All small-group leaders have something in common: that moment we find ourselves in a panic wondering what we've gotten ourselves into. And chances are, as you prepared for your first meeting, those feelings were strong. How in the world do I structure my meetings? How do I come up with good questions? How do I get people to talk?
New leaders these days are lucky—they can use Sam O'Neal's Field Guide for Small Group Leaders to give them expert advice and calm their nerves. And veteran leaders can benefit from it, too—there's so much to learn and brush up on.
O'Neal covers everything from the role of leaders and learning styles to crafting meaningful meetings and handling unwanted surprises. The book is divided into three helpful sections: Mapping the Terrain (the basics of the leader's role), Planning Your Route (crafting a great meeting with focus, activities, and discussion questions), and Hitting the Trail (leading the meeting and troubleshooting issues).
One of the most helpful tips I found in the book is the need to identify the "Big Idea" of each meeting. O'Neal says that in order to bring focus to a meeting, we must look at our study material and pick out the one major point we want to get across in our discussion. Then we can choose a few questions to discuss that directly relate to that Big Idea. This keeps the focus narrow and the meeting succinct. Without this focus it's too tempting to talk about all the themes in a chapter of Scripture, but we simply don't have time in our hour-and-a-half meetings.
O'Neal stresses that small groups have the goal of life change. And in order to accomplish that goal, leaders must focus on application and inspiration in the meetings. If leaders don't help group members take their next spiritual steps, small groups will simply be a fun social gathering with interesting conversations. Luckily, O'Neal gives great advice in this area as well.
O'Neal has over 10 years of experience in small-group ministry and is a former editor of SmallGroups.com. Read Field Guide for Small Group Leaders today and buy it for any new leaders you know.