Showing items filed under “Small Group Leadership”

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 groups.com on July 12, 2006 entitled "Biblical Principles for Pastoral Care in Small Groups" by Brian Pierce 

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First Night Survival Guide: Preparing for and leading your first meeting

So you agree to lead a small group. And right now, you're really questioning why you said yes. You've had some training, found a study, talked with your pastor or director, and even had a few people say they're coming. But now it's just two days before your first meeting, and you're not feeling very prepared. You find yourself panicking, wondering what you'll do if no one talks, or if your entire group is made up of weird people.

Leading a small group isn't rocket science, but it can be a bit intimidating, especially the first time around. Here are a few tips to make your first group meeting go smoothly—a survival guide, if you will.

Preparation

It's true: Failing to plan is planning to fail. So consider these four things while preparing for your first meeting.

Communication

A day or two before the group meeting, get in touch with the folks who have expressed interest in your group. You can use the phone, a text, social media, e-mail, or whatever works best for your context and demographic.

Be sure to remind everyone when and where the group is meeting and give them your phone number in case someone gets lost. On that note, be sure your phone is turned on and the ringer is turned up before the group starts. You don't want anyone to miss the meeting because they couldn't get in touch with you at the last minute.

You may also want to ask people to confirm whether or not they're coming so that you can be prepared. It can be tough both mentally and logistically if you expect 15 and get 5 (or vice versa).

Food

Nothing creates conversation like cuisine. I don't know if you've ever noticed, but strangers sitting around a table full of food are much more relaxed and talkative. Food breaks the ice and opens people up. My agenda for the first group meeting is often just dinner and conversation. I want people to start getting to know one another before we dive into a study.

If you don't think you're up for tackling dinner (and I'll be honest, cooking a whole meal for a group of people can add stress to the evening) be sure to have snacks. I recommend the three Cs: chips, cookies, and caffeine. In other words: something salty, something sweet, and something good to drink.

Environment

Create a welcoming environment. People are less likely to stick around if they're uncomfortable. Make sure you have enough chairs. Turn on the lights. Burn a candle to get rid of that funky odor. Put a fresh hand towel in the bathroom.

As a side note: There are some folks with the gift of hospitality reading this who have no idea why this section's here. For those of us without the gift of hospitality, or for those who are perhaps new to having a place to host (ahem, 23-year-old guys just out of college), these tips aren't always second-nature.

Prayer

Prayer is the easiest thing to overlook during the frantic preparation process, but it's also one of the most vital. This isn't just a social gathering or a team meeting. Your goal as a small-group leader is not only to create community but also to make disciples, to help people become more like Jesus. And if you're going to do that well, you'll need his help to do it.

In the days leading up to the first meeting, pray for your group. Pray that God would send the right people and that those who come would connect well and find community. Pray for wisdom and discernment for yourself as the group leader. Above all, pray that God would be glorified through your group.

—Will Johnston is the Small Group Catalyst for National Community Church in Washington, D.C.; copyright 2012 by Christianity Today.

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Myth: Our Small Groups Should Take a Summer Break

by Steve Gladen. Taken from churchleaders.com

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:41-43

I am often asked if Saddleback’s small groups continue meeting during the summer. Let me answer that question by asking a more fundamental question—“What are you trying to get from your small groups?”  Small groups are the center of our discipleship, the structure of our ministry, the launch pad of our evangelism, the enrichment of our worship, and the network of our fellowship. 

Whenever you tell small groups when to meet (the day of the week or time) and when to take a break (seasonal times), you are lowering your expectations for all groups. Your groups will never rise above your expectations. If you tell groups to stop meeting during the summer, they will stop—whether that is good for them or not. Instead, we manage groups for health (macro) and let groups figure out frequency (micro). 

The only ones off for summer are kids, unless they are in a year-round schedule. Adults generally only have two or three week vacations. So, why would you want to tell all of your groups to take a break during the summer? Most couples groups with kids get better traction in summer than the school year. Why? Because the kids have no homework and sport schedules slow down. My small group loves meeting during the summer because the kids’ schedules are easy. If we stopped during summer, that would kill our sweetest time of group life. 

Do you take the summer off from your kids? How about your spouse? What about your close friends? I don’t. My friends are part of my small group. I wouldn’t want to miss hanging with them. If your small group isn’t full of people you want to do life with, you need to change that and get together with your friends. 

Summer is also a great time to make new memories whether your group is new or has been together awhile. Use activities (some ideas are listed at the close of this article) to help bond your group. This will take fellowship to a new level and encourage transparency so discipleship and accountability can deepen. Summer is also a great time to develop ministry and missions. 

So, why miss the perfect time to develop your small groups to a new level? 

With that in mind–summer is here! Schedules are changing, vacations are planned, and summer activities may have to be arranged. While summer can be a time for some “vacation” from school and other activities, friendship and community can grow deeper. Here are some suggestions to help encourage consistency, provide new memories, and help breathe some new life into your small groups. Pass them along to all of your small groups.

