Preparing for Your Group

By Allen White

When it comes to our group meetings, we work hard to make sure all of the details are taken care of. The lesson is studied. The house is cleaned. The refreshments are made or bought. The chairs are arranged. There’s a lot of work that goes into a group meeting. But, even though we’ve worked hard to pull the details together, are we really prepared? Listen to Tim Jones, a small group leader, talk about what he learned at our recent retreat with Carl George.


You can also view the video here:

None of us know what exactly will happen at our next group meeting. We don’t know who will show up. We don’t know what condition they will be in. We don’t know who will miss the meeting. But, God knows exactly what’s going to happen. Aligning our purposes to God’s purposes through prayer is the key to a successful group meeting.

1. We become more sensitive to God’s Spirit. As we pray about the meeting, we invite God’s presence into our group. The group meeting is for God to orchestrate rather than for the leader merely to follow an agenda. We become better attuned to the Spirit’s leading during the meeting. When should we linger on a point? When should we move on? God will guide us.

2. We become more sensitive to our group members. I have written other places about what to do with members who dominate and control the group, but there are times when a group member chooses to disclose something right then and there, even when it wasn’t asked for. What do we do? We start by whispering a quick prayer: “God, should I go with this or move on?” He will let us know.

Sometimes when our members need to share, it doesn’t matter what the question or the topic was. It’s our job to be there for them. If this turns into a weekly event, then that is another matter. But, an occasional deviation from the schedule never killed any group. As we give the group member freedom and permission, we give them a priceless gift. They don’t need have their problem solved. They don’t need advice. They just need to be heard. By preparing through prayer, our hearts are in the right place to give them this gift.

3. We become less disappointed with the result. If we’ve worked hard to prepare our house and our lesson for the group meeting, then sure we will be disappointed if just a few, or even nobody, shows up. Why would we continue to work this hard, if no one appreciates it? But, in group life as in the rest of life, the outcomes are up to God.

If only two people come to a group meeting, rather than being disappointed by poor attendance, see it as what God intended for this meeting. What does God want to do with just a few people that might not have happened with the whole group there?

As you prepare for your next group meeting pray for each group member individually. Pray for prospective members who have been invited. Pray for prospective members who haven’t been invited yet. Pray for God’s leading, and then let Him lead.

20 People Signed Up, But Only 5 Showed Up

20 People Signed Up, But Only 5 Showed Up

by Allen White

Maybe those aren’t the specific numbers that you experienced in your group, but the reality is that it happens to every group at some point. Here are a couple of keys to riding the attendance roller coaster.


Empty chair


1. It’s not about you. Somebody famous said that. In the church, community is what we want, yet it’s what we resist the most. People got excited. They signed up for your group at church on Sunday. Then, life just got in the way. After all, the road to you-know-where is paved with good intentions.



2. Keep them on your list. Keep the communication flowing. Email them along with the rest of your group. Give them a call. The call should go something like this: “Hey, I was just wondering about you guys (Southern: y’all). Is everything okay? I’m not calling as the truant officer. I’m just calling because I care.” Chances are that they won’t slam down the phone after saying, “I don’t want you to care about me.” Who doesn’t want that?



3. Focus on who showed up rather than who didn’t. My small group has four people regularly with another five or six on the list. Last week, there were only two of us. By the numbers, my group is a complete failure. Yet, there are things you can talk about with two that you can’t discuss with eight. Maybe you do the lesson. Maybe you set the lesson aside. Before you start beating yourself or your group members up over low attendance, you need to do a quick check-in with God: “What do You intend for this group meeting? It doesn’t look like what I planned. What have You planned?” His plans are better anyway.



4. Remember your small group and the ministry of your group are not the same. Some people may never show up for your group. Or, they’ll come once or twice, then you won’t hear from them for a while. Here’s the deal: whether they attend every week or once in a blue moon, they are yours. The group members who meet three out of four times a month are essentially your small group. Everyone else is the “ministry” of your small group. There is a reason that God has placed these folks in your life. Keep up with them. Help them when they need help. Pray for them. This is not some clandestine plot to convince them back to the group with your kindness, but it might work. This is your opportunity to serve, even if you never get anything in return.



In a perfect world, everyone would honor their commitment to that two-part form and show up for every group meeting. But, this is not a perfect world. Here’s the deal: that flakey person on your list, you just might be their only connection to the body of Christ. Their well-being, of course, is not up to you. But, there is a reason that in all of the small groups in all of the county, they signed up for yours. God will show you why.