Establishing Group Guidelines

September 15th, 2011
Image © by Tilton Lane | Flickr | Used under Creative Commons license.

The facilitator or group should make a firm decision about whether the group will be open or closed. This decision creates guidelines for group members wanting to bring a friend or family member to future small group meetings.

Normally, most short-term small groups are closed to new people, while long-term groups, ones that operate for several months, can be open to new people or visitors. It is difficult for both the new person and the group to adjust once a small group has been meeting for several weeks. Make sure everyone understands that your group is open or closed.

At your first official group meeting you will want to talk about some ground rules. Your group is like a family and ground rules are for the benefit of the entire family.

Here are some suggested grounds rules to discuss and restate for the first few weeks:

1. Our Purpose. We are here to grow in faith and to grow closer to God. We can offer Christian love and support to one another, but we are not a therapy group.

2. Our Schedule. Each group meeting will start on time and end on time. Please be prompt. Let the facilitator or another group member know if you will be unable to attend. 4. Confidentiality. What is said within our group stays within the group. Do not share personal information from our group with friends or family. This is a safe place to talk. 5. Equality. No one person is expected to be an expert on the topic. Even our facilitator will not be an expert on the topic, but their role will be to keep the group discussion moving.

3. Acceptance. It is important that each group member be accepted where they are on their spiritual journey and given space to grow from that point.

4. Come Prepared. Read the assignment prior to our meeting. What you receive from this study will be in direct proportion to your involvement. Feel free to share your thoughts about the material being discussed. Participate as your comfort level permits.

5. Talk and Listen. Give others a chance to participate in discussions. Back off from sharing your perspective if you sense you are dominating the discussion.

6. Pray for your group, your accountability partner, and your facilitator.

What guideline(s) would you add to this list?

This article is adapted from How to Start and Sustain a Faith-Based Small Group, by John D. Schroeder (Abingdon Press, 2002) Used by permission.

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