All small groups have times when they are engaged and times when they are less so.
However, it is possible for a group to become so divided that it is a poor environment for spiritual growth.
There is good news, however: recognizing that your small group has issues is the first step to solving them.
If you fear that your church small group is dying or at least in its death throes, there are a few ways that you can turn things around and create joyful environment where participants thrive in God’s grace.
Signs That Your Small Group Is Suffering
Many leaders and facilitators are not sure how to tell if their small group needs help. Here are a few signs to watch for:
- People come late or leave early on a regular basis.
- Disagreements lead to heated arguments, or even stony silence.
- People engage with devices instead of the group.
- Group members gossip about each other outside of the meeting.
- Members do not volunteer to bring refreshments or otherwise help out with logistics.
- Visitors are rare; the group is not interested in discipleship.
- Members never form friendships or relationships outside of group.
While most of these points are not a big deal in themselves, a group suffering from one or more of these symptoms needs help.
5 Tips for Resuscitating Your Small Group
How can you help your small group to heal from indifference and begin to thrive? Try one or all of these five ideas.
1. Pray for your group. Prayer should always be your first approach to life’s problems. Encourage other group members to also pray. God can change hearts so that people become more open and engaged.
2. Celebrate milestones. Birthdays, new children, and other life events are a chance to bond and come together. Begin recognizing these and other life milestones, even if only in a small way.
3. Facilitate interaction between meetings. A thriving small group can’t be contained by walls and time slots. Enthusiasm and faith will begin to pour into other areas of members’ lives. You can start this process by encouraging interaction outside the small group meetings. Are people friends on social media? Can they continue group discussions and studies beyond the physical meeting with software such as StudyChurch?
4. Model the right attitude. Are you coming to small group to learn about God’s Word and change your life? The small group leader should always model openness and a willingness to incorporate their learning into real life. Tell and show members that lives can be changed through diligent study, discipleship, and an open heart.
5. Encourage personal discussions. Many small group leaders feel that personal stories and anecdotes are a distraction. While this is sometimes true, these often have a purpose. Perhaps your group members are trying to engage with the material by relating real life parallels; maybe they are asking for help with a difficult situation. Personal discussions help to build relationships and community while keeping group from feeling like church. Maintain an open attitude and be willing to go where the Spirit leads you.
Most ‘dead’ small groups still have a pulse and can be successfully revived. The leader’s job is to help people engage with the material and to develop the community bonds that will allow members to grow in Christ.