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How to Lead a Small Group Meeting

The 90% Rule
90% of successfully leading a small group is prayer and love. If you pray regularly for the people in your group and you love them by spending time together and listening to them, you will be a great small group leader. The other 10% you can get from this website and your ministry’s resources.

How Do I Start a Small Group?

I meant it! Don’t skip this point! “God, please give me the people you want to bring together in my small group. Bring me the ones you want me to help get closer to you.” Then, be friendly and accepting of everyone – some will be easy to connect with and others won’t. You’ll learn from both. Assume God answered your prayer no matter who ends up in your group.

Consider a purpose statement.
The overall purpose of a small group is to build meaningful friendships and learn more about a relationship with God. Pray and consider how your small group will pursue those two general goals. The general goals are like ice cream; your small group is a flavor. For example:

Jack’s purpose statement is to learn to live as men of integrity through studying the book of James. Ellen’s is to study the character of God and trust him more.

Your group members will all be in different places regarding a relationship with God. Some may have not yet considered having one.

Introduce yourself and some other people you’ve invited. Keep inviting. “Hi, I’m Mike. (Some get-to-know-you conversation here…) I’m leading a small group Bible study Wednesday evenings and it’d be great if you could join us. Come out to ice cream tonight and meet some of the others.”

Gather at least four or more.
Then, have your first meeting. Before, build friendships with people you are gathering for your group. Hang out with them at the main meeting, social gatherings (pick them up or tell them to meet you there), or get together one-on-one. After a week or two, when four or more commit to meet as a group, have your first meeting. Keep inviting more to join.


What Do I Do the First Meeting?

Plan beforehand.
Choose from the Relationship Builders. Plan the short Bible study (See Build Your Own Bible Study and Free Bible Studies) with questions that get people to talk. Minimize leader talk. See How to Lead a Discussion. See Components of a Small Group.

Be enthusiastic. (Hide your nervousness.) Greet each person warmly when he enters the room. Introduce him to the others. “Hey, John! Good to see you! John, this is Andy. Andy’s from Seattle. Where did you say you were from? (and so on.. ).” Do this every week with each member.

Food and drinks distract people from the discomfort they may initially feel when they arrive for your first few meetings.

While they eat, do something from Relationship Builders – Introductions or Name Games. Leader leads – you go first.

Get to know each other.
Choose from Relationship Builders – History Telling Activities or History Telling Questions Beginning Level. Leader leads. The more open, honest, and accepting you are in responding to the questions, the more likely the group members will follow suit. Focus intently on each speaker and maintain consistent eye contact. Ask the others to do the same. Say something like, “As each one answers a question, we need to give him our full attention. Then, when it’s your turn, we’ll do the same for you.”

Decide on group values.
Have the group discuss and come to an agreement on the things they value as a group. For example, what’s said in the group, stays in the group; focused attention on the speaker; etc. Write them down.

Do a short Bible study.
For the first study, you could choose Scriptures that have formed your goals for the group.
For example, Julie says, “I’ve prayed all summer for our group. My prayer, and my goal, is that our group will help each other follow Jesus more closely this semester. John 13:34-35 sums it up for me.”
Read the text aloud.
Possible questions:

  • Name someone who loved you enough to help you along your spiritual journey. How did he or she influence you?
  • Look up “disciple” in the dictionary. Where do you see yourself on the journey of becoming Jesus’ disciple?
  • In what area would you like to learn about or develop your relationship with God?

Pray for each other.
Assign prayer partners for the week. Write down something you want your partner to pray about for you this week and exchange requests. Have partners ask about the requests next week.

Begin developing group ownership.
Ask someone to bring treats next week.
As you continue to meet, assign other parts of the small group meeting to members: announcements, prayer journal (keeping track of prayers and answers), history telling questions, Bible study, worship, opening prayer, closing prayer (See Worship Ideas and Prayer Ideas for Small Groups), etc.

Commit to the group for three months
or a semester.

And then members can evaluate whether they want to continue in the group. Assure them they can come a couple times to see if they want to stay in the group. Then, ask that they make the group a priority for three months or a semester.

Close the meeting.
After the meeting, make it a point to individually thank members for coming. Communicate that you were glad they came. Do this after every meeting.

Hang out.
Talk about anything. Eat more. Go to someone’s house for a movie. Go out for ice cream. Go bowling. Tell stories. Help a group member. Be together. Even if everyone can’t stay and even if you can’t hang out after every meeting.


Some Good Advice

• Your members will take their cues from you. So, it’s important for you to be enthusiastic about the possibilities that lie ahead for your group. They’re more likely to get excited themselves.

• Greet them individually when they arrive and thank them individually when they leave. Your simple friendliness communicates that you, and God, are glad they were born and are in your life.

• Model however you want the members to act and live and how you want them to treat each other. The Apostle Paul said, Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. Philippians 4:9

• Commit to confidentiality. What’s said in the group, stays in the group. If confidentiality is violated, immediately meet privately with the members involved to deal with the situation. Teach people when to keep information to themselves.

• Keep your ears open during your meetings. You may discover things about your members that give you a connecting point later. Even insignificant details may signal important issues in their lives. If you don’t trust your memory, jot down some notes after the meeting.

• Guide people to answer from their own personal lives and experience. Ask for specific ways they will apply the Scriptures. You will often ask, “How do you specifically apply that in your own life?” or “How have you experienced that principle, or verse?” or “What does that look like in your own life?”

• Be OK with silence after a question. People often need time to think before they answer.

• Stay flexible enough to address a member’s immediate need during the group time. This shouldn’t happen every week. You’ll need to decide when an issue is sufficiently critical that you need to deal with it instead of your original plan.

• Don’t allow anyone to attack or confront people in the group. Any correction should be done privately.


Evaluate Yourself Regularly
From: Talking the Walk by Dave Bartlett & Bill Muir. Zondervan, 2000, pp.12-13.

• Is my group continuing to learn and grow?
• Are we having difficulty being honest with each other?
• Are there some leadership tasks I can delegate to my group members for their greater ownership?
• Have I given members the opportunity to tell their spiritual journey to the group?
• Have I challenged members to adjust wrong thinking or to respond to Christ personally?
• Are we truly enjoying our time together each week?
• Have our meetings fallen into a rut?
• Am I regularly praying for my group members?
• Am I coming to the group as a co-learner or have I slipped into the pattern of being a teacher?
• Am I giving advice rather than actively listening?
• Does each member have the opportunity to meet regularly with a mentor one-on-one?


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