Small groups are a hallmark of Christian formation and fellowship. They offer an opportunity to process information and experiences as well as to grow in friendship and community with others. Time for small group discussions are frequently incorporated into retreats and conferences. Meeting regularly with a small group can also be a helpful part of your plan for growing in your discipleship with Jesus. There may or may not be a small group ready and waiting for you to join in your area so here are five easy steps for how you can start your own.
1. Identify the Purpose of the Group
The first step is to decide what the purpose of the small group will be. What will be the goal of the time you spend with your group? Are you hoping to study Scripture together? Would you like to read and discuss spiritual reading or Church documents? Would you like to pray the rosary or other prayers as a group? Will you use a particular program or set of content to help facilitate the meetings or will you prepare the content on your own? Deciding the aim of the small group before you make invitations will allow you to be more clear and specific about what you are inviting others to join.
2. Brainstorm Who to Invite
Next, think about who you would like to invite to be a part of your small group. In my experience, I have found that 4-8 people is an ideal small group size. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you who He would like you to invite. Who do you know who may also be hoping for a regular way to continue growing in their knowledge of the faith and spiritual lives? Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box of your “church friends.” Your invitation could be an answer to someone’s prayer!
Now, before you start going through your list to make invitations make sure to stop and pray first! Ask God to prepare the hearts of those you are planning to invite and to remove any obstacles that might keep them from accepting your invitation to the small group. Ask the Holy Spirit to provide you with the words and the opportunities to extend invitations to your potential small group members.
4. Make Invitations
Whenever possible, invite others to join your small group with the most personal form of communication possible. This means that inviting them in a face to face conversation or over a phone call is preferable to sending them an email or a text. Much like asking someone on a date, be clear and specific about what the plan is for the group meeting: what the discussion will be about, where the meeting will be, how often you will meet, and how long the meetings will last. Those you invite will appreciate knowing exactly what it is they are saying yes or no to. You can also mention why you thought of inviting them in particular to be a part of the group. Extending invitations can be intimidating, especially to those you may not know as well, but don’t let that stop you! We live in an age of isolation and loneliness, and people genuinely appreciate knowing that they are wanted and included.
5. Prepare for the Meeting
Once you have made your invitations and found a time for everyone to meet, the next step is to prepare for the first meeting. Find a place to meet that can comfortably fit the number of people who plan to come. If some of the group members don’t know each other well yet, think of a couple of “get-to-know-you” questions that you can ask at the beginning of the meeting. Read through any content you plan to use for the meeting, and think of a few discussion questions to help get the conversation flowing. If possible, have an extra of any materials that group members will need but may forget to bring (Bible, rosary, pen, paper, etc). Have a plan for how the meeting will go, but be open to being flexible in the moment too. And above all, ask God to bless the time you will spend together with your small group, and have fun growing in your faith and friendships together!
Bethany Dhingra is a millennial with a missionary heart. She loves using her Catholic Studies and Communications degrees from the University of St. Thomas to draw others into a relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. She served as a campus missionary with FOCUS for 3 years. Most recently, Bethany is living in Missouri with her husband and learning how to follow Christ through the sacrament of marriage.