Note: This article is excerpted from Leading Outside the Box.
If you sense that your small-group meetings have become routine, it just may be time to shake things up. For me, creativity doesn't come easy, leading my group in song would be painful for all, and trying something new scares me to death. Therefore, shaking things up may seem improbable, but the good news is that it doesn't take dramatic ideas to shake up your group meetings. Here are a few things anyone can do to shake up the meeting and energize your small group.
Change the Meeting Location
Meet in a different group member's home, a park, or a restaurant. This doesn't mean it becomes your permanent place to meet; rather, it's a diversion from what your small group normally experiences. Some of my best memories have been suspending our study and car pooling to a nearby ice cream shop. We spend the hour sharing stories from our week and enjoying each other's company. I've found that going to a new destination enables group members to gain fresh perspectives of one another and the group as a whole.
But you don't need to suspend your study if you're meeting somewhere else—especially if it's somewhere quiet. Just changing the location can help group members learn more about each other.
One reminder, though: If your small group provides childcare and you do change your meeting location for a night or longer, remember to consider your group's childcare needs. You may want to choose a location close to where you normally do childcare or arrange to take childcare with you.
Here's a longer list of alternate places to meet:
- Coffee shop
- Ice cream parlor
- Public park
- Food court at the mall
- Nature trail (if all your members can participate)
- Your church's auditorium or sanctuary
- Neighborhood clubhouse
- Another group member's home
- Historical landmark
Incorporate Group Activities
Small-group game nights and cookouts can be a lot of fun and help you mix up your routine. But with a little intentionality, you can create activities that will really help your group members grow. Here are ideas of intentional activities that fit right into your regular meetings.
Generally speaking, the application portion of a small-group lesson is nothing more than a couple of questions that solicit individual response that prompt group members to ask, "What am I going to do?" Rarely do application questions ask "What are we as a group going to do?"
So wrap up your next lesson by applying what you've learned in a group project. Develop and organize the project to be done during one of your next meetings. Depending on the lesson's application, it could involve serving residents of a care home, hosting a neighborhood cookout, putting together care packages for deployed soldiers, or helping a fellow group member. When you apply what you've learned as a group, you'll develop unity and a group identity.
Watch a movie and discuss it in light of Scripture. This group activity often takes a little longer than a typical group meeting, so you might want to plan for a separate meeting day or break it up into two parts. For great movie discussion guides, see offerings from SmallGroups.com and ChristianBibleStudies.com. If you're not up to watching a movie, you can select short television or movie clips to set up your lesson.
Change the Agenda
When every meeting looks exactly the same, the same things happen every time. And it's easy to get stuck in a rut that way. Mix up your normal agenda with one of these ideas.
Celebrate the Lord's Supper
This can work anytime, but I find it most meaningful during the seasons of Easter and Christmas. Celebrating the Lord's Supper in small groups has been done since the beginning of the church (Acts 2:46). Therefore, it would be natural for a small group to do this today. Apart from sharing the two emblems of the Lord's Supper, there are several things you can do to make it more meaningful.
- Teach about the Lord's Supper using Scripture.
- Incorporate music before or after.
- Explore the symbols of Passover.
- Share Jesus' impact in your life.
- Write sins on strips of paper and then shred or burn before celebrating the Lord's Supper.
- Spend time praying for one another's personal needs and concerns.
Introduce singing as part of your meeting, even if you don't do it at every meeting. Sing together periodically or on special occasions, and use special songs fit for the occasion. It can be a really great experience for your group.
Bring your iPod or a worship CD to your group meeting, choosing songs that are familiar to your group members, and make copies of the lyrics for everybody. Consider songs sung during weekend services or songs from Christian radio. You don't need to be a professional singer or worship leader to do this. God is not concerned about how perfect your singing voice is.
For more worship songs to use with your group, see the collection at SmallGroups.com, which includes both audio and video files.
Let Someone Else Lead
Let someone else in the group facilitate the lesson. You can make this a great experience that brings freshness to the group by asking someone who participates well in the group's discussion—sharing helpful, constructive, and thoughtful comments without cutting others down or preaching from a soapbox. Keep the agenda the same, but allow the guest leader to design the lesson and lead the discussion. Who knows? You might find a future leader through this process.
Remember that all small groups need a little shake up once in a while. Incorporating simple adjustments from time to time can help you group members grow spiritually and in their relationships with one another. Shake up your group this week. You'll see increased participation, excitement, and energy.
—Mark Ingmire is the Small Groups and Adult Education Pastor at Savannah Christian Church in Savannah, Georgia; copyright 2013 by Christianity Today.
- When was the last time you tried to shake things up in your small group? What did you do? What was the result?
- What are signs that your small group might be in a rut?
- What activities energize you that might also energize your small group?