Start by setting up one small group with the aim of creating more when there is interest, leaders etc. This may be a good model if your church is relatively small, if they are not used to the idea of small groups or if you want to set up new groups without affecting current groups that exist.
You initially only need one leader, although it is helpful to have a pair (one as the host and one as the leader/facilitator). They can be trained, resourced and supported directly by someone in leadership.
The group can be set up in a way to explore leadership and identify future leaders, so that when another group is required there are already people in a position to be able to start it up.
A few positives:
- Few leaders to start.
- Sets a pattern for growth.
- Encourages new leaders to grow in the group.
- Builds interest within the congregation.
A few potential drawbacks:
- Small number of leaders feel alone in the early stages.
- If lots of growth at the beginning, there will be lots of change at the expense of fellowship.
- Might be seen as a stand alone group that others do.
1. Decide on the structure that you would like and suggested days/times for each group to take place. You may reflect and adjust this with your leaders, but it’s helpful for them to know what they are agreeing to do.
2. Next you need to identify your potential host and potential leader/facilitator.
a. It is helpful to have both so that they can support each other and it does not over burden.
i. Host – consider their welcome, inclusion but also whether they have space in their house to host.
ii. Facilitator – this person is leading discussion, prayers etc. However, the aim is that they are people who will facilitate a discussion and encourage people to share their views, ideas and stories. Therefore they do not need to be experts or have all the answers.
3. When you have your leaders, you need to consider the best day and time.
a. The purpose of the group may affect this. If you are aiming at retired people then daytime might be preferred to evening. If you are aiming it at people in fulltime work, daytime will not work.
b. If there are other groups running, it is best not to clash with them.
c. There may be certain days that your leaders ‘could’ do but would be difficult. Avoid these times.
4. Discuss and decide on the structure, initial material, support needed etc.
a. Make sure any material that needs to be ordered is ordered before it starts.
b. Decide on a starting date:
i. It’s usually best to begin at a key point, e.g. the beginning of a term, a new sermon series, the end of an alpha course etc. The point will depend on your leaders and church.
5. Once the time and venue is confirmed, invitations can be given.
a. Putting it in the newsletter and publicising it from the front is important so everyone knows it is happening and has the opportunity to be part of it. It’s even better if some of that can be done by the people who will lead it.
b. Personal invitations will also go a long way. Identify people who the group is aimed at and talk to them about it. Again, this is best done by the leaders (host or facilitator).
1. Make sure people have any material or other details prior to their first session.
2. On the first night, the leader and hosts will welcome everyone in. This may work best as a space to get to know each other and what the structure of the group will be. This means people start to build trust of each other and an understanding of what is expected of them in the group.
a. Time to just talk freely is important, but should not be the entirety of this.
i. Have activities, discussions, games to encourage sharing about themselves.
ii. Getting to know each other is important even if they know each other outside the group. Although you may have a different starting point.
b. In terms of the group. Ask people what they are hoping to get out of the group, share a short summary of the material you are going to use first, if people are expected to lead studies/prayers, contribute food etc then think about how you will share and encourage each other in that.
i. You may decide that the first series will be led by the leader and then others asked to join or start by sharing the responsibility. You may ask people to opt in or require people to opt out of the different roles.
ii. It is finding the balance of providing people with opportunities from the beginning and not overburdening them in the first week. It’s important to be really clear, if it will start one way as people settle but long term will work differently, so people are not surprised or resistant when it changes.
3. Whoever is responsible for supporting the small group leaders should be in touch shortly after the first session to ask how it has gone, help problem solve and celebrate positives.
a. The communication, encouragement and support is important beyond the first week. It doesn’t need to be long but needs to allow space for any issues or concerns to be raised.
4. After the first week you begin with the first session of the material, within the structure that you had planned. This may adapt and grow as the group bonds and discovers what works for them.
1. Support and ongoing training are really important. This should involve a space to share concerns/issues, to share positives and encouragements, to celebrate their leadership and to receive resources and training.
a. A lot of churches do this three times a year, but this may not be the same for you. If this is used, it is best to do it towards the end of the previous term so they are ready at the beginning of the next term. Suggested resources are given for following term, discussions about where they are and where they are going can take place, alongside sharing and celebrating.
2. In terms of growing beyond the group.
a. Asking the group to share regularly (perhaps monthly) on what they are doing and how God is working can have a really positive impact. If there are existing groups within the church add them into the rotation. It does not need to be weekly or very long, but a chance for people to see the impact small groups have.
b. Within the group, identifying and training up new leaders is important. This works well if there are opportunities to explore them. This links very much with whether leading, food etc is shared out. If people are given the opportunity to lead the study, organise the reflection, supply the food, then it becomes easier to see where people may be gifted and encourage them to explore and develop.
3. The context of then setting up another group relies on there being people willing and able to lead (who may have been developed in the existing group) and interest from members of the church.
a. When this group is set up the leaders can be supported together and material found that is suitable for both of them or allow them to explore their own materials.