What makes for a dynamic small group experience? Most of us know it when we see it. While most of us have been in groups that were just painful to attend, we've also been in groups that had a different quality and went well beyond the ordinary.
The groups we've been in that went well beyond the ordinary can usually be described as having the optimal environment for life-change. I've written about what I think are the essential ingredients of life-change several times.
5 keys to a more dynamic small group experience
1. A group leader who is becoming more like Jesus.
Like Paul, the leader can say, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ," 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV).
Embedded in this key are the practices of Jesus (praying for group members, thinking about their needs, loving them even when they fail, celebrating their faith steps, and appropriately challenging their stumbles).
The key is that they are becoming more like Jesus. Like Jesus' closest followers, they can start very far from being like Him.
2. A group leader who is being mentored by someone who is a few steps ahead.
I've often said, "Whatever you want to happen in the lives of your members has to happen first in the life of the leader."
How will the leader become like Jesus? Almost always because someone is a few steps ahead, living out "follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ."
At its essence, real coaching is actually mentoring. Coaching should never be about taking reports for attendance or keeping track of the curriculum being studied. And very little of the coaching experience is about teaching technique.
Real coaching is actually mentoring. Doing TO and FOR (and WITH) the leader whatever you want the leader to do TO and FOR (and WITH) the members of their group.
3. A warm and welcoming environment; a comfortable and familiar space.
Environment plays an important role in the meeting. What's needed isn't elegant or expensive. What's needed is an invitation to relax.
While the actual place the group meets may change, the environment that helps produce a more dynamic group experience will remain consistent.
4. A shared understanding of essential purpose, values, and expectations of the group.
This may be the most difficult key to achieve. While some shared understanding may exist from the outset of the group, a truly dynamic experience will require frequent reminders as the purpose, values and expectations of the group.
Certainly, there will need to be a reminder whenever a new member joins.
Even when the members of a group are unchanged, the shared understanding of essential purpose, values and expectations should never be assumed and always front of mind.
5. A connection that extends beyond the meeting.
The meeting itself is important, but the meeting is not enough. Groups that move beyond the ordinary experience almost always connect between meetings. Dinner together. A cup of coffee. A Facebook message or a quick phone call. Sitting together in the worship service. A birthday card or note.
Need more help with this? Consider taking my newest mini-course: Making More and Better Disciples in Groups.
Image by woodleywonderworks