Using A Small Group Agreement

One of the most important ingredients in group life is a small group agreement or covenant. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be a pre-printed handout (or download) or you can simply offer a set of guidelines and ask each group to write their own. I’ve found an agreement to be very helpful for a number of reasons:
  1. Guides a group through a discussion about details as they begin (what time do we start, what about childcare, who’s bringing the chips and salsa).
  2. Introduces values in the first few meetings that might not develop on their own (rotating facilitators, open chair, confidentiality).
  3. Provides a reminder before a challenging topic or question (let’s be sure that we’re practicing grace, listening without judgment…no off the cuff responses, okay?).
  4. Can provide a reference point during a discussion (remember, what is shared here…stays here).

Teach the concept in a skill training breakout:

  1. Whether you’re going to prepare an official version for your groups to use or encourage them to write their own using a set of guidelines, it’s a good idea to have a handout for everyone to look over. Here’s an example of one I’ve used recently.
  2. Take a few minutes to talk with your leaders about why an agreement is helpful (see above).
  3. Walk your leaders through how it might be introduced (in an early meeting of a new group, when beginning a new study, when starting a new year in the fall or first of the year).
  4. Model how it might be discussed for the first time in a group (i.e., read a statement, possibly offer a word of explanation, ask for questions or comments…”what do you guys think about this one?”)
  5. Ask volunteers to take a shot at explaining some of the values (i.e., “What would you say to make this value more practical for your group?”)
  6. Open the discussion up for feedback and questions.
  7. Let them know you’ll want a recap from each of them about how the discussion went (this is important…people do what you inspect, not what you expect).

Whether a group is brand new or has been around for awhile, they will benefit from the introduction of a group agreement. Training your leaders how to introduce the agreement and periodically pull it back out for discussion will make a difference in the way an agreement is implemented.  

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Mark Howell
Mark Howell serves as Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV. He founded, offering consulting and coaching services to help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries. He spent four years on the consulting staff at Lifetogether and often contributes to ministry periodicals such as the Pastor's Ministry Toolbox and