Women are sitting in your church auditorium each week who are silently struggling with loneliness. They may have a supportive husband, a loving family, and a busy calendar, but they may still feel alone and unknown. Leading a small group can be a great way for you to find community for yourself while simultaneously providing community to other women.
Over the past three years, my family and I have moved to two different cities. It has been a hard season of transition and loneliness. For those of you who have moved before, you understand how challenging it can be to make friends in a new town! As I’ve worked to develop new relationships in my new cities, the thing that has struck me the most is realizing you don’t have to be new to a city to be lonely.
As you prepare to lead a new small group, here are three suggestions on ways to build lasting community.
1. Start with the need.
On your first meeting with a new group, take a few minutes to go around the room to hear introductions. Taking the time to introduce who is in the room can feel lengthy, but it is an important and necessary step for cultivating community. Consider asking each person to share why she signed up for the group and what she hopes to gain in the coming weeks.
When I have done this in the past, it is always eye-opening to see that a huge majority of the women in attendance chose to come because they are looking for community or because they were invited by someone else. When the women in your group realize from the get-go that others are also there for friendship and community, it suddenly gives them permission to seek it from one another without fear of rejection.
2. Be willing to go first.
As the leader of your group, you can steer the ship of your group simply by being willing to “go first.” Your willingness to share a prayer request or open up about a current or past struggle sets the stage for others to follow suit. Once the ice has been broken, other women will feel more comfortable sharing their hearts because they have seen you model that it is OK to do so. The more open, honest, and authentic your group is, the more connected you will feel to one another, which will provide the kind of community the women are longing for.
3. Set up a regular rhythm for fun and fellowship.
As you set up your meeting times, don’t forget to plan time for fun and fellowship! If you’re like me, you have great intentions when you first start something, but as time goes on and your busy schedule gets the best of you, it’s hard to remember to schedule time together outside of regular meetings. You could plan for one meeting each month to be a dinner night either at a restaurant or in someone’s home, or once-a-month Saturday fun when you do different activities like meeting at the park, getting pedicures, or a movie night. Once you decide what rhythm works best for your group, make sure to communicate this with everyone, send reminders, and not be afraid to message women individually encouraging them to come. The more women feel connected, the more willing they will be to come each week and open their hearts to the Word and one another.
Finally, don’t forget to pray! Before I go into various social situations, I often pray for laughter. I always find that laughing bonds people very quickly and often tears down walls that might hinder community. Ask God to bring fun, laughter, and deep community to your group as you meet together. And be encouraged! He is with you.
Mickey Pitts serves as the event development strategist for Lifeway Women. It is her joy to be a part of creating new events that impact the kingdom and draw women closer to God. Mickey lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with her husband, two boys, and a crazy Wheaten Terrier named Dexter.