Covenant: At your first meeting have a copy of the Hope Covenant Form for everyone so you can go over it together. A group covenant is a valuable tool that can help make sure every group member has the same idea of what the group is about. The process of filling this out at your first meeting should involve everyone in the decision making. Later on when new members join your group you can go over the covenant with them.
Be Prepared: Read through that week’s whole lesson so you are familiar with it before you show up.
Interact: Don’t have your group read the Bible verse or questions to themselves, always read them out loud.
Share Responsibilities: Don’t do everything yourself, you are facilitating this meeting so it is okay to ask, “who would be willing to read the Scriptures?” or “who would be willing to read the discussion questions?” etc. Always end your meetings by deciding who is going to do what at your next get-together. By taking turns facilitating different aspects of your group time you make for a more interesting discussion as well as not making one person feel like they have to shoulder the whole load.
Make Allowances: Don’t force people to respond to questions or pray by “going around the circle”, allow people to answer as they are moved to do so.
Nonstop Talkers: If someone is dominating the meeting and won’t let anyone else speak, it is okay to gently nudge the conversation away from them by saying something like, “thank you, does anyone else have something to add because we want to be sure everyone gets a chance to take part in the discussion.”
You Are Not The Answer Guru: Don’t feel like you have to have the answer to every question or need to be the first to speak. A little silence is okay after the question is asked and will encourage the quieter members of your group to join in.
It’s Not Counseling: It is one thing when someone asks the group to pray for an upcoming operation or tells about how their children or spouse are driving them crazy that week. It is entirely another thing when someone wants to dump shocking emotional problems on the group or wants to dominate meetings by talking about their ongoing problems. Unless you are a trained counselor and this is a group therapy meeting neither you nor your group members are there to solve each other’s problems. If someone divulges sensitive personal information in a meeting certainly support them as the moment dictates but then point them toward professional counseling and do not try to fix their problems yourself.
You Are Not Alone: If you are encountering a problem and are not sure what to do about it feel free to give Hope a call and they can connect you with an experienced small group leader. Be sure to attend small group leadership meetings so you can share ideas, problems, and otherwise be supported in this ministry.
Get Training: Periodically Hope will have training sessions for small group leaders. If your group gets going before you have had a chance to attend training it is okay, go ahead with your group. Just be sure to watch for and attend the next available training session.
Prayer: Prayer is an important reminder each time that these meetings have God at their center. Begin and end meetings with a simple prayer; it is okay to write it down beforehand and read it. Any concerns or praises the members want to share can be written down in a notebook as a reminder to pray for them each day and as a journal to help us see how God answers our prayers over time.
To Finish or Not To Finish: Any questions your small group study has are there to help you think about what God is saying to you in the Bible verses. Some questions will not click with the group, feel free to move on but don’t rush things if a good conversation lingers over one question. You are being guided by the Holy Spirit and not a list of questions, so don’t worry if you can’t get through them all.
Size Matters: The ideal size for a small group is 6 to 8 members though a few more or a few less is just fine. You should not let the group get to over 12 people in size because it starts to lose many of the advantages small groups have to offer. If your group has grown in numbers to this point it is time to have a conversation about splitting into two distinct groups.