10 Questions for Small Group Planning – 4
In recent weeks, we’ve looked at three critical questions for small group ministry planning:
1. Why are we doing small groups?
2. What will our small groups do?
3. Who will we involve in small groups?
Next on our list is another important decision for leaders:
4. Will we keep an open chair?
In small groups “lingo” the open chair symbolizes the openness of the group toward new people. Will our groups maintain an openness to new attenders or will they be closed groups, where people must sign up at the group’s beginning in order to experience the content to be studied.
In most cases, relational groups have the best chance of remaining open to new people. After all, these groups have fellowship as their goal so adding someone new to the group seems like a “no-brainer” doesn’t it? Discipleship groups that tackle a specific curriculum often are more closed because if you miss out on the first weeks of study, it can be difficult to join in the later weeks.
But relationship groups aren’t easy to keep open either Most have found that after a group has met together for six months, they tend to functionally close. We have formed a group and the desired friendships have formed. Now it gets harder to welcome in new people.
Most pastors dream of small groups being a “front door” to the church. By “front door” we mean a place where people can first engage the church and its ministries. Perhaps someone is invited and attends a small group before ever entering the church building on a Sunday. That’s the dream, but it’ not easy trying to make it a reality.
Many find that to get new people involved in small groups, you often have to start new groups. To add new people to existing groups requires great intentionality. Group members have to clearly understand this goal and finds ways to invite and welcome new people.
Some churches try to overcome the tendency toward small groups with a semester approach where groups disband and reform two or three times a year. While this can help get new people involved, it can also be very disruptive to successful relational groups and it provides an easy opportunity for some people to disappear from small group ministry altogether.
However you approach this question, understand that openness doesn’t just happen. It must be a strong and clear part of the plan if it will become a reality. There’s no room for assumptions here. Keeping small groups open takes hard work.