January begins the new year! New goals are set, and new groups are started! So here are some tips and encouragement to help your group start off the new year with some fireworks!
- Look for simple, fun ways to meet your new group and help them get to know one another. Creative questions and icebreakers that bring laughter into the room are a great place to start. Don’t be afraid to play icebreaker games to break the tension of a new group. It is fun to get people moving around and push them a little to meet others. Although the group may begin with surface-level questions and answers, over time they will go deeper and share life’s joys, sorrows, and challenges.
- Always have icebreaker questions ready. As you continue to introduce people in the group, provide leading questions that they can answer. These questions may be as simple as “What is your favorite cereal and why?” to something more telling, such as, “What is your favorite childhood memory and why?” Continue looking for ways for your group to go deeper with icebreaker questions and learn about one another in the weeks following that first meeting.
- Decide how much time you will have for each small group meeting and stick with it. Invest in the time it takes to keep things on track and respect those in your group to use the time wisely. A healthy small group will have about 40-50% of the time available for icebreakers and discussion. The other 50-60% is spent facilitating the discussion and for prayer.
- Figure out the interests, preferences, and characteristics of those in the small group and choose your course of study wisely. Different groups have varied interests and preferences. Different stages of life and phases of spiritual development may require something new.
- Determine the goal of your small group and make sure everyone is on board. Is the goal to study books of the Bible? Is the goal to build authentic community? Is the goal to strengthen marriages or families? A little of all these things? Decide what the priority of the group is, and stay in alignment with the goals.
- Successful small groups develop efforts that connect the Scripture with real life. Without this connection to Scripture, most of what small group participants learn and experience when they are together never shows up in their life the other six days of the week. Work together as a small group to be sure members have a chance to develop and use the new skills and things they learn. For example, practice sharing your testimonies with one another, sharing the gospel, how Jesus is working in your life on a daily basis, and so forth.
- Set expectations. One of the most effective methods for reinforcing what small group members are learning is to establish a “norm” or expectations. Group members are expected to contribute to the conversation and to discuss the Scripture and topics each week. They are expected to spend time reading their Bibles and learning ways to voice what they understand or bring their questions to the group.
- Never underestimate the power of food at a small group meeting. Food, for the most part, makes people feel comfortable. It relaxes the atmosphere and helps people sustain higher energy levels. Provide variety or have others sign up to bring the different food items each time you meet.
- Organize the room so that people are attentive to the Bible study and discussion of the content. Make sure there are plenty of seats for everyone. If people need space to set their Bibles or to take notes, give plenty of elbow room. If you use a video, audio, or prop of any kind, make sure the entire small group can see and hear it. You can pass around props or object illustrations as needed.
- The power and practice of prayer. Depending upon their background, people are comfortable or may feel awkward with prayer. Remind those in your group that reading the Bible and prayer are communication with God. Prayer is one of the most intimate things a group does together because it reveals the heart of each individual. It is essential for every time you meet together as a group.
Starting a small group doesn’t need to be difficult. Remember, it is inviting people in to do life together. A little food, a few icebreakers, and a heart for prayer and studying God’s Word with others, will start your new year and your new group off with anticipation and excitement.
Here are some adorable free downloads and printables to get you started. Just click the links below to download.
- “Let’s Study” Banner
- Scripture Cards
- Name Tags
- No-Cook Recipes
- Conversation Starters
- 12 Tips to Being a Great Leader
What are some other ways you’ve started a new Bible study group? What are some specific icebreakers or questions you’ve used to engage your group?
Michelle Hicks is a Manager on the Adult Ministry Publishing team at Lifeway. She gives leadership to the team responsible for producing Bible study resources for women.