How to Communicate more Effectively to your Small Group, Part 1

Last week we looked at the question that we are most often asked as Small Group Pastor's 'how can I get more people to join my group?' This week we wanted to focus on the second most asked question that we get as Small Group Pastor's 'why are people not coming to my group or responding to my emails?' Communicating important information to your Small Group is one of your most important roles as the leader. We know from experience that when people are 'out of the loop' or miss an important piece of communication from their group leader, they become frustrated and it gives them a reason to bail on Small Group.

We want to help you better communicate with your Small Group! Over the next couple of weeks we are going to be sharing some tips on how  you can communicate more effectively with your Small Group. 

  • Tip #1 - Avoid send it and forget it communication! There use to be a time, not that long ago, when sending an email to someone was all the communication that you needed. Unfortunately, that time as come and gone as less and less people are checking their personal email. Email has become something that is associated with work or filed with spam, so people are not reading it consistently. You cannot rely on just sending one email and expecting that people will read it. If you send an email, follow up with a text or better yet, a phone call. 
  • Tip #2 - Text instead of email. Many people have moved exclusively to texting instead of email for communication. We have found that people will respond to a text message before they will respond to emails. 
  • Tip #3 - Technology is your friend. There are a number of great tools available to help you communicate with your group. These include:
    • GroupMe - a free messaging app for group texts
    • Facebook Messenger - a free messaging app that you do not have to be on Facebook to use
    • Band - a free app that you can use to organize and communicate with your group.
    • Your texting app on your mobile device - Whether you are using Android or Apple, you can create group text threads to communicate with your group.

Communicating more effectively starts with understanding how people converse today and that is almost exclusively through texts, DM's, and PM's. Next week we will look at some ways that you can lay a foundation for effective communication through the entire semester.

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Tips for Recruiting People to Join your Small Group

Getting people to join your Small Group can be one of the more challenging parts of being a leader, but it does not have to be. If you are creative and willing to put in a little bit of work, you can utilize these tips to help add additional people to your group.

1) Use social media to promote your group. Facebook is a great place for this and there are neighborhood or interest-based groups (like moms, or empty nesters) that you can join on the site. Once you have joined the Facebook group, you can use the platform to let people know about your Small Group and invite them to join.

2) Invite your neighbors. Do you have neighbors with whom you already have a relationship? Invite them to come and check-out the group.  Make sure and give them the 'out' if they do not want to commit to coming beyond the initial first visit. They may like it and decide to stay!

3) Volunteer to help with Small Group Discovery. At the half-way point of every Small Group semester, we host an event called Small Group Discovery. It's a luncheon designed to give people who have not yet joined a Small Group a taste of what it is like and the opportunity to join groups. Volunteering to help is a great way to meet people who are looking to join a Small Group, build a relationship, and invite them to join your group. If you would like to volunteer to help with Small Group Discovery, you can contact us by clicking here.

These are just a few tips for recruiting more people. Remember that one of the best best way to invite people to anything is through making a personal connection and an individual ask. Spend some time this week thinking about where you are most likely to meet people (grocery store, gym, drop-off line at school) and pray for God to open opportunities to invite them to your Small Group.

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The Advantages of Having Coordinators in your Small Group

If you have heard us say it a hundred times, you know it must be true! If you are leading a Small Group, you need to recruit coordinators to help you. Leading in any capacity is hard and that burden can be lessened if you have others to help you. Here are some advantage to recruiting coordinators for your Small Group:

  • A coordinator can provide you with a perspective that alone you'll probably miss. Leading a group can take a lot of attention to stay on track. A co-leader can pick up on needs through comments or body language that may fly right by you.
  • If you have a mixed group, a coordinator can monitor your timing, signaling you when it's time to cut off the study and move on to prayer requests and prayer. A good coordinator can fill in the awkward gaps or rephrase a question when necessary. This is especially important early in the life of a group when people may still be reluctant to answer. They can also help you set the pace for openness and vulnerability.
  • A coordinator relieves you of much of the responsibility for care, follow-up, and prayer requests. You'll still need to provide some care, make phone calls and pray for your members. But your coordinator can take the bulk of that responsibility.
  • If you're sick, out of town, or can't attend for any other reason. Your coordinators can step in and make sure your group is covered.
  • Perhaps most importantly, this year's coordinators are next year's leaders. Always having leaders "in training" is one of the reasons for the coordinator system. 

Don't be threatened by recruiting coordinators.  Be grateful! Share as much of the leadership as possible with others. Encourage them to branch out and lead a new group next year. There will never be more leaders than there are Small Groups to go around, so you need not fear for your position. Simply divide and multiply!

