It’s time to take down the 2020 calendar and set our sights on the endless possibilities of 2021. January begins a new year with new goals, new beginnings, and new small groups. Pop the confetti and blow your noisemaker as we look at practical tips that will help you kick off your groups this year!
1. Set the table. Pray and prepare for the coming year! You can plan everything down to the small details, but if the Holy Spirit isn’t there, it’s all rubbish. Be specific in your requests and take them to the throne confidently. Take some time to meditate on the purpose behind your small group and ask God to do “immeasurably more.”
Create an agenda that includes expectations (when and where the small group is meeting, homework, attendance, etc.) for the next semester, so the ladies know what to expect and can plan accordingly. Many times, women will feel defeated if they miss a few weeks of meeting or if they fall behind in their homework. It’s important to communicate these expectations with grace on the front end so when that time comes, they know they are still welcomed to the group. If you set any goals for your group, make sure they are practical and clear. Ensure that your vision for the group is in alignment with the church’s vision and then share that vision at the first group meeting.
Choose an environment that is welcoming to everyone in the group. Some groups might be more comfortable meeting in someone’s home, while others might want to meet at church or a coffee shop. If your study has a video, determine how you will play it for the whole group to view it. If you have a group with new moms, have a room that is available to pump or nurse if necessary. When the environment is welcoming, women are more comfortable with themselves and others.
Always have a few questions or fun icebreakers on hand for women to get to know each other better. If your group has been meeting for a long time, look for creative ways to try something new (even if this is outside of your comfort zone)! One idea is to do a different theme of food for each group meeting and have a different person choose what kind of theme the group will have at the next meeting. It could be something as simple as a cereal bar or something as elaborate as cuisines from all around the world. Women love fellowshipping over food!
2. Encourage your guests to come hungry and to invite their friends. Each group will have different levels of spiritual maturity represented. Some will be ready to chow down on steak (go deep in spiritual discussion), while others are still being bottle-fed milk (believers who are new to studying God’s Word). Along with the different spiritual levels represented, there will also be different stages of life represented. Be careful not to assume that even your seasoned women have all the answers. At your meetings, set up a jar and sheets of paper where women can ask anonymous questions about life and the Bible, and then schedule some time to answer a few of the questions when you meet. Once you determine and assess the needs of your group, you will be able to navigate how you teach the group.
As you engage with your small group, look for someone who you can invest in and raise up as a new leader or coleader. Not everyone has to have the spiritual gift of teaching, but she does need a teachable spirit. Keep your eyes open for someone to whom you can pass the baton.
3. Feast and enjoy! Choosing the best Bible study for your group can be intimidating. Pray about the needs of your women and then decide if you want your group to study a book of the Bible, a topical study, character study, word study, or chronological study. Look for resources that pair well with the study you choose. Lifeway Women offers a digital catalog each year that gives you several different resources and tips for planning your next Bible Study. Don’t be nervous to try a study from a new author. It’s wise to be open to hearing more than one voice—oftentimes, it allows you to hear different insights and perspectives that help you grow in new ways!
Another wonderful resource is Lifeway’s new CSB Scripture Notebook. If you are taking your group through a certain book of the Bible, this could be a great tool for them to use as they journal what God is teaching them.
It’s important to remember that although 2021 is a new year, the effects and struggles of 2020 might still be present at your feast. If you are unable to meet in person but want to study God’s Word with a community of sisters, consider alternatives. Meet over Zoom! Share your screen and watch a video that goes along with your study. Another app I recommend is one called Marco Polo. You can add the women in your small group to a video group message thread, and the group members can discuss what they are reading with one another as they go throughout the week. This will allow your group to have real-time interactions with each other.
As you lead your group, always remember that the relationships you build are more important than the responsibilities you hold. There are certainly all sorts of tweaks and changes that you’ll likely need to make along the way, but don’t miss out on ministry opportunities with the women in your small group by overthinking the details of kicking off a new year. When you connect with women over prayer and God’s Word, your new semester will be off to a great start!
Catherine Inman is the Event Project Coordinator for Women’s Leadership Training Events at Lifeway Christian Resources. Prior to her current role, she served as Girl’s Ministry Director at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, TN and Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, GA . She also was a missionary in Europe, Africa, and Asia serving in various ministries. Catherine is passionate about biblical literacy and equipping women to reach their full potential in Christ. She aspires to minister to ladies, while cultivating rawness and vulnerability. Catherine enjoys spontaneous road trips, conversations with friends over a cup of coffee, spending time exploring nature, and watching sports!