We believe that in order for groups to function properly, there must be structure. Without clear boundaries and framework, each group would begin to evolve into their own separate ministries. The structure and consistency of the groups allows for group members to have security each week when they arrive.
However, a group that chooses to operate without flexibility built into the structure will cause a group to become stagnant and overly predictable. The following reminders serve to help you understand the balance between structure and flexibility.
- Time – Management
Be sure to begin and end on time. As the group leader, it is your responsibility to honor the participants time commitments outside of the group. Being aware of the time throughout group will help you wrap up the group at the right time and in an appropriate manner. We know that in some groups there will be a last-minute revelation that might need time to unpack and require the group to run long but it should not be a common occurrence. Similarly, be sure to start on time, not giving a lot of time on the front end of group expectantly waiting on members to arrive before you begin. This could be seen as permission to arrive late and the problem to become worse, not better.
All groups begin a little different and will require some kind of conversation or down time. If you immediately jump into the curriculum the group will lack the relational component that is required to have a successful group. Allow a small block of time for participants to catch up on the events of the week and allow for an easy yet strategic transition into the curriculum. You are responsible for the transition, but you do not wish to seem cold.
Your group is a community and should interact as such. They are also connected to the larger community of G4 as a ministry. For this reason, we choose to engage in a large group time that works through either one of the nine steps or one of the core values each week. Taking time to connect that step or core value back to your group during the breakouts can help individuals feel part of something larger.
Each week your group will cover a small portion of the overall curriculum. As a leader you want to ensure that this time is as beneficial as possible for the participants in your group. For this reason, be sure that you are able to keep your focus narrow enough to thoroughly cover the topic at hand. You are going to need to be able to monitor your group and determine if the participants have drifted from the major topic or discussion of the night into an unhealthy area of discussion. Be prepared to reroute them when necessary.
As with many things in life, nothing will ever go exactly as planned. For group leaders the ability to transition and alter plans is important. Each week you will be faced with the challenge of addressing different things that come up in group that might not have been a part of your original plan to cover that night. Allow your group the space to deal with things in the moment while ensuring that the focus of the time in group is not lost due to a single person monopolizing time.
Closing is one of the most important parts of the group. Often the last few moments in group will be what stick with individuals throughout the week. Be sure to end with something substantial and not a statement such as, “Well, our time is up for this week.” Make sure that your group ends with an appropriate and strategic ending. Part of that ending will be to remind individuals of the work that will covered before returning to group and to encourage them to come back the following week.
These parameters for group time are meant to give you a basic understanding of the structure the group will operate within. The structure should not be seen as a limiting factor but should give you the feeling of freedom to operate openly within those parameters in a way that will best fit your group. The more you lead groups, the better you will become at discerning how to use your time well within the group so that you remain structured yet flexible.