It’s your turn to host small group and you’re wondering how on earth will you do it? Here are ten tips to be the perfect small group host.
Personally, I’ve found these to be essential to make sure everybody gets something out of your small group time.
All very well, but why even bother having a small group in the first place?
Church small groups (cell groups or home groups for some) are a brilliant way to get to know a small group of people from your church in a relaxed setting, usually in someone’s home.
When done well they can be a strong encouragement and support for Christians at all stages of their spiritual growth. I’ve been personally blessed with some deep friendships as a result of having an amazing small group.
And isn’t that something we’d all like to have in all our churches? Here are my ten tips to help make that happen:
Tip 1: To be a perfect small group host, it’s all in the serving.
Leading a small group is a great act of service for your church. And that’s the point, to serve. There have been times when it’s been my turn to lead and I just haven’t felt in the mood, feeling tired or would just prefer to be doing something else that night (horror)! But its always been worth it, in the end, the feel-good feeling breaks in and it always turns out to be a good night with everyone feeling blessed.
Remembering that it’s all about serving will serve you well, especially if things don’t always go to plan. After all, ‘Lord, I’m really doing this for you and my love for others.’
Tip 2: Check for dietary requirements.
If you decide to cater for your homegroup, don’t forget to check who will eat what. I remember for one homegroup I hosted, I served a chicken stir fry only to find two of the group were vegetarian. Needless to say, it was then quite off-putting having to pick the meat off the plate one by one in full view of everyone! The silence at the table was monastic.
So tip two, don’t assume what folks will consume.
Tip 3: Include everyone at the table.
There’s something really special about sharing fellowship with food. It’s a wonderful way to get to know each other and hear how people are doing in life. That’s why it’s important to make sure everyone gets their voice heard at the table.
One thing I’ve done that can really work is dedicating a sharing time during the meal called ‘consolation, desolation’. Each person shares one good thing about their day and one thing that’s not good. It’s a nice way for people to share their life without it being overwhelming or too personal (especially if someone is new to the group).
But whatever you do remember to be mindful of who needs to feel included so that everyone feels a part.
Tip 4: Introducing the study.
At some point, if you’re leading the evening, you will have to introduce the bible study.
Everyone knows it’s going to come. They’re expecting it but some may want to keep talking. It’s an art to bring in the ‘God time’ into the conversation. You may want to use a phrase like ‘and that happens to bring us nicely to this evening’s study’ or ‘guess what I’ve got prepared apart from a cup of tea or coffee’? Use your imagination but I’m sure you get the picture.
Tip 5: Be prepared.
Leading a bible study in a small group is something you get better at with practice. Anyone who is prepared can do it but there are some skills that can turn a good study into a memorable and maybe even life-changing evening.
We’ll look at these in a moment but the first thing to be, is to ‘be prepared’ (quoting the famous scout motto). Reading through the scripture passage slowly and carefully at least three times will familiarise yourself not only with the content but with sections of the passage that may need more talking over.
It’s better to have set questions to ask. Know them well and also have some suggested answers to discuss, at the ready. Do pray of course for the Holy Spirit to guide all the discussions too. Inviting God to illuminate a passage helps us ensure we’re not relying on human understanding alone.
Tip 6: Manage the discussions.
Managing group dynamics is a fine art because you’re going to have different personalities and experiences in one group.
I really think taking a step back and letting people speak is the most important thing.
Equally important is stepping in to shift the discussion or move to the next question! Getting the balance right between the two is the skill.
Some who lead will want to ‘over control’ the group and discussions, while others will make themselves as absent as possible. These are the two extremes to avoid because you’ll quietly annoy people, and that makes for a difficult night for everyone.
Tip 7: Know how to respond to an awkward question.
We all know there are some parts of the Bible that can be hard to comprehend and this is where the preparation really helps. But what if you get thrown a question that you weren’t expecting? Easy, spin it out to the group.
This can be brilliant because it can allow for someone else to speak or it can be a great spark for discussion as the group tries to ‘work it out together’ and the best thing is that it takes the pressure of you who are leading the group to be the know it all (which none of us is).
Of course, scripture does require knowledge of the time and place it was written to help make sense of it. But you can still have interesting discussions around any part of the Bible by asking, ‘what does this passage mean for us and our relationship with God?’
Tip 8: Get real.
Which leads nicely into the application; which really is the end goal for any good bible study.
There’s nothing better than having real, authentic discussions about issues raised in the Bible. It’s vital if the text is to have any real life-changing effect.
Make the study relevant to everyday living and talk about real life experiences. This may mean that some people will want to share too much about their personal struggles, but that’s where good leading will bring the conversation back to the text. At the same time, you also encourage others to share how they relate to the passage too.
Tip 9: Prayer is not an afterthought.
If your home group is typical of the ones I’ve lead, you may well push the prayer time till after the study. It may even come with a cup of tea served. That’s all fine but please, treat this time seriously.
Do try and get beyond asking the group, ‘right, what shall we pray for now’?
Sometimes I’ve shifted the order and had group prayer first before the bible study. If your group is comfortable together, I’d really recommend this. It’s ironically made for some brilliant bible studies too!
Please, also try praying differently rather than just going around in a circle and praying for anything. It can feel awkward for those that aren’t used to praying in a group and can look like the prayer time isn’t taken seriously.
Tip 10: Draw up a rota.
Last but not least, a message for all you small group superheroes.
You who do everything; who cook, lead the study, lead the prayers and even do the washing up after. You’re amazing, your faithfulness to serve the group is awesome.
But I have a challenge for you too.
Could you be overdoing it and even worse, not allowing others in your group to grow by allowing them to lead part of the evening too?
If you want to lead the group then part of that responsibility is to allow others to grow themselves. Because our gifts are meant to be explored and shared in a safe environment.
The best way to do that is with a small group rota. It’s there for all to see and respond to.
If there are some who are reluctant to try, then that’s another thing to gently guide people into an area they do feel comfortable to contribute to. And it makes your evening a lighter responsibility and a blessing for all.
These are my ten tips to be the perfect small group host. If you’d like to add to the list or anything about your experiences with small groups, then leave a message below. It will be lovely to support you.
Now go and be that perfect small group host!