8 Week Starter Group and Life Group Practices

By January 18, 2018Leaders Handbook

(Many of these practices can be applied in different ways to Open and Short-term Groups)

  1. Meeting socially around food at the leader’s home is one of the best ways to get your group started.  If you want to test the connection/chemistry of the group, you can even do this before you let the people know that you are wanting to start a small group.  Principle:  The better the affinity, the greater the chances of a successful small group.
  2. Meals:  You have to eat anyway so you might as well provide a more natural,  comfortable way to connect. Host sends out pre-selected menu – picks the theme of the menu and provides the meat.  The rest of the group signs up for the other pre-selected menu items.
  3. Icebreakers:  Having an icebreaker question ready for the meal time around the table or at the start of evening is a great way to help the group be more intentional in getting to know something new about each member.  Resources: 201 Great Questions by Jerry Jones, Complete book of Questions by Gary Poole.
  4. Consistent Attendance for the first 8 weeks:   Insist that the group can not meet unless every single member can be available to attend.  Find dates that work for everyone. Since you are starting as a bunch of individuals who are seeking to become a group, each week builds upon itself especially as group members share their spiritual journeys.  If a member misses one week, they will not catch up on what was lost.
  5. Potential initial Questions to get to know group members:
    1. How long have you been attending DCC?  How did you hear about it?
    2. Why do you want to join this small group?  What do you hope to get out if it?
    3. What has been the biggest influence on your spiritual journey?
  6. Start with the curriculum:  Community: Starting well in your Small Group by Andy Stanley.  This will help facilitate your group in telling their stories and spiritual journeys.   DCC has copies for you to purchase.

Meeting Tips:

  1. Make sure you start on time and end on time – honor your commitment to the group by setting this example.
  2. Fill out a Group Roster.  Make sure you get all contact info from each member.
  3. Handout a Hosting Sign up Sheet – make sure Small Group members don’t feel pressure that they have to host – but give them the opportunity.  
  4. Sharing your Story (spiritual journey) – while there are different approaches in facilitating this (see “Resources” or talk to your coach), this needs to happen in the first 8 weeks of your group.  This practice will quickly create a bond with your group!
  5. Take Attendance – always encourage one of the spouses to attend even if one spouse is unavailable.  People vote with their feet in terms of the values and the priorities they live out Having this history gives you valuable information to help you shepherd your group.  If the small group is one of our most strategic environments for spiritual growth, this history is one factor that can give us an indication of group health.
  6. Ask for prayer requests:  Keep it simple; the leader starts the prayer to model the simple approach. Encourage the group to share requests that are personal where they need support.  Not requests for my “Grandmother’s big toe”! Find a volunteer to email prayer requests to the entire group with an quick summary (4-5 bullet points) of what was discussed in the evening.  This helps with maintaining momentum for the group and provides good communication; especially if someone missed. It also becomes a helpful record of what God is doing through the group that you can celebrate at a later time.
  7. Make sure from day one, you encourage group members to get together outside of group time.  As a leader start doing it yourself.  Not everyone has to make every invitation – encourage spontaneity.  
  8. Meeting Schedule:  Principle: Start light, end light.  1. Start light with food, drinks, gathering time to connect (community).  2. Group time – Discussion focused on the application of Biblical Truth (not just Bible Study).  3. Prayer Requests 4. End light – dessert (more community).
  9. Facilitation:  Try to keep discussion as balanced as possible.  Watch for over-talkative members. Participation is a value of being a part of a small group.

You need to get to know your group members’ personalities in how best to draw

them out.

  1. Talk through Group Agreement.  Make sure everyone signs the agreement after you have discussed it.  This is a good time to address what a good small group environment looks like: free of distractions from children, TV, cell phones, noise, etc. You may need to discuss how to handle childcare (please make sure members are aware of “Child-care Reimbursement” from DCC).
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