First some ground rules for running an effective Small Group:
- Be clear about the purpose of the group.
- Always have a welcome, introduction, and “ice breaker” technique for the beginning. This could be as simple as a short check-in process. Hospitality may be part of the welcome, depending on the group. Make sure everyone says something in this intro period.
- Make sure the time commitment is clear. There’s no need to be slavish about the time, but people need to know what commitment is expected of them.
- Do not be afraid of quiet times if this means people are reflecting; be afraid of quiet times if this means people are afraid to speak, or the conversation is something no one wants to engage in.
- Most groups are “seasonal”—meeting for a four or six week period a few times a year.
- Some groups are year round, meeting monthly.
- Some groups are year round, meeting weekly.
- At the group leader’s home.
- At a host’s home (different from the group leader).
- On the church’s premises.
- At some other, public venue where groups can meet (e.g., coffee houses, desert shops, taverns).
- Make sure all the settings are comfortable, accessible, and safe. If you are using private homes, make sure proper cautions are paid if children are present.
- Be clear about expectations of confidentiality.
- If this is a study group, perhaps confidentiality is not key.
- If this is a sharing group, then participants should feel safe in sharing.
- If this is a group for re-engaging Catholics, then confidentiality expectations need to be clearly asserted near the start of each meeting.
- If people violate the group process (e.g., arguing, yelling, acting inappropriately), the group leader should address this, preferably after the meeting.
- The purpose of the group is the group experience itself.
- No need to make sure all questions are treated, so long as the group has a solid experience of sharing with each other.
- Allow the prayer experiences to go where the Spirit leads; make sure everyone is comfortable about these directions.
- Some prayer may lead to periods of quiet.
- Some prayer may lead to sharing singing.
- Some prayer may lead to “extraordinary” experiences.
Concluding Small Group Season
- Have a way to thank the small group leaders.
- Develop an evaluation form for the leaders to fill out, for the participants to fill out.
- Have some kind of concluding celebration when the sessions are done if this is a seasonal effort.
- Prepare for one season for the next season—i.e., information about start dates, encouragement to invite others to groups, finding more or new group leaders.