Group Leader Skills: End of the Year Assessment

Assessment

While January is often a hectic season for small-group ministries, December is typically more relaxed. Groups are winding down from their fall studies. Many take a break from gathering together over the holiday season.

For those reasons, December is a great time for group leaders to take a step back and assess the overall health of their groups.

What’s going well in our group? What struggles are we facing? What steps should we take to grow spiritually and numerically in the coming year? The following evaluations will help you gain some traction in answering these questions.

[Note: To gain a more thorough evaluation of your group’s experience, consider asking group members to complete this assessment the next time you’re together. For the best results, encourage them to turn in the assessment anonymously.]

Study Material

How many positive comments have you received regarding your recent Bible studies or curriculum material?

0                1                2                3                4                5 or more

How many negative comments have you received regarding your recent Bible studies or curriculum material?

0                1                2                3                4                5 or more

What percentage of your group members have participated during most group discussions?

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10
(50 percent)                                                                                        (100 percent)

How would you rate the overall excitement level during group meetings?

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10
(Low)                                                                                                   (High)

Spiritual Growth

How many group members have professed to growing spiritually in the past six months?

0                1                2                3                4                5 or more

To what degree have you grown spiritually in the past six months?

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10
(No growth)                                                                                         (Significant growth)

How often do group members confess sin within the group?

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10
(Rarely)                                                                                               (Often)

In the past three months, how many times has your group worked together to serve those in need—either internationally or in your local community?

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10
(Never)                                                                                                (Four or more)

Relational Growth

How many visitors have attended a group meeting in the past three months?

0                1                2                3                4                5 or more

How often do group members spend time with one another outside of scheduled group meetings?

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10
(Rarely)                                                                                               (Regularly)

How often do group members share personal and/or vulnerable information about their lives during group meetings?

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10
(Rarely)                                                                                               (Regularly)

How would you describe the strength of the relationships within your group now compared to the strength of those relationships six months ago?

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10
(Same strength)                                                                                  (Much stronger)

Moving Forward
Based on your answers above, conclude this assessment by engaging the three questions mentioned earlier:

  1. What’s going well in our group?
  2. What struggles are we facing?
  3. What steps should we take to grow spiritually and numerically in the coming year?

Sam O’Neal is a Content Editor on the Adult Ministry Publishing team at LifeWay. He has a passion for seeing discipleship and full-bodied Christian education done right in the local church—especially in the context of small group communities. Sam is also the author of “The Field Guide for Small Group Leaders“. You can follow Sam on Twitter @SamTONeal.

Icebreakers for Christmas

Christmas is almost here, and I hope you’ve made plans to celebrate the season with your group. This is a great time to have some fun, so use these icebreakers to help spark the conversations at your Christmas small group gathering.
ChristmasIcebreakers

Image courtesy of Thinkstock

1. If you and your family could spend Christmas day anywhere in the world, at no cost to you, where would you most like for that location to be and why would you choose that location?
2. If you were filthy rich, what present would you most like to give the poorest person in your community?
3. What Christmas present that you received when you were a child was most memorable to you? Why did that present mean so much to you?

Rick Howerton has authored many small group studies, is a highly sought after trainer and speaker, and is the author of Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual and A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic. You can follow Rick on Twitter @rickhowerton.

FREE Christmas Bible Study

Christmas has come early for group leaders this year thanks to a FREE Christmas bible study, courtesy of Bible Studies for Life. Be sure to download this study to use with your group and celebrate Christmas together.

Gift

Image courtesy of Thinkstock

So with Christmas just a few weeks away, it’s time to make holiday plans for your group if you haven’t already. Whether you are wrapping up your current study, having a Christmas party, or volunteering for a service project together, this Christmas bible study is the perfect opportunity to focus the attention of your group on exploring the rich depth of our Savior’s birth. This free study is our Christmas gift to you. May it point you and your group to a deeper and more meaningful Christmas experience this year.

Download your FREE Christmas Bible Study HERE.

 

Icebreakers for Winter

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Today is the first day of winter, according to the meteorological calendar. As the cold and snowy weather begin to settle in, here’s some icebreakers to use with your group that will help you learn more about each person. Try one or more of these the next time you gather.

1.  What winter sport have you always wanted to do but have never had the opportunity to try? Why do you think that one excites you?

2.  If you could sit around a warm fire and discuss life with anyone past or present, who would you like to speak with and what one subject would you most like to discuss? No Bible characters please.

3.  If your workplace shut down due to snow on the roads and there was no one at home with you, how would you spend your day?

