I realise the title of the post sounds a bit serious. Ground rules, you may ask? That sounds strict. What I meant by 'ground rules' was that with any group of people meeting together, you need to define your reason for meeting. And if you do it early it can solve a lot of potential problems.
Whether you're in a group of three or a group of 15, in my experience, I think it's vital that you all sit down together and chat about your hopes and expectations for the group. You may think this is obvious...we're a book club, obviously we're meeting to discuss books. But I've found it's not always so clear cut. Group members will have different expectations and I'm sure we've all been in groups where we've felt unappreciated and disrespected at times by other members who do things they assume we won't have a problem with.
In this series, I'll be mainly referring to Christian small groups/Bible studies/growth groups/homegroups (yes I've heard them being called all of the above) but I think some of the principles can be applied to any group whether it be a mothers' group, a book club or anything really.
In most of the Bible study groups I've been a part of, the leader/s have initiated an 'expectations' discussion during our first meeting together. This was because it was a new group of people meeting together for the first time. We chatted about what we hoped to gain from and contribute to the group, our fears, our goals and what activities our meetings would consist of. In my opinion, this was so important. Some of the groups I've been involved with didn't do a very good job at sticking to what we'd planned and some fell into a hole because of it. I and others have been ticked off by many things that group members have done, some which they probably assumed wouldn't cause a problem.
- Group members being late for no good reason other than they thought it wasn't important that they be on time. This especially became an issue for night groups when the group would start late and finish late as a result of people's tardiness.
- People inviting others to the group without checking with everyone else if it was ok. Obviously this is a complex issue and I will discuss it in more depth in another post. That's why it's vital to discuss these things in the beginning. In the past I've met up with just one or two people at a time who kept inviting people to join us without considering how I felt. This really annoyed me because I thought it would just be us and I think it can damage group confidentiality.
- Which brings me on to the next issue....group confidentiality. Things that are meant to stay in the group which haven't have lead to gossip and hurt.
- If you're a Bible study group....what are you going to study? Who will lead?
Mike from The Upper Room has some good things to say about Christian small groups. Read his post here.What have your small group experiences been like? Positive? Negative? Have you been meeting with your small group for years or do the members seem to change from year to year? Please share your experiences and your ideas for future posts in this series.