while allowing grace, ask them to make the group a priority.
Each time a group meets, the bond between members solidifies, so after several missed meetings it could become difficult for them to connect with others.
Don’t take it personally if someone can’t be a regular part of the group. Some people may not be ready to join a group yet. For others, another time or group may be a better fit for them. Leave the door open.
What if someone dominates the conversation and another never speaks?
Here’s a good guideline for a diverse group of personalities—extroverts should remember to listen before they speak, while introverts should be encouraged to share their thoughts. A key to healthy group conversations is making sure everyone has the opportunity to share, and everyone is respected.
Group leaders must learn to embrace silence as an ally, not an enemy. Silence allows group members time for thinking and processing. A few minutes of quiet can be a sign of solid friendships developing in the group.
Leaders must learn to politely smile and keep eye contact around the room, creating an atmosphere of open dialogue for all, not just filling the air with words.
In our crazy, noisy world, having a safe place to ask questions and share what God is doing in the lives of group members is an essential part of making disciples.
A healthy small group can quickly become a sanctuary where God is heard above the fray. And growth will surely follow.
ROBERT NOLAND, a freelance writer in Franklin, Tennessee, has been in ministry for more than 30 years.