Rick Howerton has authored many small group studies, is a highly sought after trainer and speaker, and is the author of Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual and A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic. You can follow Rick on Twitter @rickhowerton.

Do You Have the Bible Study Insider App?

With so many new groups getting started at the beginning of the year, make sure your group leaders are equipped with one of the best tools to help them effectively lead their groups. The Bible Study Insider provides a FREE app for group leaders that will not only help them during group meetings but also with planning for what’s next in their group.

With the Bible Study Insider app, you’ll get:

  1. A series of icebreakers to help connect your group members with each other and get the conversation started.
  2. Small Group FAQ’s to provide answers to some of the most common questions group leaders ask.
  3. Free previews of LifeWay’s newest bible studies to help you easily plan in advance for your group’s next study.

app-products3

Make sure all your group leaders (and potential group leaders) know about this helpful app and take away some of the stress and worry they experience.

Click HERE for more information or to download the app for Apple devices.

Click HERE for more information or to download the app for Android devices.

Thank You and How Can We Help

Image courtesy of Thinkstock

Image courtesy of Thinkstock

As we begin the week of Thanksgiving, we’d like to thank you, our dedicated followers and bible study leaders, for your dedication to study the scriptures in the context of small groups and community. You are some of the most dedicated people in the world and give sacrificially of your time and energy to help your group become more like Jesus. Thank you! We’d also like to get your feedback on what topics, subjects, or areas of interest are most important to you. Our most popular features have been icebreakers, recipes, and other practical skills to make leading a group easier and more beneficial to the group. But what is it that you could really use answers for or what is causing your group to be less than you hope for? What would you like help with?

Post your questions or article suggestions in the Comment Field of this post, and we’ll use these to develop future articles and blog posts. Our goal is to help leaders bring about an environment in group life that leads to heart transformation in people. How can we help?

 

Icebreakers To Use At Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Here are some icebreaker questions with a Thanksgiving Day theme to use when your group gathers this week. These simple questions will help your group members talk more about their story and help others learn more about each other. Happy Thanksgiving!

1. When you were in high school, which of the following movie titles best describes what Thanksgiving was like at your house? Explain.

____ Enemies, A Love Story
____ All Quiet on the Western Front
____ Grand Illusion
____ All About My Mother
____ Days of Heaven
____ House of Games
____ Other: __________________

2. If you could live your perfect Thanksgiving Day, what would that look like?

3. When your family got together for Thanksgiving, whose personality did you most admire? What characteristics did they exhibit that you wish were more evident in your life?

Rick Howerton has authored many small group studies, is a highly sought after trainer and speaker, and is the author of Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual and A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic. You can follow Rick on Twitter @rickhowerton.

Group Leader Skills: Why Silence Is Your Unexpected Friend

(Repost)

silence2

Image courtesy of Thinkstock

Here’s a scenario most small-group leaders have experienced: You think of a great question as you’re preparing for a group meeting during the week. It’s a real doozy of a discussion starter—deep, poignant, and winsomely phrased. You simply can’t wait to unleash this momentous query the next time your group gets together.

When you actually ask the question, however, the group hits you back with a wall of silence. Nobody says anything. If your group meeting were made into a TV sitcom, there would be cricket noises in the background. (Play the video below to see what I mean.)

As the seconds tick by, you begin to wonder: What went wrong? Why doesn’t anyone say anything? What should I do now?

What They Need to Do
Try this little experiment before we go any further. Find a clock (or use the stop-watch on your fancy phone, if you have a fancy phone) and give yourself 30 seconds of silence. Just sit without doing or saying anything for 30 seconds. Go ahead and try it now.

Thirty seconds is a long time, right? But as small-group leaders, we need to give our group members at least 30 seconds of silence in order to answer our deepest questions. If that seems crazy, consider everything your group members need to do after you ask a discussion question:

  • They need to process your question and make sure they understand what you’re asking.
  • They need to come up with a potential answer to your question.
  • They need to cross-reference that potential answer with their personal experiences.
  • They need to cross-reference that potential answer with the Scripture passage or other reference that sparked the question in the first place.
  • They need to confirm whether their potential answer is in fact a good and helpful response to the question. (And if not, they need to start the process over again.)
  • They need to figure out the best way to phrase their answer in a way that is clear and concise.
  • They need to adjust their answer based on the responses of other group members who may speak before they are ready.

That’s a lot of work. And that’s why your group members need time. They need time to process. They need time to think. And they’re probably going to be silent when they do so.