Stay consistent: continue to meet when you regularly meet.

If one family, couple, or member cannot make it because of vacation plans or other things, don’t take it personally and get together with whoever is available. If it turns out that only a few can meet, still meet. This gives you an opportunity to fellowship in a more intimate group, and it’s amazing how you may grow closer just meeting with the few who can attend. 

Uplift someone or a group in your area.

“Missions Trips” don’t have to be far away. You don’t just have to think globally, you can look locally! Look for ways that your small group can uplift someone in your community. What about a Senior Home to visit? Maybe there is a widow on your block that needs comfort? Do you know an elderly person that may just need a few things done to his/her yard? Your group can also volunteer at a local orphanage, school, church summer camp, or prison. 

Modify group meetings.

Have a Barbeque, Date Night, or Girls Night/Boys’ Night out. Maybe someone has a pool, trampoline, or basketball hoop in their backyard for some fun and games. Have small group at the beach, the park, or by the lake! Our small group has had swim parties, and barbeques with our children, as well as couples only nights for the adults to get to know one another better. 

Explore Rotating leadership and homes.

Commit to have a meeting even if it’s just two or three people. Hosts/leaders, if you’re going to be out of town, ask someone to have the group meeting at their house. This is a great way to start sharing leadership, if you aren’t already.

Involve everyone in an overnight retreat together.

Find a campground, plan an overnight or two-day outing, meet up around a campfire at night, and eat, sing, and have a devotional. Oh yeah! One overnight retreat is worth 26 weeks of small group meetings.

Minister together, do a serve project!

What a great time to help out at church, fix up a group member’s home, do some yard work for someone who is not doing well, or serve one Sunday morning in a way to help your church. See your church for a list of ways to serve as a group.

Experience a night of worship.

Ask each person to bring two of their favorite worship songs. Play them all and share why the songs they brought have meaning to them. If your church polity allows, have communion at the end.

Check out this verse. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more, as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25

So, keep going and have a fun S-U-M-M-E-R-T-I-M-E. Together

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Finding Community as a Leader

As a leader, sometimes leading is a ministry. You pour into others even though they may not be capable of pouring into you. You may not always find community—strong, reciprocal relationships—in your group. If you don’t already have it, how do you find the community you need so you can keep growing and leading? While there’s no magical solution, there are two key ingredients from a post at the ​North Point Church's Group Leader Blog.

1) Depth of Relationship

You have a deep relationship with a person . . .

  • Who brings out the best in you
  • Who is in your corner
  • Who is there for you

1) Frequency of Interaction

  • Your paths cross regularly and naturally.
  • You interactions are face-to-face.
  • You would like to know the person well.

The first step to finding real community is to identify those people with whom you have either depth of relationship or frequency of interaction. The next step is to figure out how and with whom you can begin to experience both. 

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What are you Doing to Fill your Tank?

 "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." Luke 5:14

Nine times in the Gospels the scriptures say that 'Jesus withdrew' from the crowd so that he could tend to his soul and own spiritual wellbeing. As leaders we often run very hard and attach everything on our plates with great gusto. Eventually we will reach a place of exhaustion and the need to rest. One thing that I have come to understand about leadership is that God has wired me to work very hard and for long periods. Sitting down to rest for me is very hard. I have also learned that if I do not intentionally stop and rest I will eventually run out of gas and start causing damage to others. 

You may ask yourself 'how can I find time to rest when I have so much going on?' This is a valid question and one that I can appreciate as a husband, pastor, and father of 3 girls. What I am not advocating is that you checkout of everything in your life and move to an island somewhere. What I would encourage you to do is to ask yourself some key questions. Answering these questions can help you find moments of rest throughout your day and week and can help you to not run out of gas.

Here are the key questions:

1) What things am I doing that refresh me? All of us have hobbies or interests that recharge our souls. They might be painting, fishing, hiking, etc. Find time in your schedule to do these things.

2) What things am I doing that drain me? In the same way that the things that we like to do refresh us, there are things that we do that drain us. Make a list of these things and work as hard as possible to avoid doing them.

3) What are my warning signs that I need to refuel? In the same way that the fuel gage on our dashboard alerts us that we are low on fuel, we need to identify and pay attention to the signs that we are running low on fuel.  Losing your temper with your kids or not being able to complete assignments at work are some great examples of warning signs that it might be time to take a rest.

4) Who do I have in my life that can gentle remind me to pull over and refuel?  Invite someone to invest in you and give them permission to tell you to stop and refuel when they begin to notice some of your warning signs. Your spouse is a great person to ask or a member of your Small Group. Giving others permission to tell you when you are running on fumes will help prevent you from running out of gas!

Taking time to rest and recharge is part of the rhythm of life. Jesus knew this and practiced it. So take time to determine what you can do to refill your tank.

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