At ISOW, one of our goals is to promote groups of believers to gather and stay in community while studying the Word. We of course deliberately chose our online Bible school model to reach as many people as possible, but this medium does come with some inherent drawbacks – the biggest of which is a lack of face-to-face interaction and peer-based learning. You could also call it fellowship or community. Those are some of the core reasons the church body exists in the first place, and we certainly don’t want to neglect that.

That’s one of the main reasons we established our ISOW Connect platform, which allows leaders to facilitate groups of any size and gather together to study the same courses at reduced rates. We want to do our part to foster homegrown schools of ministry and small groups as they seek to broaden their knowledge of Scripture and grow in the Word.

And yet, while we offer world-class curriculum for whatever kind of group you lead, our teaching content doesn’t run your group for you. It’s still up to leaders to encourage discussion, organize meetings, and stay in touch with fellow believers to retain that vital sense of community.

Today, we wanted to share a few tips on running small group meetings, ministry classes or even family gatherings. One of the questions we often get is, “how should I start a meeting?”

One concept every small group or Bible school facilitator should know is “regrouping.” When you and your group gather, it’s important for everyone to be engaged and mentally present, and it helps tremendously if everyone is on the same page. While small groups have been using “ice breakers” to start since their inception, we prefer to frame this concept in a way that leads to meaningful conversation. Without that, it’s just a dinner party, and you might as well learn on your own time.

Shallow water cooler talk and fun ice breakers are not bad, but a fruitful small group or ministry school should strive to dig deeper. Here are some great ways to start honest discussion with group members:

  • What are your priorities as a [husband, wife, student, etc.]? What are your priorities as a believer? How are they aligned and how have you been living up to them?
  • What have you been praying for this week? How do you want God to answer your prayers, and how would you answer Him if He asked something of you?
  • What do you need help with this week? Is there anything you don’t understand in your walk of faith, and anything you would ask God to explain if He were sitting here sipping coffee with us?
  • Do you have any fears or anything consuming your thoughts this week? How can we help, or what would resolve that issue?
  • What have you read in your Bible on your own time this week? Did God speak to you through it?
  • How could you have been a better [husband, wife, parent] this week? How did you succeed?

Honesty and introspection are crucial for any community to grow together. While there’s nothing wrong with a friendly or fun time of fellowship, it’s important to keep in mind that a small group or school meeting should go beyond that and strive for growth. And remember, if you want your group or class or family to behave honestly and openly, you should lead by example. Don’t be afraid to admit your own weaknesses and share your triumphs!

Want to learn more about small group administration? Our course Building Healthy Church Systems has an excellent section on the subject taught by some of the world’s leading experts, as well as a number of other topics. Visit www.ISOW.org today to get started on an affordable online biblical education!

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