So get used to it.

What You Need to Do
Back to the scenario from earlier in this post. If you ask a discussion question and receive a wall of silence in response, that’s probably a good thing. That probably means your people are thinking deeply about deep issues.

So the last thing you want to do is interrupt their thought processes by making an awkward attempt to clarify your question or “break the silence.” Actually, the last thing you want to do is answer the question yourself, because then you’ve communicated that your people aren’t smart enough to understand what you’re asking and think of an answer.

Instead, you just need to sit back, relax, and enjoy the silence. If people really don’t understand the question, they’ll tell you. If it’s a bad question, you’ll know when people try to respond.

But give it a chance. Let your group members have the time they need, and you’ll quickly understand why silence is your unexpected friend.

Sam O’Neal is a Content Editor on the Adult Ministry Publishing team at LifeWay. He has a passion for seeing discipleship and full-bodied Christian education done right in the local church—especially in the context of small group communities. Sam is also the author of “The Field Guide for Small Group Leaders“. You can follow Sam on Twitter @SamTONeal.

Icebreaker Activities for Small Groups

We’ve had several discussions on the importance of icebreakers in small groups to facilitate getting to know each other, people hearing their voices, breaking up the normal routine, and just having fun. In fact, “icebreakers” continues to be among the most popular topics on this blog. Many of the icebreakers we provide come in the form of questions to ask, but today the focus will be on icebreaker games that add a layer of  activity to the question.

Winter Icebreakers

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

1. Personal Postcards

This icebreaker allows people to express themselves in a more creative way than they might typically do on their own.

It requires a bit of thought, so it’s best to start with your group sitting around a table if possible. Next, lie out the postcards or images in front of them on the table in no particular order. It’s best to have about double the amount of postcards as there are people.

Next, everyone picks one postcard that best describes something about themselves. It could be something they’re good at, or it could be something they like. The group then goes around the circle and explains why they chose their card.

This activity is especially helpful for the visual learners in your group. Some will love the opportunity and some will find it challenging but that’s OK because they can give as much detail in their response as they would like.

Materials Needed: postcards, images from magazines or newspapers, or random images printed from the internet.

2. Spider Web

A fun icebreaker that will help your group find out a number of things that they have in common with one another.

To start with, you’ll need your group to be sitting in a circle. From here you will give one of the members in your group a ball of string. This person will hold on to the end of the string then say their name and one thing about themselves (ex. “I have a brother” or “I like playing football”). Any member of the group who has that thing in common needs to put their hand up. The person with the string chooses a person and the ball of string then gets tossed to that person. The cycle then repeats until everyone has had the ball of string tossed to them.

At the end of the activity you will have created a spiders web between members of the group, showing all of the different ways in which your group is interconnected. This will hopefully create a sense of unity between your members, as it visually depicts a number of commonalities that your group shares.

Materials Needed:  a ball of string

3. Share Your Story

This is an excellent icebreaker to begin sharing a little more deeply about each person’s life by sharing personal stories. This activity gives everyone a chance to share a piece of their story that has special meaning to the group. To facilitate this, you’ll want to communicate prior to the next gathering that each person will need to bring a personal item with them that has a special meaning.

Begin this activity by asking each person to show the item they brought and, in a minute or two, tell the group the story behind that item such as, “Why did you choose that item?” or “What special memory does it elicit for you?”.

Materials Needed:  nothing but remember to communicate with participants beforehand. They will need to bring a personal item that means something special to them to the group meeting.

Phil Davis has worked in small group ministry for the past eight years and is deeply convinced that transformation and healing occur best within the context of authentic community. He is the Executive Director of Abba’s Way, a ministry that creates intentional and deep connection for fathers and their children. Follow Phil on Twitter @PhilBDavis.

Icebreakers for October

Icebreakers can be just the right thing for a small group, putting people at ease and creating fun or meaningful conversation for group members.

Icebreakers for October

Here’s a few icebreakers to start your group off this month:

1. Last week some people celebrated “World Vegetarian Day.” When you were a kid, what vegetable did your parents force you to eat that you decided, “When I’m an adult I’ll never eat that again!” and how did your parents get you to eat that vegetable?

2. What picture do you own that brings you the most joy? Who’s in it, where was it taken, and what was the circumstance that brought everyone together?

3. If you could build a relational bridge to anyone from your past, who would that person be and why did you choose them?

Rick Howerton has authored many small group studies, is a highly sought after trainer and speaker, and is the author of Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual and A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic. You can follow Rick on Twitter @rickhowerton.