Nine Ways to Support Your Support Group

Starting a support group isn't as intimidating as it sounds.

I watched the TV screen scroll through the public service announcements, finally seeing the one I'd been looking for: "Divorce Recovery Group," it read, with information and the name of our church below. In the past year I have received dozens of phone calls regarding this group, and more about others we sponsor. It's one way our church is responding to the needs around us.

More and more churches are offering divorce-recovery, addiction-recovery, grief, cancer, pregnancy, parenting, and retirement groups, among others. These support groups give a forum whereby people can stand by one another, support and encourage one another, and receive, in the process, the very comfort of God (2 Cor. 1:3-7).

Many churches, however, hesitate to start a support group because they simply feel unqualified. Yet the process isn't as intimidating as it sounds. Here, for example, are the steps our church takes in forming support groups.

Step one: Identify and appropriate need

I wouldn't start a support group simply because someone decided the church should have one. Groups need to meet legitimate, existing, and usually felt needs.

One church, looking at community demographics, learned that in many homes both parents worked, leaving many children alone for several hours after school. These "latchkey homes" shared a common need, and the parents were keenly aware of the problems. So the church launched a support group for them.

Another church used a congregational survey. They had assumed people wanted help with parenting skills but were surprised to find many of their people were enduring one form of grief or another. So they formed a grief group.

Step two: Select the right leader

Since a support group isn't a therapy group, the leader need not be a professional. ...

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