The new year of Small Group is here. I'm excited to get underway and get back to experiencing weekly community with my group. I hope you are as well!

This week I want to provide some tips for a strong start to the new year, so here we go.

1. CHALLENGE - A group meeting isn't complete unless we challenge people to find a way to do what the group discussed. Don't skip this critical step. During weekly preparation, ask yourself this question--"What one thing could people in my group do to be faithful to this Scripture?" (You may notice this is my pet tip. I’ll stay on it until I think we’ve got it.)

2. EXPECTATIONS - The first meeting is a great time to review expectations for the group. We've prepared a document entitled Small Group Values which would be great to share, or you can create your own. Be sure to discuss faithfulness to attend group meetings, praying for one another, honoring confidentiality, arriving on time, and the importance of investing in one's spiritual growth.

3. OUTREACH - The early fall is a great time to plug people into groups. Encourage your group to invite people. Challenge your group members to invite people they meet in Worship Gatherings. Also encourage people to invite friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

4. SUSTAINABILITY - We've been working to learn why groups disband, so that we can help our groups avoid that end. Healthy group life is important because we don't want our sheep scattered. Disbanding groups leave a bad taste in the mouths of participants.

From our findings, your group is in the danger zone with three characteristics: 1) you are off-campus, 2) your average attendance is less than eight, and 3) your group isn't outward focused regarding adding new people. Number two and three are closely related. Let’s face a fact—life is constantly changing and our groups will as well. Let's embrace it and commit to adding people to our groups constantly. (It won’t destroy the intimacy of your group.)

5. SHARED LEADERSHIP - Early in the year is a great time to give away ministry. I suggest putting someone else in charge of recording and disseminating prayer requests, planning fellowships, coordinating missions, coordinating outreach, coordinating ministry to group members, and if needed, a communications coordinator who is great with email, texting, etc. Sharing leadership will help people grow, give them ownership in the group, and keep you, the leader, from burning out.

6. DEVELOPING LEADERS - Once every month or two, ask someone else to lead the group meeting. It's an important part of leader development. Help them plan, then discuss how it went.

7. TALK ABOUT MULTIPLICATION - It's never too early to discuss the ultimate goal of multiplying a group. Go read 2 Timothy 2:2 and see four generations of "leaders" mentioned in this one verse. Let's develop generations of groups!

8. COMMUNICATE THE START - Why not call, send an email, or text everyone in the group to remind them of the first meeting? Let them know what you will be studying and that you are excited about seeing them there.

9. CURRICULUM - Pastor Matt is starting a study in First Timothy on August 20. That might be a great time to use the Small Group Guide and study alongside the worship experiences. Doing so is not a “rehash of the lesson” as I sometimes hear. If you are doing Small Group strategy the right way, it is an opportunity to move from discussion of knowledge to life change.

10. SCHEDULE - Be aware of the church schedule and plan accordingly. Sunday morning groups are pretty straight forward from now to Thanksgiving, but Wednesday night groups will need to plan for Prayer Gatherings on September 6, BH Mission Stories Night on October 11, and a two-week break November 22 and 29 that includes Thanksgiving and a second fall Prayer Gathering. Also, Ryan and Bethany, our church planters in Central Asia, will give an optional missions presentation on August 30 if your group would like to participate.

11. CANCELLED MEETINGS - We strongly recommend consistent, weekly meetings. If the leader is out of town, have someone else lead or at least get together for fellowship and prayer. If you are off-campus, allow someone else to host. On-campus groups should let the church know of a cancellation (Aubrey, Jay or Rebekah). It's really embarrassing for us to escort a new person to your room to find nobody there! We’ll put a sign on the door and inform the Welcome Desk and Kiosk.

12. DISMISSAL - If you are on campus at 9:00am, someone usually meets in your room after you. Please plan to close the lesson by 10:30 or 10:35am and have everyone totally out of the room by 10:45am. It's miserable outside if it's hot or cold or damp!

13. MORE DETAILS – We’ve created a page with all the details about leading Small Group. You’ll find it at

Finally, I want to thank you for leading a group. In essence, you are taking responsibility for the spiritual growth of others as a shepherd. That's no small responsibility, but when God calls us to that role, He also blesses us greatly by allowing us to see Him work through us.