I recently got an email from Peter that asked, “What are the essential ingredients to making a great life group and how do I get them?”
That is a great question! Let’s take an initial stab…and then open up shop for comments (or further questions) that you might have.
The essential ingredients to making a great life group are both simple and challenging. You’ll find most of what you’re looking for in the values listed on the Purpose Driven Group Agreement. A group that integrates these 8 values will have the basis for a very rich experience. Take a look:
- Group attendance is prioritized. Seems obvious, but this is very important. Group members need to be committed to putting group meetings ahead of other opportunities.
- A safe environment is one where members can be heard and feel loved. Easy? No. Learning to listen and ask follow up questions without offering pat answers or snap judgments is very difficult. Short of a safe environment you cannot expect to cultivate the kind of group experience that actually produces life-change.
- Confidentiality is an essential ingredient. What is shared in the group, stays in the group. Nothing kills an experience like the knowledge that we’re not all in this together.
- Spiritual health is made possible through a kind of shared accountability and support. It’s not a solo operation. I need you and you need me. Together we can be healthy.
- Determining in advance that your group will be a welcoming place for new people is important. Maintaining that potential (beyond lip service) is difficult but essential. Without this element a group can easily become stale.
- Developing a sense of shared ownership allows each member to play a part. It is both more work and less work. More work in that the leader must proactively engage a contribution from everyone. Less work in that with the help of everyone the leader can focus on leading.
- Rotating the facilitation responsibility among group members allows for the development of confidence and the identification of additional leaders. Brett Eastman calls it, “The crock pot of leadership development.” Side note: This is also one of the major predictors of groups that survive when the leader moves away or otherwise stops leading.
- Sub-grouping for spiritual growth. Whether you take the step of accountability partners, or simply sub-group into groups of 3 or 4, this will encourage deeper sharing, more meaningful prayer and a greater sense of connection. Having 10 to 12 regular participants is great but it is too large for everyone to share their experience in a meaningful way.
While there are other aspects that are important (for example, how often you meet, focusing on transformation as opposed to information, and how you handle conflict), I really think these are the most essential ingredients of a meaningful small group. How do I begin to implement them? Intentionally moving in this direction. Starting with an agreement is a great first step. Tracking progress and actually measuring alignment with these values is also very important.
Thoughts? Use the comments and lets talk about it!