by Reid Smith
It doesn’t take long for a list of questions to grow as people think about starting or joining a group. During the initial orientation of new group leaders, I work with them to create a “group profile” that provides potential members with a snapshot of the new group. It also helps the leaders-in-training process through questions that need to be answered so everyone understands the commitment involved.
Here’s a list of group meeting details to address up-front along with some things to think about as you guide new leaders:
- Group Leader Name and Contact Information
I like to make the name and contact info of the leader easy to see and access for potential group members. This can be tailored to the preferences of the group leader and can include the best time to contact. Also, it’s very helpful for “group shoppers” to have a picture of the group leader that appears with their group online or in print.
- Type of Group
It’s good to be clear on who the group is for (e.g. men, women, married, shared interest, families, young adults, etc.).
- Title of Group
My church combines the Group Leader Name and Type of Group to create the Title of Group (e.g. Reid Smith Men’s Group).
- Start Date
List both the day and start date and consider clarifying that people are welcome any time after it launches.
- Duration of Upcoming Season
Most groups organize around a study or season that runs for a certain number of weeks. Some group leaders have the intention of meeting for a year or more, but I recommend featuring the group duration in more of a “bite-size” way. You can’t force commitment, but you can grow it after people form relationships they want to continue building.
- Start and End Time
It’s important to set the expectation that groups will start AND end at specific times. That doesn’t mean members can’t come earlier or stay later. You just need to be clear so newcomers know if the group will work for them considering their commute, children, etc.
- Frequency of Meeting
Most groups meet weekly or every other week. This is advisable because groups that meet less frequently make it harder for relationships to grow. Plus, if people miss just one session of a group that meets monthly, they’ve missed a significant percentage of the whole year!
- Basic Description of Group
Encourage brevity here–no more than three sentences that conveys the make-up and purpose of the group. Only the most critical things should be communicated–set expectations.
- Current Focus/Study
Groups are organic and will change with each passing season. One area where this is evident is the curriculum used or the emphasis for a period of time. It’s also good to clarify here if materials are provided or need to be purchased in advance.
- Meeting Location
Oftentimes, it’s helpful to have somebody else besides the leader carry the responsibility of hosting the group. If you or the host home is uncomfortable displaying the full street address, at least feature the city so people can know their proximity to the location.
This can be addressed simply by saying “unavailable” or “available–contact the leader for more details.” Depending on the prospective member’s stage of life, this can be a “make or break” factor in their decision-making.
- Current Group Members
Ask this question of everyone, including new group leaders because you never know if they already started to form a core group before “going public.” This would not be listed publicly, but it is good for you to know who is connected, which you can’t do without the help of your group leadership. This is ever-changing, but even if you get feedback once per semester/season, it’s enough to reveal helpful trents.
The logistics of your groups collectively reveals the philosophy backing your community disciple-making strategy. Logistics influence culture, so take the time to answer what you believe about the following questions:
- Should I allow groups to meet onsite in the church building (permanently or only for a season) or should I set the expectation from the beginning that all groups meet offsite?
- Will I direct groups to always be “open” or can they be “closed” (or full)? If the latter, will this only be permitted for a limited time for specific reasons?
- Do I want to “segment” group life into semesters so there are clear on and off ramps for people in the community life of my church? If I choose a “semester system,” how will I formalize this with my group leaders and get their participatory buy-in?
- What kind of parameters will I give to group leaders in terms of their meeting frequency, format, and focus?
- What studies will I recommend to leaders? How will they select and use them? Will you purchase resources for your group leaders and have them returned to be reused?
There’s a lot to consider within each ‘Group Profile Field’ and group leaders will need your guidance as they create a picture of what they anticipate their group looking like. Whether people are thinking about starting or joining a group, these details are important guideposts that will help people connect and grow together in Christ!