By Gena McCown. Co-Founder Women’s Ministry Council
We have plowed through some length portions for this series, and now that we have taken care of the behind the scenes topics… let’s move to the front side of things. We can have all of the prep work in check and still fail at small groups because we can’t control the meeting itself. Now, I am going to admit that no matter how much you try a meeting can get away from you. None of us are perfect, but the point I am going to focus on is what you need to happen MOST of the time. Then when there is an occasional slip up, you will be forgiven.
Let’s cover some basic points that we should ALL be doing, then we’ll move on to the things where we have some options.
- Preview the Material – do not going into each meeting blind. Either watch the video and go through the workbook earlier in the day (or week), or even consider going through the whole thing before the study begins. You will have a clearer idea of how long the material is going to take to cover, if you think you are going to need more time for discussion.
- If you are teaching expository studies yourself, you should be preparing throughout the week, not a last minute hurrah before study starts.
- Your group should be bathed in prayer, as anything we do that draws people closer to God the enemy is going to work to stop. I always pray for obstacles to be removed from the path of the women to the study each week.
- Set a realistic expectation on how long the study should last, and stick to that timeframe. Occasionally conversation may take you over that timeframe, but make that the exception not the rule.
- If a study is 8 weeks long, I always recommend telling people to plan for 9-10 weeks. Inevitably something will happen that will disrupt the schedule. If everything goes according to plan use that last meeting as a conversation night to recap the study, make up date for anyone who missed a segment from the video, service project night, or even a fellowship night out on the town.
- If you are meeting at a local coffee shop either schedule extra time into your meeting for ordering food/coffee…. or remind your attendees to arrive early to place their orders.
- If you are meeting at the church or host home, make arrangements for any snacks/refreshments for the evening. You do not always need to provide refreshments, but if you do put together a volunteer sign up sheet for the first meeting.
RUNNING THE MEETING:
- Start on Time – be sure to show up a few minutes early to set up your videos or other things needed for that nights study. You should be ready to go on time, and arriving early gives you time to deal with any technical issues.
- Open in Prayer – you can choose to do a general opening prayer, allow people to make prayer requests, or take turns praying. It is not uncommon for prayer time in small groups to take a long time if we are not careful. I have tried a few methods each working effectively for different groups. 1) Ask the women to think of their prayer requests while praying a general prayer, asking God to listen to the prayers on their hearts. 2) Ask the women to submit their prayer requests to you via email/text prior to the meeting, then you can not only list them in brevity as you pray but also provide a printed list for the members to take home & pray over during the week. 3) Allow each woman to verbally make her prayer request before or during the prayer, but set a limit for 1 min. per person. Establish this at the start of the 1st meeting, and remind the women they are free to ask questions or give additional prayers and support when the meeting is over.
- Establish the “House Rules” at the first meeting, which will include start and finish times, how prayer requests are being handled, reminding the women that what is said in small group stays in small group, etc. Then in the 2nd meeting give a quick recap. No need to repeat at every study night. Revisit if new members join the group.
- Watch the Video/Teach the Lesson – if you are watching a video, you know exactly how much time it will take (it is usually printed in the jacket sleeve of the DVD). If you are teaching the materials, watch the clock to ensure you leave time for discussion.
- Prompt the discussions, being mindful to not take over the time talking yourself (which can happen with teachers, ha!) or that others in the group do not monopolize the discussion time. Ask specific people questions, make eye contact to feel out if someone has something to offer, and help guide the conversation along.
- Close in Prayer – In the closing prayer I like to include asking for protection over our church, the women in attendance, and those who didn’t make it for that evening.
In between study group meetings, I like to send email reminders if there is something the women need to do before we meet up again. You can also use this email to remind the snack volunteers, do the assigned “homework”, any immediate prayer requests that can’t wait until the next group meeting, church announcements that might be important, etc.
So what makes the small group “effective”, since that sounds like any old meeting? Being intentional. I’ve been to many a meeting in the corporate world, spending 30+ minutes discussing something that could have been said in an email. I’ve sat in small groups where so much time was spent talk about our prayers, that by the time we got to actually say them… we used up half of our meeting time. I’ve led meetings where technical delays caused us to run behind, and I learned the hard way that I needed to arrive extra early.
What makes them effective is that everything goes so smoothly there is nothing to complain about, nothing to improve, and our goals are met. It’s effective because it wasn’t defective.
When your small group meetings go awry, and are not effective it will be quite evident. Word will get back to you that group thinks you are disorganized or always behind. You will see your number of attendees drops, your regulars stop coming, or that you no longer get anyone signing up for your group. You will see that more time is spent praying and talking than studying and you can’t finish in your allotted number of weeks. You will run out of time, members, interest, and find yourself questioning “why do I even bother”.
If you are meeting your goals, if your group members stay put, if your group is growing in number, if your group is growing in their walk…. then you are running an effective meeting.
The final installment in this series will address some great questions that were emailed in about this topic, and will be posted on July 5th. If you have a question and did not submit it yet, pop over to our series intro and submit your question now!