One of the greater challenges of a Community Group leader is preventing your group from getting into a “rut”. Regular routines to your group time are important in the beginning to facilitate trust and continuity. However, we have all been a part of groups that we could predict exactly what the order of events would be (e.g., opening snacks, prayer requests, lesson, quick prayer to dismiss). Soon our routines only fuel the tendency of our group members to go through the motions, instead of intentionally engaging in the group experience. These four considerations will help your group time not slip into a rut, but instead inject freshness that helps meaningful group participation.
1) Consider changing the format/order of your study time
You might begin your group with a creative introduction to your study time, engaging your group members immediately upon their arrival, then end the group time in fellowship and discussion of how the lesson impacted them. You might consider weaving prayer/prayer requests into your lesson discussion time. Your lesson might be one or two very probing questions that then become a matter of prayer for the whole group. If you usually use powerpoint with everyone in one direction, circle the chairs up. If you usually are in a circle with discussion, consider incorporating some outlines and visuals. Use a movie clip or website when it is beneficial. Any kinds of changes you can make to the format & order of your group meetings will keep group members alert to how God’s Spirit is moving in the group time.
2) Consider changing the setting/environment of your group meetings
Having continuity in a group’s meeting place is crucial for a group’s success. However, when it makes sense for your lesson, consider changing the setting of your group meeting. If you are doing a lesson on God’s attributes/character, you might meet outdoors in a scenic setting. If you are doing a prayer study, you might have your group prayer walk around the church building or in your neighborhood. If you are doing an evangelism study, you might meet in a public place seeing the world in need all around you. The point is to not change setting, just to be different, but be purposeful – allow the new setting to either enhance the truth you want to get across in your lesson time, or enhance relationship building amongst group members.
3) Consider practical, hands-on learning experiences
Recently, my community group was doing a marriage study, and the lesson on “honoring your spouse” happened to fall on Valentine’s Day. So, I organized the men in our group to prepare and serve a nice dinner for our wives who were seated in another room. We literally, honored our wives by serving them, and had a great discussion as men as we worked in the kitchen. This is just one example of how you can incorporate ‘hands-on’ experiences to reinforce a lesson in your group. These will work especially well when you sense the truth is very familiar to your group members, (e.g.,“God’s love for us”). These kinds of lessons will be particularly powerful your members who learn through “doing”.
4) Consider using different people to lead your study time
The reality about people is that when they get used to one particular voice teaching them, it is easier for them not to listen as carefully. To combat this familiarity, incorporate other group members in the teaching of your lessons. Especially focus on the apprentice leader, or person you believe God is leading to become an apprentice. It is not only great practice for them, but it also gives group members an opportunity to hear a different perspective on God’s truth. However, beware of arbitrarily rotating teachers just to get people involved. If this isn’t someone’s gifting or calling, they will feel uncomfortable and the group won’t learn as much. Concentrate the practice of this tip with the people in your group who you know God is leading toward greater leadership and teaching. Then, everyone wins!