Does your small group have ground rules?
All relationships have ground rules. Small groups are no exception. Even if you have not formally established the ground rules for your group, members likely perceive a set of guidelines. Unfortunately, conflict can result when different people have different ideas about what conduct is expected in any group, including a Bible study. In general, small groups and other church groups are more fruitful when rules are not unspoken.
So what are the basic ground rules that you should have for your small group? This will vary between different groups, but the following five are a good baseline.
1. What happens in small group stays in small group.
People often share extremely personal information in small groups. This is generally a good thing, as it builds bonds and helps leaders in the discipleship of their community. However, this can go awry if people share this confidential information. Even if the information is not used for gossip, it still can make members reticent to talk about their challenges and other personal information. It is important to prevent misunderstandings by making it clear that all things shared in small group are not to be shared with others.
2. Everyone gets a turn.
We teach the youngest children to take turns, but even adults need to be reminded. It is important that no one in your small group community dominate conversation and also that every share their thoughts. If you have members who are more comfortable sharing when not in face to face discussions, consider getting a program such as StudyChurch. This allows more introverted members to contribute in ways they find more comfortable and also lets people who came unprepared get a chance to review material before weighing in.
3. Don’t take disagreements personally.
The most fruitful small groups often involve lively debate. However, this requires disagreement. Group members should be prepared to disagree in a polite and constructive way. The flip side of this is that they should be open to hearing people disagree with them. Doing this in a polite way is not just a great way to learn about different interpretations of God’s Word, but practice for success in real life as well.
4. Respect each others’ time.
There is a reason people are angered when others are late; if it happens often, it implies that the latecomer does not respect other people’s time. Similarly, forcing group to stay late shows a lack of respect for time. People in the modern world have a variety of commitments, so respect their time by always beginning and ending on time.
5. Do unto others.
The Golden Rule is one of the most important rules for all interaction. It’s important that members use common courtesy and show respect for each other. Everyone should feel respected and heard in a community of their brothers and sisters in Christ.
These are just the basic ground rules, so feel free to add others that are specific to the needs of your community. Setting ground rules will make your small groups go much more smoothly. Members will understand what is expected of them and how they can make the experience better both for themselves and others around.
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I wanted to ask your opinion on something. My small group has changed from a Bible study group to a small group. While we’ve been together for years, it’s only a few weeks as an official ‘small group. We’re meeting in different homes. This 1st home, after 3rd week, we were told by the leader not to arrive earlier than 5-min. till. What is your thought on this?
Charlotte Griffin says
I am starting an in home small group in 2 wks. we will be on zoom for now d/t COVID. I am curious though for the future. I want to know what was it that bothered you about being told not to show up any earlier than 5 min. I am one that might say that because I dont lone when my guest arrive early but I also do not want to hurt or offend someone. Is there a need that I’m not understanding as to why someone would want to be allowed to come early?
I work until 6:30. Small group starts at 7. If you show up early, I might not be home from work yet, let alone have it set up. Why does it bother you to have a start time rather than an invitation to come in whenever? I don’t understand why someone would feel entitled to show up whenever they want?
For me, I would be thankful that they are opening their home and I would respect their request to arrive 5-mins till. I know for me and my wife we are sometimes still preparing the house right up until the start of the meeting, if some of the people in our small group shows up early then we feel that our hospitably needs to begin then when people show up. After saying that, I also think that it depends on the person who shows up…. some of our friends are (as we say) “Refrigerator Friends” meaning they can come over anytime and help themselves to anything in the refrigerator whenever they want. Those folks are also the ones that would help with setup if we are behind.
I do trust all of the ideas you have presented in your post.
They are really convincing and can definitely work. Still, the posts
are very brief for novices. May just you please prolong them a little from next time?
Thanks for the post.
Jo Jo says
We have just switched in our church from adult Bible study fellowships (Sunday School) to Community groups that can be hosted at church or in your home and any day of the week. due to our family constraints and everything as community group leaders we and having so many children we opted to stay at church on Sunday evenings because we don’t have a Sunday evening service anymore.
our challenges/question is we didn’t establish I guess a real commitment level from people when they came into our group now various people are not coming and not telling us that they’re not going to be there and when we ask them about it they ask act like they’re going to come but then they don’t show up…
Do we not worry about it or go beyond you know just telling them we miss them and if we do go beyond that what do we say?
It is a group to go through life together with so we understand there would be challenges in that way. But is there some sort of commitment level thing we can present or again do we not worry about that?