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?
4. Will we keep an open chair?
5. What will our groups not do?
6. Who must we find?
7. Commitment – Do we anticipate low requirement?
8. Content – What will the group do?
Next on our list is another important decision for leaders:
9. Term – How often will we meet?
The frequency of group meetings can be one of the most critical decisions for a small group’s success. Meet too often and attendance will be inconsistent. Meet too rarely and the desired relationships never seem to develop. A leader must be careful to think through every aspect of this decision and be flexible enough to adjust when difficulties seem evident.
Again, the primary purpose of the group is important to this decision. Is the group content focused? If so, it will need to meet consistently and more frequently, usually weekly or bi-weekly (every two weeks). If a content group meets too rarely, then the group will have difficulty gaining momentum and struggle to attain the full benefit of the curriculum. Long gaps between meetings hinder the flow of learning and require a lot of review.
If the group’s purpose is relationships, either the group should meet regularly for a short span of time or perhaps monthly if the group desires to be ongoing. For example, a “life group” might meet weekly for eight-twelve weeks, or bi-weekly for a quarter, but then take a month off before beginning again. This gives focused time to the relationship building without becoming overbearing. The longer the group plans to be together, the less frequently they should meet.
No matter the plan, weekly and bi-weekly groups will need breaks. Many churches use a semester format where groups meet for 12-15 weeks and then take a break. Usually the calendar will allow three semesters a year (fall, winter, spring) with a summer break.
Those groups that meet monthly may not require such a break. They can meet throughout the year, perhaps taking a month or two off during the summer. Because these are low commitment and low requirement groups that usually are more focused on activities, they can continue without the schedule exhausting the group members.
However you plan, be sure you plan. Knowing why you’re meeting and allowing that decision to determine your meeting frequency will give your groups their best chance for success.