My wife Vicki and I had fun launching a new small group last night. The first meeting went great. I wanted to tell you how we did it.
Preparation. We did the usual stuff—praying, inviting people, finding a host, choosing the best night and time for this group (Wednesdays at 6:30pm). Then we prayed some more.
Late afternoon before the meeting Vicki and I took some time to talk things over and map out who would do what. When we launch a new group with new people we do pretty much everything ourselves the first couple of weeks because we want to set the patterns.
Starting the Meeting. We got to our host home about 6:15 and talked a bit with our new host. She’s an awesome host—warm atmosphere, nicely arranged room, great snacks. Two couples arrived on time and there were seven of us there at 6:30. A lot of people were yet to arrive but I started a few minutes past 6:30 with three of the Quaker Questions which are super for a new group. I explained that anyone could answer first and that we would always go in a circle. Everyone answered the first question: “Tell us your name and what school you attended for first grade.” Then we did question two: “Who were you closest to when you were ten years old?” By this time another five people had drifted in so I ask people to state their name again, when answering the final question: “When did God become more than a word to you?”
The Quaker questions always work well. They progressively move people to deeper heart issues.
Explaining. This group is what small group experts call a turbo group. A turbo group is a group that you load with emerging leaders so that you can rapidly multiply several new small group out it. Because I was talking to people who know that they will soon be leading their own group, I did a lot of explaining as we went along, things like, “I did three icebreaker questions tonight because this is a new group and we need to connect to each other. In Ephesians 4 Paul says that when we are ‘joined and held together’ as members of one body that we can grow together into Christ’s likeness. We want to deeply connect with each other so that Jesus’ life and ministry can flow freely in and through this group.”
Clarifying the Purpose. The Quaker questions took half the meeting last night so instead of a Bible discussion I just read Acts 2:42-47, which is small group enthusiasts’ favorite Bible passage, then Vicki and I explained the purpose of the group. We said something like this….
Small groups are not a new fad. The earliest church met in both large groups and small groups (verse 46). Today, as in the early church, people need to experience God in two different ways. In a large group they experience God’s greatness and feel like they are part of a movement. In a small group they experience God’s closeness and feel like they are part of a family. Like the early church we want to see God work in powerful ways. We want to see miracles. We want to share deeply with each other in practical ways. We want to encourage and support and challenge each other and see others drawn to him. Our purposes our fourfold:
1. Reaching Upward to God – Experiencing his power, love and gifts.
2. Reaching Inward to One Other – Experiencing deep, authentic community.
3. Reaching Outward to Bring Others to Christ – When asked “When did God become more than a word to you?” our host shared how she came to Christ through loving neighbors who reached out to her at a time of deep need and brought her to their small group. I emphasized that we wanted our group to make Jesus real to people that need him just as that small group had reached our host.
4. Reaching Forward to Multiply Leadership – We intend for three or four groups to emerge from this group several months from now.
Vicki then explained our schedule. We are meeting every week for the next fourteen weeks. The first meeting of each month will a party or some fun activity. We’ll also do one service project sometime this fall.
We answered people’s questions.
Worship. Vicki led three worship songs using her baby Martin guitar. She had made a song sheet with the words of about ten songs on it, five on each side. We’ll use these throughout the fall. She pointed out that having printed words is important. The worship was directed to God and sweet. I was refreshed by God’s presence.
Ministry Time. I ended the worship time be asking the Holy Spirit to speak to us. I told people that God might give them a word for themselves or a word for the group. Then we were just quiet and listened for about 90 seconds.
I asked people to share words or pictures that they received. After people shared, I ask who the words spoke to. We broke into three groups in different rooms to pray for those who responded to the words and others that had needs.
I was trying to end the meeting by 8:00 but we were bumping up against that when we broke for ministry. About 8:10 I told each of the ministry groups that they had five minutes left to pray for one another.
Snacks and Sharing. At 8:15 people drifted back to the living room where the snacks were—popcorn, cookies, M&M’s, and Twizzlers. We passed a clip board around for people to sign up for responsibilities like hosting, leading worship, bringing snack and leading the Bible discussion beyond the first two weeks. People were having a great time and continued to talk about some of the icebreaker questions, asking those that came late what their answers were.
At 8:35 I suggested we leave and the place cleared out. It’s important to end at a good time. One reason it’s nice to have someone else host is so that you as the leader can say “it’s time to leave” and then lead the way out.
Follow Up. Three people who intended to be at the group were unable to come. Vicki dropped them an email when we got home, telling them that we missed them, who was there, and giving them details on the next meeting.
Your Ideas or Questions? That’s how we did it, what questions, ideas or suggestions, do you have about leading the first meeting of a new group?