Adapted from the Book, How to Lead Small Groups By Neal F. McBride
Know your purpose
What type of fellowship are you forming? There are many different types of fellowships, and usually the type of fellowship is described by the group’s main activity, such as, prayer, teaching, study, outreach, etc. A fellowship can focus on numerous activities or it can specialize in one type of area. The success of your fellowship is greatly determined by knowing the need in your community and attempting to fill it. Know your goals and then set attainable objectives that you can measure your progress against.
Decide on your fellowship’s format
Having identified the fellowship’s purpose, you can turn your attention to the specific format options that are available. Specifically, this includes the what, when, and where. The following are some format questions that must be resolved:
When do we meet?
The best time and day are those that encourage maximum attendance. The most successful fellowships usually meet on the same day and time of each week. For instance, they meet every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. This prevents confusion for members by eliminating any uncertainty as to the time.
Where do you meet?
The ideal location is in the home. Some small groups like to rotate among the members’ homes. Use caution if you select this alternative, for the same reason that you want to be consistent about the day and time of meeting. You risk confusion and poor attendance when you change locations.
Who is meeting?
You must know your group members. Each person brings to the meeting a set of experiences, opinions, ideas, attitudes, and expectations. A fellowship consisting of primarily adults over the age of fifty will, and should, look quite different than a fellowship of mostly teens or young adults.
What are you going to do with the children?
Children add a lot of flavor and warmth to a fellowship, but be alert to the fact that having them in the group significantly changes the role and potential benefit experienced by the adults. In one word, they complicate things. A small fellowship that meets in the home usually lacks resources and may not be equipped to provide a full time teacher for the children. Take care to analyze the specific situation to determine which option(s) best meets the member’s needs. Some options are:
- Include the children for a part of the meeting and then let them leave to do children’s activities.
- Provide adult supervision on a rotating basis.
- Have one adult who demonstrates a calling for children’s fellowship oversee them.
- Hire one or more sitters to care for the children. This can be provided from the funds collected in the offering.
- You can also have a “Family Fellowship” that is centered on the care and nurture of the children.
What do you do when you meet?
The question of what to do when you meet can vary greatly, depending upon what stage of development your fellowship is in (See Developmental Stages of a Fellowship). Typically, most fellowships are structured around a four-fold structure; nurture, worship, community, and mission. Specific group activities are planned around this structure.
When you begin the fellowship it will help to bear in mind the “Law of Inertia.” Simply stated, this law says that an object that is set in motion tends to stay in motion and continue in the same direction. In other words, if you start the fellowship and don’t take an offering, have manifestations, etc., from the onset, it will be difficult to change course and put them in place later.
Fellowship activities include:
- Prayer (Community prayer, silent prayer or meditation on God)
- Music (Use of songbooks, live musicians, or recordings)
- Teachings (Live, audio, or video presentations)
- Scripture memorization
- Bible study groups (See our video series on Tools for Basic Bible Study)
- Discussion & Sharings (Testimonials, the week’s victories or struggles)
- Community bonding (Meals, snacks, and time to just hang out)
- Casual fun
- Outreach activities (Group evangelism)
- Children’s fellowship
- Receiving an “offering” for the fellowship
What size should your group be?
Care should be taken to limit your group to a size that allows for maximum communication and relational development. There is no set rule as to the size of a fellowship, it should always be the focus of the group leaders to continually be raising up new leadership. This allows you the potential for spinning off or forming a new fellowship when the committed attendance reaches a point that it is not being effectively served.
The larger the group, the more easily a member can hide. In larger groups it is much easier for the quiet member to remain silent, and the vocal member to dominate, the less committed member to find excuses to not attend, and the fringe members to remain on the periphery. If a group has twenty-four committed and faithful attendees, why not consider forming two groups of twelve? These two groups can reunite on a regular basis to provide support for each other.
Where do you go from here?
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