Making Your Group Real Friends

4. Never run from challenges, questions, or even conflict in your group. Remember, the Bible says “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV). The group that doesn’t have sparks actually doesn’t have much life.  Healthy groups have conflict.

There are practical things you can do, however, to ensure that conflict doesn’t dominate your small group. First, make a group covenant. This agreement outlines the ground rules for your group. If you write down your expectations early on, conflict will occur less later on.

Second, facilitate discussion to help evaluate the progress of your group. After a few weeks, assess how things are going and just throw out the questions: “How’s it going? What is one thing you like? What is one thing you’d change if you could?” You may want to have them do it on 3×5 cards to make it safer. Issues that arise from these responses are ones to address immediately so controversy doesn’t ensue.

5. Encourage shared ownership. When this happens, the group moves from being “your” group to “their” group. Remember to rotate the facilitation of the group at least by the second or third week. Get out your group calendar and record where the group will meet, who will host, who will lead worship, and who will bring refreshments. This will develop ownership on a variety of levels.

Also make sure that each group member has a responsibility. Some people may not be ready to lead worship or plan a ministry project, but everybody can take a responsibility by teaming up and doing something together.  It could be planning a social, following up on absent group members, or participating in a ministry project. Sign them up, pair them up, and follow up. If you don’t follow up, it won’t happen.

6. Cultivate a group of friends. The Bible says that early believers gathered in temple courts and house to house, week to week. This model ensured members would always connect with one another, even if they missed a meeting at the temple.

Because the early church embraced this model, they added to their numbers daily. Everyone wanted to be a part of the fellowship. Who are you going to add to your circle?  If you invite friends to join the group, they’ll have a greater tendency to come back themselves because they’ll be surrounded by friends.

7. Take time to do life together. Don’t miss anniversaries, wedding parties, baby showers, job promotions, and even house closings. Celebrate one another’s lives.

On my birthday, my small group made my favorite dinner and favorite dessert. They asked how they could pray for me. Though the group isn’t supposed to be about me, on my birthday they wanted the whole night to be about me. The beauty is that they loved on me and made me feel special. This is the longing in each of our hearts.  

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Brett Eastman served as the Small Group Champion at Saddleback Church and Willow Creek Community Church for over a decade. Brett has produced and either authored or co-authored over 200 small group curriculum series including the bestselling Purpose Driven Small Group curriculum, Doing Lifetogether published by Zondervan, which has sold over 3,000,000 copies. He also was the primary designer behind the 40 Days of Purpose Campaigns that fueled over 25,000 churches around the world. He also wrote and produced the first Purpose Driven small group series for Rick Warren that influenced the development of over 50 small group series to date.