If you are leading or buiding a new small group choosing the right curriculum is paramount. Here are tips from Mark Howell, who has over 25 years experience working with small group ministries.
What’s the best study for a new group to use? When you’re selecting curriculum for new groups there are several keys to keep in mind.
Easy-to-use. I often refer to great launching curriculum as “just-add-water” or “plug-and-play.” The main idea is that when a group is new, regardless of the way it began (connection, HOST, small group vacation, etc.), preparing for the study is less important than simply making sure that everyone is connecting well. A great launching study allows the leader to simply push “play” and enjoy the time along with everyone else.
Not too long (and not too short). The length of the study you choose is another very important element. I’ve found that 6 weeks is just about the perfect length. It’s short enough for potential members to imagine putting their toe-in-the-water and testing it out. It’s long enough to let them begin to form connective tissue and be ready to stay on for the next one. In addition, since new groups are easier to join than long-standing groups (they’ve not yet formed that impermeable membrane) you’ll want your new groups to be free to invite based on the idea that “we’re starting a new study next week!” If your groups are using a study with too many sessions that will come around less frequently. In most cases it’s tough to add someone to an ongoing study after the second or third week.
Built in “get-to-know-you” elements. These opening few weeks are great opportunities for new group members to enjoy the carbonated atmosphere of new relationships. It can be both fun and a little nerve-wracking to share things like how you met your spouse or what was the warmest room in the house when you were 7 years old. The best materials for new groups will have these elements because getting to know each other forms the basis of next level relationships. People who are enjoying getting to together are more likely to form the pattern of meeting.
A group agreement or covenant. Discussing an agreement in the first week or two is very beneficial for new groups. Nailing down things like what time we begin and end, how refreshments work, and what we’re going to do about childcare may seem pretty mundane…but talking about it early gets those details out in the open and that’s very important. In addition, taking a few minutes to address things like confidentiality (what gets shared here, stays here) and shared ownership (everyone contributes in some way) will set healthy expectations. --- Mark Howell
Randy Alcorn's Bible study on Heaven and Our Deepening Life curriculum are “Purpose Driven Bible Studies” and include all the elements recommended by Mark Howell. Each group session includes activities to strengthen small groups and encourage individuals to connect with God and one-another, grow to be like Christ, develop their gifts to serve others, share their life’s ministry and surrender their lives to God’s pleasure. These small group DVD Bible studies can be a great tool for small group leaders.
Deepening Life Curriculum includes more than 14 small group video Bible studies: Romans, Acts, Ephesians, the book of Revelation, Praying God’s Way, Promises of God, the Gospel of John, Parables, Fruit of the Spirit, Psalms, James, and character studies on Ruth and the Apostle Paul.
Life Together Kits for small group leaders include a DVD and Group Discussion Guide. Leader notes and group forms are located in the back of each guide. All LifeTogether DVDs include short video segments called “Leader Lifters” which leaders can watch before each group session for quick tips on what the group session will include.
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Mark Howell has served in a number of roles. In addition to planting a church, he’s also served as an Associate Pastor on several teams and Small Group Pastor at Fellowship of The Woodlands and Lake Avenue Church. With four years on the consulting staff at Lifetogether he’s had the privilege of working in ministries around the country. As a host and teacher for several 40 Days of Purpose Campaign Coachinginitiatives he’s had the opportunity to guide hundreds of churches through the campaign process.