Adapted from Small Group Bible Studies: How to Lead Them by Pat J. Sikora.

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Driving your Small Group Discussion to Life Application

As leaders, we understand that the discussion is at the heart of the Small Group meeting. It's where we open the Bible and really delve into what it says about ____. The challenge often becomes we are so fixated on 'I learned this new insight' or 'I now know this key piece of Biblical knowledge from this passage' that we neglect to then ask how to apply it. 

Starting this week, we would like to challenge you to really drive home the application portion of your discussion time. If you use the James or Ezra-Nehemiah Bible based curriculum, we have made it really easy for you as there is a section on the discussion guide for application. Here are some ways that you can maximize that section:

  • Consider 'cutting out' some questions in earlier sections in order to leave sufficient time for the application section. This can be challenging as it is toward the end of the guide and can be quickly 'glossed over' as you are wrapping up. Planning to allot the proper time for reflection and sharing with the group can maximize it's impact and retention.
  • Challenge your group to share some specific examples of how they are are going to apply what the questions are challenging them to do. This drives the application home and makes it more meaningful and personal.
  • At next week's group meeting, take a few minutes at the beginning and ask the group how they did with applying what they said they were challenged to do. This will not only build accountability in the group, but can also help younger believers start to see the importance of applying scripture to their lives and not just learn it.

Focusing on the application of scripture to our daily lives can be very daunting and a bit challenging at first. But the reward is the impact that it can have on our spiritual lives. Plus, it is a huge part of why we have Small Groups! Isn't it much easier to apply the Bible's truth to your life when you are walking with others who are trying to do the same thing? Our prayer is that God will use this experience to really make an impact in the lives of the people who attend our Small Group and ultimately our world.

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Biblical Principals for Care in Small Groups

Sarah was facing her biggest nightmare. She had resisted leading a small group for years because she lacked confidence in her ability to give wise counsel to the problems of others. Her pastor had finally convinced her that she did not need to worry. "It rarely happens", he told her. She has been an excellent leader, and her group has grown closer. Lately, however, group members have become more open and are turning to her to solve their problems. She has spent hours on the phone with several members of the group. After one late night "crisis" conversation, she slept through her alarm, missed an important meeting, and was reprimanded at work. 

Feeling inadequate and overwhelmed? Many Small Group leaders feel exactly the same way when faced the reality of being the person that others in the group are turning to for help and support. Here some tips to help leaders be prepared to meet the basic care needs of their group members.

  • Your role is to bear burdens…not to carry loads.

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you may also be tempted. Carry each other's burdens (baros) and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself without comparing himself to somebody else. For each one should carry his own load (phortion)." Galatians 6:1-5

If we understand the "law of Christ" referring to our call to

"love one another as I (Christ) have loved you", then we need to see the distinction between the Greek word for "burden" (baros) and "load" (phortion) used in the New International Version.

This passage tells us that we are to bear one another's burdens (sufferings). That is, we should come alongside and support a person emotionally. We can do this by listening to, encouraging, and praying with people who are experiencing pain or testing.

However, this same passage indicates that each person is responsible for carrying his or her own load of problems. When we take responsibility for another's problems, we do it at the expense of their self-respect, their self-esteem, and their sense of self-responsibility.

  • Understand the limitations of the Small Group care system.

A Small Group is designed to:

  • Love one another (John 13:34)
  • Be devoted to and honor each other (Romans 12:10)
  • Live in harmony with each other (Romans 12:16)
  • Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
  • Submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21)
  • Bear with and forgive each other (Colossians 3:13)

A Small Group is not designed  for:

  • Making people happy
  • Fixing people's problems
  • The way a person responds or behaves

When care becomes more than what the system was intended to do, it places a strain on the leader and ultimately the group. Know the limitation of the system and when it is breaking down.

  • Know when to ask for help

Some issues go beyond what is expected of a leader and their abilities to provide care in a small group. People dealing with these issues should be referred to the care of a specialist or to one of our pastors. Contacting Tennyson Smith, our Pastor of Prayer & Care is a great place to start if you are feeling like you have a situation that is bigger than what you can handle.

Meeting basic care needs and bearing the burdens of others are what Small Groups are designed and best suited to do. When leaders understand and are able to set limits and supply care at a level in which they and the group feel comfortable and capable of providing, our group will be the centers of care that they were designed to be.

- adapted from an article on small on July 12, 2006 entitled "Biblical Principles for Pastoral Care in Small Groups" by Brian Pierce 

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