By Cheri Liefeld
As ministry leaders, we spend time training our group leaders and helping them succeed. But 90% of the group is made up of group members who are not leaders. Our small groups will only be as great as the people attending and their involvement. Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a great group member? Here are nine steps to being a great group member.
- Communicate. Basic communication with your leader and your group. Respond when they reach out. Engage in group texts. Let them know you will be there, and if you have to miss, please let them know. They would rather have a heads up instead of a “no-show.”
- Show Up. In my experience, only 1/3 of people who sign up for small groups make it to the first meeting. The others are missing out. Be the one that overcomes first-night jitters and joins. Then keep showing up. It is hard to fully experience the small group and build the relationships you desire if you attend sporadically. Fight the urge to stay home when you feel tired. Once you get there, you’ll be glad you did. Showing up is a simple key to success both in your group and your life.
- Listen. Show your group you value them and want to get to know them by being present and actively listening. Yes, people overshare, but haven’t we all at some point? Fight the urge to look at your phone or drift off. Remember how you feel when someone is present and engaged as you talk. Listening is one way to honor your group. This creates a safe space for people to wrestle and grow in their faith.
- Join the Conversation. We want to hear from you. This can be challenging for those who are shy or don’t have a friend in the group. Be courageous and share your thoughts. You have something important to contribute to the group. Nod your head, especially on Zoom groups, to show you are engaged and listening. Be willing to be vulnerable. When we can be ourselves, honestly share our struggles, and celebrate our wins, we grow closer to each other.
- Do the work and be prepared. We all experience busy weeks, and there will be times we don’t complete the homework. Let that be the exception, but still show up. Honor your group by being prepared, ready to engage and contribute to the discussion. It can be discouraging for a leader to ask a question and be met with silence because no one read the book or watched the video. It’s like hosting a potluck, but only one guest brings a dish. Dinner isn’t quite the same. You get out of the group as much as you are willing to contribute.
- Encourage others. We live in a challenging season; everyone could use a bit of encouragement. Affirm other’s contributions. Ask how they are doing. Follow up on a prior prayer request. Little acts of kindness tell others you value them, and that is how great friendships begin. Text someone in your group each week. Write a note of encouragement. Send someone money through Venmo for coffee. These gestures are contagious and will spur others on to do the same (Heb 10:24-25). You won’t regret it.
- Serve Your Group. Offer to bring a meal when someone is sick. Reach out if someone is absent to see if they are ok. Invite someone to coffee to hear their story. The Bible says to outdo ourselves in honoring and loving others (Rom 12:9-10) and to serve others, faithfully using our God-given gifts (1 Pet 4:10).
- Take Initiative. Offer to bring snacks or plan a social event for the group. Be courageous and pray at the end of the group. Ask how you can support your group leader. Offer to lead when they want to take a week off. This type of support is meaningful to your leader. When we take next steps, relationships start to grow.
- Pray. Take time each week to pray for your group and your leaders. Pray over their requests and for their families. Ask God to bless your group and create community among you. One of my leaders said of their group members, “I love how they pray for each other and support each other on their own. It is so beautiful to see how they have a supportive community within the group.”
Which of these resonates most with you? Which would be an area of growth for you? Try one of these steps this week and see how it impacts your group.
Cheri Liefeld is the Director of Small Groups at Eastside Community Church in Anaheim, California. She was previously Director of Women’s Ministry at Mariners Church. She is a writer and loves to gather people around the table. You can read more at adventuresinthekitchen.com.