Pastors and group leaders often ask about the most effective meeting schedule for a small group planning. Should it meet every week or is every other week okay? Should it meet year-round, over semesters or Fall through Spring excluding Christmas? What’s better: 52 weeks per year, 36 weeks, 18 weeks? Should discipleship stop for Christian holidays? Here is some direction to navigate small group planning:
Small Group Planning:
Weekly or Bi-Weekly (or Is That Semi-Monthly)?
The frequency of group meetings really depends on the group. There are advantages to meeting weekly or meeting every other week. Groups meeting weekly tend to bond more quickly. In fact, I insist that new groups meet weekly, even if they eventually move to an every other week schedule. One of the first groups I led met every other week. It took us about nine months to start feeling like a group – we were doing a weekly meeting for six weeks when that happened, by the way.
A key disadvantage in meeting every other week is the space between meetings when a member is absent. If your group meets the first and third weeks of the month and the member misses the second meeting that month, you don’t see them again until the first meeting of next month. When you see them again, it’s been an entire month.
There is an advantage to meeting every other week. If a group absolutely cannot meet every week, it’s better for them to meet every other week than not meet at all.
Seasonal or Annual?
For the record, my group meets 52 weeks of the year. I lead a men’s group that meets at lunchtime every Wednesday. As men, we eat lunch every day regardless of the season or holidays. Now, when Christmas is on Wednesday, we will probably take a break for that one. Thanksgiving, however, will always be on Thursday. We like our group this way, but it’s not for every group.
The annual calendar has a certain ebb and flow, because even if you’re children are grown and gone, in the U.S. our lives revolve around the school calendar. School starts before Labor Day (or shortly after the fourth of July, it seems). There is two weeks for Christmas break. Spring break falls somewhere around Easter. Then, of course, there are the three big reasons for being a teacher – June, July and August.
Many churches encourage their groups to start around the time school starts. Why? Because school has a lot of demands – sports, clubs, fundraisers and so on. If a family’s weekly schedule fills up before they consider a small group, there is no day left when the music stops. You have to get the group day in there before the rest of the weekdays are taken.