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Launching a Small Group Ministry

2009, October 1st

Issue 6

Launching SG Journal Image

Get Trained at an EC Institute

Launching a Small Group Ministry is most successfully accomplished through working with someone who has many years of experience leading small groups and training facilitators. Since you will most likely not have this option, you may want to bring your leaders to an EC Institute.

Read Pertinent Materials

  • Part II: EC Ministry Handbook — study the Small Group section thoroughly
  • The Lost Art of Disciple Making, by Leroy Eims
  • How to Lead Small Groups, by Neal McBride

(Even though they are expressed with a different cultural and theological language and perspective, the core ideas in the last two books are indispensable. When you read them, think of yourself as a translator, and don’t get hung up on the ways the ideas are expressed—just focus on the ideas.)

Pray for Leaders

God will bring you helpers.

Choose a Launch Date and Duration

Allow enough time to identify, interview, and train facilitators, as well as promote the launch.

Parish Recommendation Launch first week of lent. Lent is a time when busy families and individuals will set aside time to do something extra for the spiritual life. Also, having a short duration — six weeks — is more appealing to people busy with childrne, work and other commitments.

Campus Recommendation Launch second week of the fall semester. This gives you the first week to do an advertising blitz and let students get past all of the campus welcome activities. Groups should end the week before finals. Training of the following year’s leaders begins spring semester.

Identify Small Group Facilitators who are:

  • faithful
  • available
  • personable
  • docile to the Scriptures and the Church
  • able to deal with a variety of personality types
  • not overbearing, but confident enough to facilitate a group with energy and comfort
  • good at give-and-take in conversation

That might seem like a lot to ask for in one person — it is! But each of these elements is important to the success of a small group. If anyone has previous experience leading a Small Group — it’s gravy.

Watch out for:

  • Someone who knows a lot about the Bible or Church teaching but dominates conversation in a way that shuts everyone else down.
  • Someone who is very personable, but who thinks the Bible is ridiculous or doesn’t care what the Church teaches.

Find Facilitators

Run an ad in the bulletin to see who out there might be interested. Interview them along with the people you have personally identified. Keep in mind, that once you have launched a Small Group Ministry, you will be able to identify and groom new facilitators from within your existing Small Groups. You will still always want to be on the lookout for potential facilitators outside your existing Small Groups, but it will never be as much of an undertaking as it is at first.

Interview Potential Facilitators

  • Ask the people you have identified if they would be interested in coming to talk with you about being a Small Group facilitator.
  • Conduct the meeting as an informal interview.
  • Assess how comfortable and deft they are at conversation and whether or not they tend to dominate.
  • Clarify that being a Small Group facilitator means “facilitating.”
  • Clarify that a theological education is not necessary; keeping a Catechism of the Catholic Church is sufficient.
  • Look for deference for Church teaching and docility toward the Scriptures.

Plan Number of Groups

Plan to start as many groups as you have facilitators. After you have completed your interviews, you may find that it’s just you and one other person. Or, if you are in a large parish, you may have five to ten facilitators with whom you can start. Start with as many groups as you have facilitators. Notify the facilitators you have selected to help you launch. (You will always need to notify any people whom you did not select. Consider asking these to host one of the groups at their home).

Find Hosts

It’s nice to have someone other than the facilitator host the group so responsibility is divided and more people have ownership in the success of the group. If the group will have families with small children, you will want to plan how you will accommodate them. In a campus ministry setting, groups in the dorms are best, but they also can work in nearby off-campus student apartments. We recommend against meeting at the Church, because a home provides a warmth and intimacy conducive to generating Christian community.

Complete Small Group Planning Guide

Fill out The Small Group Planning Guide with each facilitator; it covers the logistics of the groups.

Choose Good Materials

  • Choose materials conducive to evangelizing, establishing, and equipping.
  • Do not underestimate the importance of using “evangelically-oriented” materials. We have found that few published materials have a helpful balance of questions and focus.
  • Use our Creating and Evaluating Small Group Materials resource to help you determine the quality of the materials you are considering.
  • A good place to start is our fourteen-week topical Bible study, Evangelical Catholic Life: An Introductory Study, which is designed to help people reflect on God, their relationship with Him, and their life in light of the Gospel.

Provide a Comprehensive Initial Training

Training your facilitators is key for the success of your Small Group Ministry.

  • Make sure your facilitators know and understand that training will be required of them before they commit.
  • Take your leaders to one of our institutes or Summer Training Camps if you want help with the training.
  • If you will do the training on your own, plan for about five hours, ideally in two or three separate modules on different days, to allow for review and reinforcement.

Advertise and Promote Groups

  • Pitch the Small Groups at announcement time by way of testimony and/or personal invitation by Small Group facilitators,
  • Follow up with a sign-up in the gathering space of the Church after all masses for two consecutive Sundays.
  • At a campus ministry, do a blitz the first week of school with other events, such as a pizza party and barbecue, to provide other opportunities to invite students to join a Small Group.
  • Chalk, poster, and mail to Catholics in the dorms about events and Bible studies.
  • Post an online Small Group schedule and sign-up.
  • Have your pastor encourage people to get involved; it will go a long way toward generating interest.
  • Absolutely avoid selling your groups as “fun”; keep the purpose in mind. Remember — aim for the spiritual, not the social, and the social will follow. If you aim for the social, the spiritual won’t happen and neither will the social, to any great degree.

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