For starters, we are incredibly proud of you for stepping out in faith and taking this initial step towards launching your small group! This is huge, and we believe God has big plans to use you in your role as a small group leader. It is our sincerest hope that our Charged series, which is all about equipping today’s small group leaders, can support you and help you show up as your full, authentic self with your group!
I’ve been following Jesus for my entire life and have been a small group leader in various capacities throughout the past 11 years. The relationships I’ve built through small groups have been the deepest, most powerful friendships that I have to this day. Even the groups I’ve only been in for a short season, with people I haven’t kept in touch with, have been instrumental in shaping my relationship with the Lord. It is such an honor to prioritize investing in relationships with others who are also hungry to grow in their walk with Jesus.
Wherever you’re at in the process of starting your small group, it is imperative that you start with prayer. Ask God to reveal His heart for your small group, and what He wants to do through the intentional weeks or months you will spend together. If you feel God gives you a word, phrase, or verse to declare over your group, write it down! Also, ask God to reveal your heart. Ask Him to show you why you feel it on your heart to start a group and for Him to confirm that this is what He has for you in this season. This understanding of both His heart and yours will serve as a great foundation for co-create your small group with Jesus. We also believe it will make decisions clearer and easier as you are coming from it with your heart, soul, mind and strength being aligned with Him!
So don’t skip this step or postpone it until you get all the details ironed out! Start with PRAYER!
With that all being said, we recognize that starting a small group can be daunting – even after praying about it! I have so been there! To come alongside you in this process we have compiled this step-by-step guide to get your small group up on its feet! Are you ready?
Choosing content for your first small group might feel daunting, but leading with what you know can take off the added burden of being both leader and student. This will help you feel equipped and prepared to show up as the leader your group needs you to be. So while you may operate predominantly as a “facilitator” during the actual group time, pick content that you feel a sense of ownership over. Find something you’ve gained spiritual ground on and authority over in your life or have already invested time into learning. If you find content you really want to use that you aren’t familiar with, consider going through it on your own or with a friend first!
A great place to start is by asking yourself, “What can I share well?” This could be a favorite book of the Bible, a favorite theme in the Bible, a study that you did and loved, or it could relate to your testimony and personal walk with God. Follow-up this question with:
“If I could pass along one impactful lesson from my own spiritual walk, it would be ________.”
There are so many incredible resources and ministries at our fingertips as Christ-followers, but if you need a great place to start in your search, check out our Live Salted studies on Ephesians and Identity. These studies offer day-by-day guided lessons with leading questions, scriptural analysis, personal testimonies and interactive content found on our various platforms!
Once you’ve nailed down a general direction for the topic you’d like to cover in your small group, determine what format you’d like your content to be: book, podcast, video series, sermon series, guided lesson plans, etc.
Things to consider when choosing a format:
For example, if you have a group of college students who are swamped with homework and are already carving out a few hours once a week to meet in-person or online, picking a book and requiring they read a chapter a week may result in many people showing up who haven’t read the chapter. This puts more on your shoulders to carry the discussion or prevents those who didn’t read from participating in the conversation. So, for a group like this, you may want to consider something more self-contained within the time you’re already spending together, such as watching a short video clip together and discussing it as a group. Another idea for a situation like this would be finding a podcast and asking everyone to listen to one specific episode at some point in their week. For any group with tight schedules, a self-contained model such as this may be a great format.
There’s a reason almost every superhero has a right-hand man – there is power in pairs! This isn’t just a model seen in Hollywood, Jesus modeled this when He commissioned His disciples to travel in pairs in Luke 9. He also sent out the seventy-two believers in pairs in Luke 10, even though in verse two He says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Even when there were few believers, Jesus acknowledged the immense power in partnership that couldn’t be found flying solo.
Working with a co-leader can provide support, accountability and give another leadership style to learn from or connect with different types of people. As Ecclesiastes 4:10 states, “If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” One of my favorite things about co-leading is having someone else to talk through the content with before the group and debrief with after the group.
As a verbal processor, co-leader chats have helped me talk less in the groups I lead and facilitate more because I can hash out my first draft of thoughts with my co-leader and be more concise in sharing with the whole group. Then, in group, I can sit back and listen more intently! Having the buffer of a trusted co-leader to weigh in on decisions and bounce ideas off can make your experience run much smoother! Maybe you have the perfect friend in mind, or maybe you want to get your group started and see if anyone in your group seems like a natural fit for you to personally invite to help facilitate future meetings.
Alright, now that you’ve got the basic necessities assembled it is time to decide some details! Here are a few details that you will want to start with:
If you’ve decided to start a small group, I have no doubt this is something you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and mentally preparing for but now it’s time to turn those thoughts over to Jesus and continue to pray and hammer out the last-minute prep steps to make your group a success!
Whenever you take a new step into your calling to lead and walk in your God-given authority, Satan is quick to rise up and attempt to attack the new work God is doing in and through you!
Every time I am starting a new endeavor I love to turn to Ephesians 6:10-18 and pray the armor of God over myself as a reminder of the spiritual covering and authority I live in as a child of God. Then when the mental and spiritual battles inevitably arise, I can remind the enemy that he doesn’t stand a chance against the God who has clothed me in His armor.
Crafting a short mission statement is extremely helpful and grounding for me! This is a 1-2 sentence statement expressing your deepest hope/goal for the group. You likely have SO MANY goals for your group, but try to distill it down to your most core desire, where if at the end of each week literally nothing else was accomplished you’d still deem it a success! Some examples could be:
Then, you have that as a foundation to stand on when some weeks don’t go according to plan. Did multiple people have a super rough week and the whole evening turned into extended prayer for each other and you don’t have enough time to do your content justice? Take a deep breath, remember your mission statement – if your goal is to make people feel seen and supported and you know everyone in your group loves ice cream, maybe you end the night with a spontaneous trip to get ice cream and that is how Jesus uses this week to make people feel known, loved and valued! Is your mission statement about a deeper understanding of Scripture – maybe a better pivot is having everyone share their go-to verse for facing hard times and finishing the night discussing those! Your mission statement is the foundation that helps you make the best decisions when things need a last-second adjustment!
When I was in college studying to teach English as a second language my teacher offered us some very freeing advice, “It’s ok if you don’t know everything. You just have to re-learn it a few days before you teach it!” Hearing that has carried me through so many leadership scenarios! You don’t have to know it all. Being prepared in advance, doing a little research into the context beyond what you’re studying and preparing great questions will set you up to be a successful leader who facilitates the conversation with ease!
We believe in you and we are confident you are going to be an amazing small group leader! We hope providing this guide will give you the freedom to focus on the relationship-building that truly only you can provide your group! You’re not limited to the methods and structures we’ve mentioned, but we hope you take it as a rough outline that we’ve found useful and adjust it to fit your leadership style and what you know about the specific needs of your group! We believe you are here, reading this article and feeling the pull to host a small group for a reason. If you’d like to get further equipped in being a small group leader check out the other articles in our Charged series!
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