Do you want your small group to remain healthy year after year? From the vantage point of overseeing 140 small groups, I observe one common denominator of vibrant, enduring groups: they recovenant.
Since people come into a small group with a wide range of experiences and expectations, I strongly advocate that new groups develop a covenant - a written statement outlining the group's purpose and ground rules. It's important for a group to agree upon which needs they can legitimately fulfill, and how they will meet those needs. Once a covenant is developed, groups should regularly consult it for planning, accountability, and evaluation.
Of course, people grow and circumstances change. That's why it's so important to periodically revisit the covenant. Recovenanting allows expression of new hopes and expectations. Some of our groups have stayed together for more than 10 years because they have consistently redefined their purposes and have restructured their ground rules to accommodate changes.
Groups recovenant at different times: after each unit of study, after a prolonged break (such as summer vacations), when new members join, and so on. I suggest recovenanting at least once a year.
People are more willing to join groups and make commitments when they know it's for a specified period. Recovenanting safeguards against going four or five years without asking, "Do you still want to participate?" or "Are you still willing to make these commitments?"
Recovenanting may reveal new expectations and hopes for the group. "We would like more indepth Bible study." "Let's do more mission projects." "Could we meet once a month just for fellowship?"
In groups where no one talks about needs, people often become sporadic in attendance and eventually ...