Just moments into his small group gathering, the veteran small group leader of a long-standing small group had heard enough. He tossed his leader’s guide to the ground and took a long hard look at each person in his living room.
What caused such righteous frustration? What made this mild-mannered, godly man lose his cool? Reading? Preparation? Investment? Or, should I say, the lack thereof?
The leader’s frustration mounted moment-by-moment as each couple in his group acknowledged their lack of preparation for their weekly small group gathering. As he went around the room to inquire about initial thoughts on the study materials, he got a room full of blank stares and “didn’t get to it” shrugs.
One couple hadn’t done the 20 minutes of prep time required because of house guests. Another couple couldn’t work through the study during the week because they had busy work schedules. The next couple hadn’t found the material all that compelling the previous meeting, so they chose not to dig in and discuss it together. And the last couple mentioned their large dog and his huge appetite…
Are some of the reasons couples don’t get to their study materials during a given week valid? Of course! And grace should be given liberally. But a consistent pattern of “no-reads” can make any leader crazy. So what’s the answer? How do you make your small group intriguing from week to week? How can you help your people to engage?
Here are three tips that just might ground the next flying leader’s guide:
1. Make sure that every member of the group is interested in the particular study. The quickest way to lose group members is for the leader to chose a study on behalf of everyone else. Avoid that temptation. Select a study/book/DVD resource that has the interest of all group members. Can’t get consensus? Work to find something that almost all can agree upon and be somewhat excited about.
2. Be specific about study expectations for your next meeting—before you leave the current meeting. Once you’ve completed your discussion, spell out what you plan to cover at your next gathering.
3. All study guides are not created equal. Use only the best study questions. Most study guides will offer up eight or 10 questions. There’s no way that most small groups can cover that many questions with any sort of depth. You don’t have to! Select three or four that connect with your group members and where your people are on their journey of faith. Then dig into those three questions with intentionality and fervor. If you can tell group members the three or four questions you’ll be digging into next time, that will help them better prepare.