Sometimes Christians think they have to agree with everyone in their small group. Part of the growth that people experience in a small group is enjoying fellowship with people that believe and act differently than they do. Learning to love those people and get along with them is a sign of spiritual maturity. From time to time, remind your group that it is okay to disagree.
Adjusting to this “digital small group” stuff has been difficult for me. Perhaps you have found it to be a smooth transition. I have not.
Due to those struggles, I called two of my small group leaders at our church and asked them for guidance. They gave me four great tips that I have started using in my weekly Bible study on Zoom
The meetings have been much better!
Here are those four tips I want to share with you.
- Use a laptop computer or desktop computer. This gives you a bigger screen so you can see everyone at once. You can also use a tablet like an iPad. A phone can work too, but the screen is so small it makes the video conference more difficult.
- Try to keep the device you are using stationary. This was something I did poorly when I used a phone for our group because the internet was not working for my laptop. I think I knocked over my phone three times during the meeting. But if you can, try to keep your device in one place.
- Stay on mute until you want to talk. If there are 15 people in your group it can be difficult to hear the person talking if there are other background noises. (One women’s group I talked to said that they could hear the husband’s coffee maker brewing two rooms away.) Ask everyone to keep themselves muted until they want to share something.
- Use the “chat” feature if needed. Most video call software has a “chat” area where people can share a message with the group. Feel free to use that if needed.
Whether your group uses Zoom, Google Hangout, FaceTime, Google Meet, or Facebook Messenger, these are some helpful tips you can use.
Facilitating a small group is more art than science. While there are certain principles small group facilitators need to follow,[ref]Some of these principles are doing the Unifying Question each week, having an apprentice/assistant/co-leader, having an Empty Chair in the group to remind everyone to pray for unsaved people, serving together at church or in the community, talking less than 25 percent of the time, starting and ending the group on time, calling someone who is part of your group and did not show up for group and did not tell anyone he wouldn’t be there, and encouraging everyone to participate in the discussion.[/ref] there are various techniques you can use.
VISIT OTHER GROUPS TO SEE HOW OTHER FACILITATORS FACILITATE
Each facilitator is going to have his own unique style of facilitating a small group. Thus, there are things each facilitator can learn from each other. Which is a principle that Scripture also teaches.
One the goals of your small group is to have everyone actively part of a weekly discussion. You want each person talking about what he is learning, how he is applying it to his life, and how his life is changing as a result. However, once you have nine or more people in your small group meeting, it is hard to get everyone involved in the discussion, therefore you need to subgroup your small group during discussion time.
SUBGROUP WHEN YOU HAVE NINE OR MORE PEOPLE AT YOUR MEETING[ref]“Subgrouping in this way will ensure that the doors of your small group remain open to seekers and other lost souls looking for the love of Christ. Not only does it develop leaders, but it also ensures that your small group atmosphere is conducive to adding friends.” Steve Gladen, Leading Small Groups with Purpose, p. 161[/ref]
Why Subgroup Your Small Group
Pray for the members of your group every day. Pray that the curriculum you will be using will speak to your group and transform their lives to look more like Christ. Also pray that God would prepare you and your heart to facilitate a discussion that helps people grow in their faith in Jesus Christ.
SOAK YOUR GROUP MEMBERS AND CURRICULUM IN PRAYER
T.A.L.K. to God about Your Group
When you pray to God about your group, follow the T.A.L.K. process.
Thank God for Your Group and the People He Has Sent to You
APPLICATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN COMPLETION
“The crowning part of your task in searching the Scriptures is to discover ways the truth applies to your own life and the lives of others” Chuck Swindoll, God’s Word for You, p. 111
The Goal Is Life Change for your Group Members
One of your goals as a small group facilitator is to get everyone involved in your group as much as possible. On the weekend people go to church and passively listen, but during the week at their small group we want them to actively discuss what they are learning and how they are growing.
Steve Gladen, the Small Groups Pastor at Saddleback Church has stated, “Every person in your group is an important part of the process [of discipleship]—not just the leader. The sooner your group members realize this, the healthier your group will be, and the easier your job will become” (Steve Gladen, Leading Small Groups with Purpose, p. 109). Get everyone as involved as possible in the organization of your group as well as during the discussion time.
Sometimes people go to a group and try to make a group be what they want it to be. Some people want to be part of a group focused on prayer, so they try to have a lot of prayer in your group. Some people want to study the Bible and theology, so that is all they think your group should spend its time on. Other people want to have Christian friends and experience fellowship, so they only want to enjoy time with others and have no interest in Bible study or prayer time.
ENSURE EVERYONE UNDERSTANDS THE PURPOSE OF THE GROUP FROM DAY ONE
Yet, as a LIFEGroup, we want to have a balance of several areas. Your job as a facilitator is to ensure your group touches on the different elements that each small group needs to have. It reminds me of a story from the book of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah Sets the Pace and Direction for His Ministry