Continually creating small groups:
- Bonds the congregation together, building strong friendships.
- Welcomes newcomers.
- Grows faith through prayer, study, and caring conversation.
- Closes the back door of the church.
- Creates cell groups for care, service, and mission.
In most cases, churches will have as many small groups as they have small group hosts. If 5 small group hosts are recruited, a church will generally have five small groups. So, small group ministry is really an exercise in leadership development.
Recruiting small group hosts can be fun. There are lots of people who love to open up their homes. Other times there are also people who are happy to lead a group, but would rather not be a host home. These two kinds of folks can be paired up. Here’s how to get started.
- Decide how many small groups you want. Here’s my challenge. Take your average Sunday worship attendance and divide it by ten. Shoot for at least that many groups. If you have 200 on a Sunday, that’s 20 small groups. Believe me, its not as hard as you might think.
- Plan on a short study (4-8 weeks). People will by nervous about making a commitment with no end date, but most people will consider something that goes 5 or 6 weeks. Once they try it, they might like it, so set a finite time frame for your study.
- Pick an interesting topic. If this is your first time around, choose something that will have broad appeal. A good experience will make it more likely that you’ll do this again.
- Start brainstorming hosts. Make a list. Consider some of the groups you already have. Is there a choir? Would they consider being a group? How about the Council or Board? Are there existing small groups or Sunday school classes? Committees or teams? The leader of this group may or may not be your host. Make a hit list.
- Think geographically. What are a half a dozen of the neighborhoods in your area? Some people will choose a small group based on location. It’s close and convenient, and it’s fun to get to know neighbors. Are there some natural leaders there? Add some ideas to your list. Try to get a group in every neighborhood.
- Think demographically. Could someone host a young adult group? A singles group? A seniors group? A men’s group? A women’s group? Some people will choose a group that fits their stage in life, like parents of young kids or empty-nesters. Consider names based on these kinds of groups and add names to your brainstorm list.
- Think about times. Some people will choose a group based on when it fits into their schedule, rather than geography or demographics. Is there an early morning group for early risers? An evening group for night owls? Weekday groups? Weekend groups? Add these names to your list.
- Pray about it. Take time for silent prayer. In your mind think through the faces of people in your congregation. Faces will appear. Ask other key leaders, “Who would make a good small group host in our congregation?” Look at your church directory. Flip through the names. Are there people who jump out as obvious leaders? Add them to your list.
- After you’ve brainstormed a lot, hopefully you’ll have more names than you need. Prioritize and start inviting. If there are a lot of names, have a team to help recruit. Make phone calls or face-to-face visits. Don’t recruit through email or bulletin announcements. You want to choose the right people for specific reasons. Choose healthy people you would want to have hosting your own group. Tell them why you chose them and why you need them.
- Have a clear, written job description you can send them, like the one below. People want to know what they’re getting into. Let them know you don’t need Bible scholars. You need welcoming hosts who will invite people and ask questions that are provided. Let them know you’ll have a meeting (perhaps a lunch after church) to train them and give them everything they need.
- Encourage as many groups to meet in homes as possible. This builds community. When people have been in each other’s homes, a bond has been created. Relationships tend to move past mere acquaintance. In some cases, you may find people who want to host, but don’t want to lead and vice-versa. Be prepared to team these folks up. It can be challenging to be both the host (welcoming and providing food) and the leader (convening the group and asking the questions). Two are better than one.
- Never twist arms. Give people time to think and pray about it. Let God be a part of the process. It is amazing how people respond if they believe they are a part of what God is doing. If they say no, thank them for considering it. If you have to shame someone into doing something, they won’t do a good job, and they’ll resent it later. You want a coalition of the willing.
That’s all there is to recruiting. After you make your visits, things will shake out. Some will say yes, and some will say no. It’s okay. If you have discerned well, most of your folks will say yes. Being in community is fun. The number one reason people join churches is to make friends. The odds are on your side.
In then end, if you have a dozen small group hosts, you will most likely have a dozen groups. Put a sign up sheet in the foyer of your church for every group. On the sheet have a smiling picture of the small group leader host. List the time, dates, and place for the gatherings. Put these up a month before the series begins and let people sign up. They will. Allow people to sign up online and by phone as well. Keep the sign ups in sync. Some groups will be small and some will be large. It’s okay.
Occasionally, you’ll have a group with a low sign up. Maybe the time is not the most convenient. Saturday morning at 7 a.m. seemed like such a good time when they planned it. Or maybe they live in a remote place, far from the church. Help them out. Brainstorm names with them. Encourage them to invite their friends and neighbors. Is it okay if they’re not members of the church? Of course. The group may end up small, but hey, wherever two or three are gathered…
If you’re fortunate, 1/4 of participants may be non-member guests. That’s fantastic. Perhaps some of them will come to hear the message on Sunday, that ties into what the groups are all studying together. Some groups may even want to sit together.
Keep in mind, people are herd animals. We need to be in relationship. Most people yearn for good friends. You’re doing something that people really want and need. You are providing a platform. Have fun with it. When the series ends, think about when the next one will be. Don’t be surprised if half of your groups want to continue when the series is done.
Sample Group Host Job Description
Thank you for agreeing to be a small group host. Small groups bond people together, build strong friendships, welcomes newcomers, grow faith through prayer, study, and caring conversation, close the back door of the church, and create a forum for care, service, and mission.
Here’s the job:
- Attend a training session.
- Set the time, dates and place for each meeting of your group.
- Invite people to participate in your group.
- Pray daily for those in your group.
- Provide food, snacks and/or beverages for your group, or establish a rotation for others to do so, if you are the host.
- See if any in the group need childcare. If so, ask the group to chip in for a babysitter to be present in another part of the house, or a nearby home.
- Prepare for the group gathering. Read the lesson and become familiar with the discussion questions you will be asking.
- Help the group develop a covenant at the first gathering. See example below.
- Begin and end each session with prayer. You can lead this, delegate it, or hopefully involve the entire group.
- Ask the discussion questions, or invite the group to trade off doing so.
- Stay attentive. Don’t let a big talker dominate the group. Tend to those who may be particularly needy. A group can be supportive, but cannot be group therapy. If you need help talk to the pastor or the small group coordinator.
- Encourage the group to worship on Sunday and listen to the message.
- Encourage the group to consider some kind of service project together, with a meal or a party of some sort following.
- Have fun!
We agree to meet on the following days:
At the following time (beginning and end times):
At the following place(s):
Who will bring food:
How we will handle child care:
We will do the daily devotions and worship together during these five weeks. We will call if unable to attend the group gatherings.
We will share openly and listen non-judgmentally.
I will contact _____________________________, if I am unable to attend a small group gathering.