John Calvin was a Swiss reformer and contemporary to the well-known Martin Luther (Calvin is twenty-six years younger than Martin Luther).
In the city of Geneva, jewelers and goldsmiths made crucifixes, chalices, and other items that people were reverent to and sometimes even worshipped. When John Calvin had political influence in the city of Geneva, one thing he instituted was a Consistoire, or “ecclesiastical court.” This “court” got rid of jewelers and goldsmiths making crucifixes, chalices, and other instruments serving papacy and idolatry. However, John Calvin allowed the clockmakers to stay.
In John Calvin’s mind, timeliness was a virtue because a Christian was not supposed to let minutes go unused for the Lord. In Calvin’s theology, every Christian would have to give an account to God for every moment of his life, and the personal clock was a way to help Christians make the most of the time they had. 1
Similar to John Calvin and his reverence for time, you too, as a small group facilitator, need to make the most of the time you have in your group meetings. However, be sure to begin and end on time.
BEGIN AND END ON TIME
Starting and Ending on Time Is Your Responsibility as the Facilitator
As the small group facilitator, you are the leader of your group. The king of Israel, David, reminds us about the limited time we have and how we must make the most of it,
4LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is.
5You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath. (Pss 39:4-5, NLT)
Recently a woman showed me a picture of her daughter who had just graduated from college. She exclaimed, “Don’t blink!” Implying that it just goes too fast! And I think that relates to what David shared in Psalm 39 and what Paul told the believers in Ephesus, “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days!” (Eph 5:16). Paul tells us we need to make the most of our time we have. Aside from the biblical reasons you need to make the most of your time, there are some small group practical reasons as well.
Why You Need to Start and End on Time
As a small group facilitator, you need to start your group on time and end on time for several reasons.
It Causes People to Show Up on Time
If you don’t regularly start on time, people will eventually stop showing up on time. You are the leader of the group and it’s your responsibility to start the group on time.
Some People Need Structure, and if There Is No Structure, Then They Won’t Come Back
While some people enjoy “going with the flow” and like spontaneity, there are others that won’t dedicate their time to a group unless a specific schedule is followed. (I am one of those people, by the way!)
It Keeps Your Conversation Focused
If people know that the group is coming to the end of the predetermined time, they are more likely to stay on topic.
Being punctual with the start and end time of your group will help the group stay on topic in two ways. First, people are less likely to take the conversation way off-topic if they know you (their small group facilitator) are prompt and punctual at keeping the conversation focused as well as keeping good time limits on discussion time. Second, once the group is off topic, they are less likely to continue down that path because they know that you only allow a certain amount of time each week for the group to meet.
It Cultivates a Safe Environment Where Vulnerability and Life Change Can Occur
When you set boundaries for the start and end time of your group and you regularly follow those boundaries, it lets your small group members know that they can trust you. It shows you can be consistent and faithful with a simple small detail; therefore they start to feel they are in a safe environment where they can share their heart and life with others in the group.
Tools to Help You Start and End on Time
Starting and ending your group on time can be difficult because you are not always in control of the group. You are the “facilitator,” so you are not the only one talking, and you might also have someone that does the prayer time or provides snacks. Here are four tips to help you start and end on time.
Put a Clock Where You Can See It
You want to be able to see a clock, but you need to be discrete when you look at it (an old-fashioned clock on the wall is a good idea). I wear a watch on my left hand, which I can easily glance at when needed. When holding the study guide or my Bible, I can easily glance at my watch and no one knows I am looking.
Don’t Look at Your Phone
If you must know what time it is, the last thing you want to look at is your phone. As soon as you look at your phone, so will everyone else, then they will see their text messages or notifications, and then be distracted. Find another way to know the time without looking at your phone.
Review Your Group Agreement or Living on the Edge Study Guide
Each group should have some type of a “group agreement” that lists the start and end time of the group. At our church we call this a “Covenant of Love” and it has a place you can list your start time and end time on it. When you review it with your group each year, be sure that everyone knows the start and end time. If some of your group members are arriving late regularly, you might want to review that Covenant of Love. One reason I like to have our group use the studies produced by Chip Ingram and Living on the Edge is that it has an area inside the study guide that helps the group decide on a start time and end time. If your group uses those studies, highlight that section for your group.
Remind Your Group on the End Time
Sometimes it is helpful to remind everyone about the end time of your group. If the group is very talkative and wants to take the discussion off-topic say, “We usually end group at 8 pm so I am going to move us on to the next question.” A talkative group is a good thing, but you need to make sure the group ends when it is supposed to end. Remind the group about the agreed-upon end time.
A Successful Small Group Needs Punctuality
Success in a small group requires consistent start and end times. Make a plan for your group and keep the discussion going. Sometimes, your group needs to deviate from the curriculum to focus on a need someone has. If that’s the case, then put the material aside and focus on the person. But be sure that the group ends on time.
- Jennifer McNutt, and David Lauber, The People’s Book, p. 100. ↩