One of the secrets of effective small-group ministry is to train group leaders to think in terms of developing a group agenda rather than relying exclusively on a curriculum. Specifically, train leaders to develop a small-group agenda that incorporates all the values you have adopted for your ministry. Curriculum is simply a tool that is part of the group agenda.
The basic small-group agenda may vary depending on the values of your ministry and the types of small groups you have, but remember that what happens in the small-group time and in between small-group gatherings will determine people's perception of small-group life. Make that perception the correct one right off the bat. It is much easier to model the correct Christian community lifestyle initially than to correct a bad experience later.
But remember—agendas are never the most important element of your small group.
When agendas clash with reality
A small-group leader can have the best long-term plan and run the mechanics of the group agenda with skill and precision, but that doesn't guarantee a life-changing small-group experience. In the end, agendas don't change lives; Christ does.
Terminal illness, divorce, parenting issues, financial stress—the list of human problems that will not be on a small-group leader's meeting agenda seems endless. When thinking about the people who face these struggles, one of the biggest jobs of a small-group leader is not so much to be a teacher, but rather a navigator. As author Tom Bandy puts it, small-group leaders are "midwives" who are constantly coaching the painful birth of something new that God is doing in group members' lives.Â Â Â Â Â Â ...