By Reid Smith
Leaders launching new small groups want to have a strong start and welcome input on how to do so. Try offering just enough guidance so they know what to do BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER their first meeting without overwhelming them. This is an example of a resource you can customize to help small group leaders think through important steps so their new group can launch successfully and stay together for the long-haul.
1.Invite as many of your friends as you can think of…
◦Share your vision for the group—why you’re doing it and what you hope people will walk away with.
◦Try to describe the dynamic of the group and the people who will be a part of it.
◦Create an invitational ripple effect by having your friends and new group members invite their friends too.
2.Invite more people than you have room for (usually only one-half to two-thirds of those who confirm actually show up!). Start with as many people as possible at the beginning because there’s usually some attrition.
3.Tell people this will initially be a short-term experience that you’re confident they’ll love and then they’ll be able to decide if and in what way they’d like to continue.
4.Let them know there will be food…lots of good food! (If group members commit to bring food to the next meeting, this increases the likelihood they will return.)
5.Phone or text those interested a day or two before your first meeting.
6.Pray for your new group and those who plan to come!
7.Review any leader/host material and the upcoming study session in advance.
1.Welcome and introduce yourself (be relaxed, be real, and have FUN!).
2.Share a little background as to why you chose the focus of the group and tell them basically what each meeting will look like.
3.Allow time for people to introduce themselves and to share why your group stood out to them.
4.Acknowledge God’s Presence with you (Mt. 18:20) and share how you believe the Lord will use your new group experience to transform your lives. Depending on how many people are present who are not a part of your church, you can touch briefly on how your group will help to fulfill your church’s mission by living out the biblical purposes of God together.
5.Model authenticity and affirm each person’s input as you facilitate discussion.
6.Encourage participants to invite their friends, co-workers, neighbors, parents of their kids’ friends, and other unconnected people at your church to future meetings.
7.Close your group time in a brief prayer and get a picture.
1.Let your Pastor or Coach know how everything went and how they can pray for you!
2.Follow-up with those who didn’t show up by calling them to let them know you missed them, how great the first meeting was, and also to remind them of when the next meeting is going to be.
3.Spread the word on social media with your photo and welcome people to join you.
4.Remind your new group members of your next meeting (and any food they might be bringing) a day or two beforehand.
5.Review the upcoming session and tailor the discussion questions based on who God has placed in your group.
6.Start pondering and praying about who you believe could co-lead with you and eventually launch out with their own small group.
7.Over time, share bite-size roles and responsibilities with your group members, see what people gravitate toward, and let them run with it! Rotate the facilitation of the study and discussion as well.
Reid Smith has been equipping leaders in churches of all sizes and stages of growth for effective disciple-making since 1996. He lives in Wellington, Florida where he serves as a Groups Pastor at Christ Fellowship. You can find more of his helpful resources at www.reidsmith.org.