The launch of your small group is an exciting event. You’re taking a diverse group of individuals and forming them into a community. The people come from different backgrounds and families, have different likes and dislikes, span a range of ages, and possess different spiritual maturities. Some will be skeptical, some shy. Chances are, someone will be a bit overbearing. Your goal is to create an atmosphere that allows people to blend comfortably and not feel threatened. You want to give hope for the future.
With all of that in mind, consider a few ground rules for how you’ll lead the group’s first meeting.
1. Don’t begin with preconceived expectations.
It takes time for people to trust you and each other. So while you want to do the best job you can to lead and facilitate, avoid setting unrealistic expectations. Take what you get and build from there.
2. Don’t allow people to feel pressured.
Give people the freedom to participate as they feel comfortable. Be careful not to put someone on the spot.
3. Don’t ask people to read aloud until you know they are comfortable doing so.
Keep in mind that some people have reading disabilities. The last thing you want to do is embarrass someone.
4. Don’t assume everyone will want to pray aloud.
Encourage individuals to pray if they want to, and then you can close. For many people it takes time before they feel comfortable praying in front of others.
5. Don’t ask people to give spontaneous “testimonies.”
In addition to some people being shy, others in your group may not be Christians or know what a testimony is! (In fact, it’s best to avoid using church lingo.)
6. Do ask people to let you know if they feel uncomfortable praying or reading aloud.
It will be such a relief for people to be able to let you know that they don’t like to read or pray in public. You can also let them know they can change their minds if they begin to feel more comfortable with other group members.
7. Do ask people ahead of time if they’re willing to share their faith stories.
By lining up people ahead of time, you’ll get a good sense of who feels comfortable sharing and who doesn’t. This also gives people time to prepare what they want to say—and lessens the chance they’ll ramble on and on.
8. Do ask for volunteers to read Scripture.
Simply asking, “Would someone like to read verses 28 and 29?” gives people a chance to read aloud if they want to. If no one volunteers after a few seconds, say “OK, I’ll go ahead and read that passage.”