From her very beginning, the Church has often grown and thrived among small groups of disciples. Jesus Himself began with the 12 Apostles, and throughout the letters of St. Paul we see him referring to small groups of disciples. This paradigm, which we see in the Bible, has continued throughout the history of the Church. Today numerous movements seek to lead people into a deeper relationship with Jesus through the small group format and through small group ministry.
Tips for starting a small group study:
Read the full article here.
- Be clear about your purpose.
- Choose a study program that suits your purpose.
- Agree on norms for discussion.
- Agree on the commitment to the group study.
- Settle housekeeping matters.
- Agree on leadership.
- Put God at the center.
Tips for structuring a small group:
- Welcoming (5-10 mins.) – This is a time for the leader and group members to do some visiting.
- Opening Prayer (5 mins.) – This is a time to get focused and invite our Lord to guide the group and the discussion. The “Our Father” or another prayer may be said during this time.
- Discussion Time(30-40 minutes) – This is the time to discuss the study questions for the weekly lesson or chapter. Participants may be expected to have read the lesson material and answered the study questions prior to each group meeting. Another option could be reading the material and answering the questions together during this time. At the end of the discussion time, the leader may want to see if there are any specific goals that the members would like to work on between now and the next meeting. Make sure to follow-up on the goals at the beginning of the discussion time at the next meeting.
- Closing Prayer (5 mins.) – This is a time to bring closure to the discussion, pray about what has been talked about, and allow time for any other special intentions from group members. The “Hail Mary” or another prayer may be said during this time.
- Socializing Time (5-10 mins.) – The leader and/or group members may decide that this is a time they would like to have a snack and beverages (tea, coffee, etc.) available.
Stages of Group Development
Bruce W. Tuckman, a respected educational psychologist, identified the following five stages of group development after observing small groups in a variety of environments. Awareness of these stages may assist the small group leaders in praying for and with the group members and helping the group to reach a high level of trust and cohesiveness. The description of Tuckman’s fives stages has been adapted to fit the topic of small group ministry.
- Forming – Facilitating a welcoming, caring, and accepting atmosphere is important in laying a foundation for the group. During this time, group members gather information and impressions about each other and the purpose of the group. The group members often rely heavily on the leader for guidance during this stage.
- Storming– During this stage of group development, the members may often feel more comfortable taking risks and sharing personal information. This is a time when group members experiment with what is safe to share, their roles & responsibilities, and how they can meaningfully participate in the group. During this stage of group development, conflicts often arise regarding roles & responsibilities, the purpose of the group, personal views, etc.
- Norming– During this stage, the group needs to establish rules or norms that are clear and agreed upon. Past conflicts may have helped group members better understand and appreciate one another. The leader can provide guidance during this time by helping to provide a safe environment for the members to participate, resolve conflicts, and agree upon norms for the group.
- Performing – This stage is characterized by interdependence (balance of feeling free to be oneself and rely on others) and everyone knowing each other well. As a result, group members have a high level of trust in each other, which results in the ability to discuss and pray about important issues/topics in their lives or accomplish tasks together.
- Adjourning– This is a stage when group members may grieve the group coming to an end. During this stage, the leader can help the members reflect on the joys and struggles experienced in the group. Also, the leader can assist the members in identifying what they learned, how it can be used in the future, and helping the group members to stay connected with one another.
Recommended Books for Small Group Ministry
- Making Small Groups Work by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
- The Lost Art of Disciple Making by Leroy Eims
- How to Lead Small Groups by Neal McBride
Small Group Ministry Programs
The Evangelical Catholic – Launching a Small Ministry