Small group life-cycle:  Birth



Typical duration - 6-8 weeks.

Group Focus - relationship building.


You are planning to be a group leader.  Where do you start? 


a. Recruit a core team

Leading a group is hard work, but it is rewarding and fun if you have a good core group to join you.  Start with a co-leader whom you enjoy - someone you would choose as a friend.  You will have a greater chance of reaching your group goals if you have another believer joining you in prayer and planning and work.


Once you have a co-leader, the two (or four for couples) of you should work together to develop a list of people to invite to your group.  Expect that about half the people you invite will be interested in attending at least once.  If you want 10 to attend your first group meeting, you need to invite at least 20.  Don't judge your group's potential based on others' interest during your pre-planning stage.  Most baby groups start with 2-3 households and grow from there.


One of the first people you are looking for is your apprentice leader, who will one day lead a new group when your group reaches maturity.  Plan for multiplication from day one!


b. Establish a group covenant

One thing you MUST do in your first or second meeting is negotiate a group covenant.  Actually, this discussion begins when you tell prospective members what the group will be like.  There is nothing more important than agreeing on the purpose, goals, ground rules and other particulars about your group.  Many group leaders initially resist the idea of a written covenant but later come to see that it is simply a tool to help everyone say what they hope to give and gain in the group. 


To use a covenant, give everyone a copy of a blank covenant, then fill in the blanks as you go.  An alternative to consider if the group members don't know each other is to fill in the blanks for them and say "here's what we will be doing the first six weeks."  There is a precious opportunity to build community early on, so don't waste it discussing rules - invest it in faith-building and relationship-building!  After six weeks, the members will know each other better and be more prepared to share genuine desires for the group.


What do you do if your group has been meeting for quite some time without a covenant?  Is it too late to establish one?  Absolutely not!  Make it a special time of renewing for your group.  Sell them on the idea of a new start.  You'll find that it gives an old group new energy, a renewed purpose, and renewed commitment to inviting new members.


c. Get organized

You need helpers, but more importantly, you need to start training members of your group to take leadership roles because serving produces character.  From day one, strive to give ownership to others in leading areas like:

            Apprentice leader                                  Hosting                                     Prayer journal

            Telephone Encourager                           Snack coordinator


d. Conduct life-changing meetings

There are three parts of the meeting (the gathering, Bible discussion and caring time).  Each is crucial to having a life-changing experience.


THE GATHERING ("the meeting before the meeting"). Ministry begins when the first person to arrive is enthusiastically greeted at the door by the leader or the host.  (Perhaps the leader needs to be 15 minutes early???)  Greetings, touches and other get-acquainted activities set the tone for the entire meeting.  They make a first impression of friendliness, foster an attitude of expectancy and trust, and strengthen resolve to do serious business with God.  If you or the host are not available to greet at the door, you may want to appoint someone to be your greeter.  This is yet another opportunity to train someone in leadership.


BIBLE DISCUSSION.  Life change comes when we submit our lives to the instruction we find in the Bible.  We are looking to form relationships centered on Christ as revealed in the scriptures, so what takes place in this phase of the meeting is crucial.  A good discussion will include:

Ice breaker questions - funny questions are great, but also questions to start thoughts.

A scripture reference to be read aloud

Probing questions that move from "low risk" questions about people in the text to "high risk" questions about our lives and how we should react in similar situations. 

The material is intended to evoke discussion - this is not a lecture class!  The idea is to get everyone involved in discussion.  Ideally, you should only use about half of the questions because the group will pursue tangents that are more relevant to them.  The fewer questions you ask, the better!  Your effectiveness as group leader depends less on your knowledge of the Bible than it does on your ability to lead a discussion. 


CARING TIME (the "meeting after the meeting").  The time from the conclusion of the Bible discussion until everyone has gone home may be the most important part of the meeting.


CARING TIME starts with PRAYER TIME.  Rather than asking for "prayer requests," which may not invite the sharing of spiritual needs, ask things like, "How can we help you in prayer tonight?" or, "How do you need God's help in your life right now?"   An advantage of having prayer time after the Bible study is that everyone's thoughts will be centered on the discussion topic, and there is a better chance that their prayer requests will be centered there too. 


CARING TIME continues with FELLOWSHIP TIME.  Be very intentional about what you do during this time.  It is easy to slip into conversations about the weather and sports, but there are other opportunities.  Now is the time to minister.  You have just heard prayer requests relative to the Bible topic discussed by the group.  Take advantage of that and speak one on one with as many group members as you can.  Build on the Bible lesson!  Involve your apprentice and assistant in this activity as well.  You may or may not include refreshments, but there are good reasons to.  People relax and visit longer with a cup in their hands.