You’re ready to launch your group, but are you ready to lead the first meeting?  First impressions carry a lot of weight, so this first meeting will begin to set the expectation for people going forward.  Here’s a few important tips and a sample schedule to help make your first meeting a great success.

Know people’s questions.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of those attending your group for the first time.  The most common questions they have walking in are:  Who is in this group?  Do I like these people?  Will this be worth it?  Your first meeting should begin to help answer these questions.

Know the Purpose. 

If you know the purpose and communicate it at the start of the meeting, it will help set the right tone and clarify expectations. There are two primary purposes to this first meeting:
1. Build relationships.  Regardless of previous relationships that may exist in the group, likely this is the first time all these people have been together, so the bulk of your first meeting should be about beginning to build relationships.  Plan plenty of time on the front and back end of your meeting time to just let people talk and get to know each other.  This can be awkward for some folks, so be sensitive to those who don’t seem to be engaging others.  Be sure and take the initiative to talk to them and connect them with other.  [ Read: How to Make Small Talk Meaningful ]  During the more structured time, use an ice breaker question to further get to know the group (see below).
2. Set the vision.  Why are we getting together?  What is this group about?  Will this be worth it?  You should be able to answer all these questions in 5 – 10 minutes.  Talk about what led you to start this group, and what you hope to see happen.  Then lay out the next steps.

Be Enthusiastic.

If you’re not naturally a high-energy person—fake it!  Be enthusiastic, even if the turnout is less than you hoped for.  You will set the tone for the group, so make it positive.

Have Food.

Don’t do it all yourself, ask others you know are coming to bring something. This helps create ownership from the beginning.

Affirm Them.

When they arrive let them know you’re glad they’re there.  During the meeting look for ways to affirm or encourage people and their participation.  Follow up after and let them know you’re glad they came and are looking forward to getting to know them better.  Affirmation deepens relationships.

Pray for Them.

Before and after your first meeting, make a list of people and pray for them by name.  Ask God to show you how best to connect with them and meet them where they are.  Praying for them helps open your heart to be available to how God wants to work through you to impact others.

SAMPLE SCHEDULE

6:30       Welcome.  Welcome everyone and let them know the purpose is to get to know each other and talk about where the group is headed.   Mingle and talk, then we’ll do some more structured things.

7:00       Group Icebreaker.  Have everyone introduce themselves to the whole group and then use one of these ice breakers or create your own.  Just make sure it’s something that everyone will be able to answer easily and that helps the group to get to know who they are.

7:20       Group Questions.  Use a question like this and give everyone a chance to answer.  What are you most looking forward to in a Community Group?  What motivated you to look for a group to be part of?  What are you most afraid of in regard to being part of a group?

7:40       Group Vision.  You as the leader share what you’re most looking forward to in the Community Group.  In just a few sentences cast the vision for where the group is headed and invite them to join you in this journey.

7:50       Group Next Steps.  Lay out the next steps going forward.  Ask them to commit to being there consistently for the first 10 weeks as you complete the Starter Study.  This will help clarify the expectations for the group and everyone will have the opportunity to then decide whether or not they are ready to commit to the group beyond that.  Make sure everyone is clear about the time and place of your next meeting.  If your group is at capacity, you’ll begin the Starter Study at your next meeting.  If you’re still looking to add people, you’ll still continue to meet, but will wait a couple of weeks before beginning Starter Study.  Communicate this to the group.

8:00       Pray Together and End.  Lead in prayer for the group.  If there are specific needs within the group you can begin praying for, don’t overlook that.  Keep it simple. Once you’re done encourage folks to stay and talk if they’d like (be flexible).

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