There are two groups of people I encounter when it comes to starting small groups. Those who think starting small groups is easy and others who see starting small groups as a daunting task. Especially for those in the second category, let’s break down the tasks of starting a small group into manageable parts for congregations using the Lenten resource Rehab: A Study Guide. Each task will include “to-do” item and a “don’t forget” item.

1. Establish a purpose for the groups. Here the purpose is fairly self-explanatory: travel the Lenten journey together by connecting the worship theme (Rehab) with the small group experience. Lent is a season of time when adults are open to formational experiences such as being in a small group. Don’t forget, being clear about purpose and length of commitment help adults overcome their natural hesitancies.

2. Find facilitators. Facilitators are the secret ingredient to the success of any small group. The fall back strategy often employed by church staff is to recruit the most biblically knowledgeable members to become the facilitators. Fight this strategy. Rather, find people with the right heart and with skills in guiding conversation. Don’t forget, good facilitators create meaningful conversations in which participants share their knowledge and experiences.

3. Recruit Participants. Facilitators should help in the process of recruiting but shouldn’t be required to do all the work. The most effective recruiting place is from the pulpit. (The least effective is from a general announcement in the bulletin.) From the pulpit include testimonies from lay persons about how being in a small group has affected them or even better during a sermon from the senior pastor about how small groups have contributed to their discipleship. Don’t forget, person-to-person invitation is always the most effective method of recruiting.

4. Decide if the groups will be grouped by location, life-stage, or intentionally multi-generational. This might be determined by the people who agree to participate. Don’t forget, participants will appreciate knowing why they’ve been chosen to participate in a particular group.

5. Specify time and location. While the church is a convenient location, it might not be the most geographically convenient or the most productive for promoting conversation. The formality of a church room doesn’t lend itself to the comforts of an informal home or coffee shop. For time convenience, some might prefer meeting at church on a Sunday or Wednesday night. Other participants might prefer a week night or even a weekday. Don’t forget, suggesting creative opportunities such as encouraging participants to have a study at work if their work allows.

6. Choose Curriculum. In this case, buy the booklets or make copies of Rehab: The Study Guide (see below as to how the structure of this resource is ideal for new groups). Many people like the feel of a printed book, though some are willing to use print outs from the PDF to save the money for the church or themselves. Don’t forget, allowing participants the opportunity to look inside the resource can alleviate anxieties about time commitments.

7. Arrange for childcare. If your church is serious about wanting parents of children to be involved, one way is for the church to cover the cost of the childcare. Another option is to provide the childcare and have each family unit share the costs. Don’t forget, the upside for the church covering childcare is that they ensure Safe Sanctuary compliance and sends a strong signal to the parents that they are valued.

8. Give testimony. Towards the end of the Lenten season, ask facilitator(s) to find a participant who can share their testimony about participating in the small group. Testimonies highlight and celebrate the formational growth that occurred in the groups and builds momentum for future groups. Don’t forget, help shape testimonies that are given during worship time. Either pre-record the testimonies or make sure there is a strict outline those giving the testimony will follow.

Testimonies highlight and celebrate the formational growth that occurred in the groups and builds momentum for future groups.

9. Prepare to launch new groups. With the momentum begun during the Lenten formation groups, discuss with facilitators and participants the creation of new groups. Don’t forget, some groups that bonded during their Lenten small group experience might want to continue as a group. For groups that continue on, have a conversation about writing up a covenant so that expectations are met for all participants.

Structure of Rehab: A Study Guide

Rehab: A Study Guide has been formatted to accommodate new small groups and facilitators. Structured for conversation and to help adults feel engaged, each lesson begins with a “Starters” section and contains discussion questions that are opportunities for adults to bond with other participants and allows them to share their insights and questions.

Though facilitation is intimidating to most adults pulling on a number of fears, Rehab makes facilitating a formation group easy. Without requiring loads of reading, which most adults abhor, Rehab: A Study Guide gives a brief “Background” and “In the Know” sections for the scripture passages under review.

Lastly, the final section is “Making It Personal.” Rehab: A Study Guide is intentionally structured so that connections are made to daily life. From worship, to scriptural engaged, to group discussion, and finally to reflection questions, the Rehab worship and formational resources are designed for God’s grace to be experienced in multiple ways. And we know God’s grace leads to transformation.

Additional Resources:

Rehab: A Group Study Guide

Rehab: A Group Study Guide (PDF)

Safe Sanctuary Resources

Small Groups in the Wesleyan Way Podcastbit.ly/umcsmallgroups