Guidelines for Small Group Meetings

In a Christian small group, people are looking for God. Therefore it is everyone’s responsibility to make room for God’s presence while creating an environment where every person can be real, open, and honest with their joys and struggles. These guidelines are designed to do just that.

Take turns hosting. Regardless of where you meet, one person should agree to be the “host” and guide the meeting, watching the time, following the suggested guide, while leaving room for the Spirit to move.

Start, and end, on time. Make a commitment to begin and end at a certain time and stick to it.

Confidentiality. What’s said at a group meeting stays at the meeting unless permission is given to share it elsewhere. Confidentiality might be the most important ground rule because without a culture of safety and trust, honest conversation is impossible.

Refrain from cross talk.  Cross talk is when one person comments on what another person says or attempts to engage that person in conversation during the group meeting. That’s a normal part of everyday conversation but not so helpful in the small group experience. Each person should feel free to express his or her feelings without concerns about interruptions or commentary. Responses to what someone else has said should be limited to clarifying questions.

Involve everyone. To make a small group work, everyone needs to participate as a listener and as a speaker with more time on the former than the latter. If one person dominates the meeting, the host/leader might say, “Let’s hear from someone else now.” When another person has remained quiet for a long time, the host/leader might ask, “John, do you have anything you’d like to share?”  Limit your sharing to a few minutes, mindful that others have something to offer. Use “I” statements to keep your sharing focused on your own thoughts and feelings.

No fixing. We are here to support one another, not “fix” each other. Often people just need to be heard. Do not give advice unless it is requested. When someone shares something painful, you can offer compassion, understanding, and concern rather than a solution.

Mind your manners. Opening up can be hard enough as it is. To make your group a welcoming place for all, avoid dismissing others’ reflections, refrain from laughing at what others share, and steer clear of putdowns or language that would make someone uncomfortable or offended.

Silence is ok. There’s no need to fill the air with words. Allow time for quiet until someone is moved to speak.