Often, the practical things you do to prepare for the meetings of your small group are just as important as making sure you’re in the right place spiritually. Make the most of your small group meetings with these practical ideas.
1. Even though you can probably lead your study with minimal preparation time, take time to preview the lesson during the week. Highlight questions you feel are important for your group to spend time on, and make note of any supplies you might need.
2. Before your group is scheduled to meet, make sure the meeting environment is ready. Is the temperature comfortable? Do you have enough chairs? Are the chairs arranged so that no one is outside the circle? How’s the lighting? Do you have all the supplies you will need? What about refreshments? Is the bathroom presentable, and is there toilet paper? Details like these are important components of a great meeting.
3. Prior to the start of your meeting, make an effort to personally welcome and greet each person as he or she arrives.
4. Have refreshments available at the start of a meeting. Build in ten to fifteen minutes of snack time before officially starting. This way, if people are running a few minutes late, they won’t miss the beginning of the session.
5. Do what you can to avoid interruptions during the meeting time. If practical, don’t answer the phone. Also, at the start of the lesson, ask people to turn off or down cell phones and pagers.
6. Always start on time. If you do this faithfully from the first meeting, you’ll avoid the group arriving and starting later and later each week.
7. Don’t hesitate to divide into small groups to discuss questions during your study or for prayer times. This encourages greater participation by everyone in the group and starts to develop leadership in others.
8. Encourage everyone to participate, but be careful not to put anyone on the spot. Let the group members know upfront that they can pass on questions they’re not comfortable answering.
9. Keep your group on track. Encourage good discussion, but don’t be timid about calling time on a given question and moving on. Part of your job is clock management. If the group decides to spend extra time on a given question or activity, consider skipping or spending less time on a later question or activity in order to stay on schedule.
10. Before dismissing the group, confirm the time and place of your next gathering. Also, make sure that whoever is responsible for refreshments at the next meeting is aware of his or her responsibility.
11. End on time. Regardless of where you are in the lesson, when the clock rolls around to the “advertised” ending time, call time and give group members the opportunity to leave if they need to. Then wrap up as quickly as you can. This communicates that you value and respect people’s time.
12. Be prepared for people who want to hang out and talk after the meeting. If for any reason you (or the host) need people to leave by a certain time, be sure to make this clear during the meeting.
13. Thank people for coming, and let them know that you look forward to seeing them again at the next meeting.