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4 Tips for Cultivating a Healthy Small Group

Written by David Rawlins on

Leaders and Coaches

As Small Group leaders we have answered a call to steward those entrusted in our group. Much like a gardener, we are tasked with nurturing. But it is the Lord that causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:7). We can’t take credit when our group is doing well, but we can take steps to ensure against neglect.

Below are four practical ways we can attempt to cultivate a healthy group dynamic.

1. Pray

My pastor growing up often said, “When we work, we work; but when we pray, God works.” Prayer provides a platform for vulnerability and encouragement: both are vital in establishing healthy relationships within your Small Group.

Prayer also gives us the opportunity to live out the Scriptures where we are called to “carry each other’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2) and “pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

Practically, it can be difficult to both share requests and pray for everyone at each group meeting.

  • We have sometimes utilized the “Korean Prayer” method where we all pray out loud simultaneously then have someone close once it dies down
  • Other nights I might have members text me their requests then send out an email with this prayer list
  • At other meetings we might devote a good chunk of the night to pray over each couple individually
    Whatever the form, prayer is vital in maintaining a healthy group.

2. Prepare

I am an educator and have plenty of experience winging a lesson with little preparation. However, I know the best lessons are those that are intentionally thought out.

I will begin by identifying a purpose or desired outcome then go back and design activities that will accomplish this goal. We are all busy, but as a leader it is important to commit to preparation.

Preparation can look vastly different but for our group. I typically create a summary for discussion:

  • I insert the passage of Scripture from that week’s sermon
  • And then draft some questions that can facilitate conversation—pulling from the sermon, commentaries, or College Park’s Discussion Guide

This practice helps me wrap my mind around the topics we plan to discuss and forces me to devote time and energy into planning for our group beyond just the five minutes before we meet.

3. Pursue

Healthy groups are characterized by robust relationships, and these relationships require intentionality.

There should be a commitment to choosing one another not because of our commonalities of interest and personality but because of the unity we have in Christ.

It is difficult to develop deep relationships when you only spend an hour together a couple times a month—so as a leader, strive to model a commitment to relationships by setting aside time outside of the group to invest in one another.

  • My wife and I love to entertain so we try to invite individual families over for dinner and games
  • When spontaneous family outings arise, consider extending an open invitation to the group
  • We try to plan monthly guys and girls outings to provide space for relationships to take root

When it comes down to it, healthy groups intentionally pursue relationships.

4. Pop In

Periodically “popping-in” with members is a great way to bridge gaps between meetings.

This can look like weekly emails to the group, but it can also be less formal:

  • Group text messages are a great way to share prayer requests and news throughout the week
  • During the pandemic we started a Marco Polo video chat thread so that we could see each other’s faces more regularly

Communication doesn’t need to be group-wide. Sending individuals encouraging texts, following up about a prayer request, or just sending a funny meme are simple ways to pop-in. I’ve even heard of groups sharing a Google calendar.

The important thing is that communication is happening beyond group time: not out of obligation, but from a desire to do life together.

Get Gardening

In this weird pandemic season where attending church on Sunday hasn’t been an option, I am cherishing the fellowship through our Small Group even more. Hopefully you’ve experienced something similar in your own group. But if you’ve put your group on the back burner because of other pressing matters, I encourage you to pray, prepare, pursue and pop-in with your group members. Then you can sit back and see how the great Gardener brings the growth.

David Rawlins

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