Is your church pursuing a vibrant small group culture? Have you decided to lead? What do you do next? While the first meeting of a small group Bible study is often intimidating, it will be much simpler if you follow this simple ten point checklist.
1. Ask for God’s blessings.
No successful endeavor has ever begun without prayer. It is important to ask for God’s blessings to be rained down upon your small group. He knows what people and approaches will bear fruit, so ask Him from the beginning for assistance. Even more importantly, listen to the answers that God places in your heart.
2. Create a vision.
It is easier to achieve success when you know what success looks like. What are the goals of your small group? What would you to get out of this experience? What are you hoping to achieve? Knowing the desired end result will allow you to make both short- and long-term plans for a successful Bible study.
3. Prepare a space.
You have probably hosted other events before. However, hosting a small group is a little different than throwing a Christmas party. Preparing the right physical space can help people to get into the right mental and spiritual space as well. Make sure there is space for everyone to sit, preferably in a circle or oval for best interaction. Bring in lamps if necessary for good lighting. It is ideal if you have ample side tables or other places to set beverages, writing utensils, and other supplies. If possible, plan for your pets and/or children to be elsewhere for the duration of the group.
4. Stock up on supplies.
There are a few supplies that every small group needs. You will want to have a few extra pens and highlighters on hand, as well as paper or post-its for people who want to take notes. Many small group leaders like to have snacks and beverages as well, as refreshments can make social interactions feel more normal. If you plan to discuss emotional topics, have tissues on hand. You do not have to shoulder the cost of these things; other small group members are usually happy to bring items if asked.
5. Greet members at the door.
The way you greet members will set the tone for the group. Answer the door personally and shake hands while greeting them warmly. Give them a nametag and thank them for coming. Treat them like a friend and fellow disciple rather than a stranger or guest.
6. Plan an icebreaker activity.
There is a good chance that people will feel awkward with each other due to the newness of the situation. This awkwardness can be remedied with a simple icebreaker activity. Keep this icebreaker light, not too personal, and humorous if possible.
7. Begin with a short study.
Your first study should be short, due to the extra time spent meeting, greeting, and getting to know each other. Begin with a short discussion about your goals for the group as well as any ground rules. If possible, your study should tie into this theme. Clear and shared expectations will ensure that everyone knows what to expect and how they can contribute.
8. Plan a closing ritual.
Plan for how to close your group meetings. Many leaders like to sum up what the community has learned, say a prayer, and then let people know about future meetings and any homework. It is very important to close on time, as many modern people are busy and already struggling to fit a small group into their lives.
9. Facilitate communication and community outside of group meetings.
Before people leave, they should exchange phone numbers and email addresses or otherwise make a plan to communicate. Not only will this help to build community and discipleship, but it will help pragmatically in the case you or other leaders are sick or otherwise indisposed. You should also consider using a program such as StudyChurch that will allow efficient group communications and collaboration outside of Bible study.
10. Plan to end early, but leave late.
Although it is important to end Bible study on time, leaders and hosts should expect that people will hang around a bit to talk and socialize after group meetings. This could be the beginning of lifelong bonds, so plan for these interactions.
Every small group began with a first meeting. The way that you handle this new and promising situation will determine the future course of your bible study community and the quality of the fruit it will bear.