I recently had to answer these questions for my church and thought I would share them here. I dearly love the small group that God has brought together on Thursday nights....it's a group of ladies who have joined together to journey through life and to encourage one other along that journey.
In one or two sentences, what do you, as the small group leader, feel is the purpose of your group?
The purpose of the small group/life group is to create a place where discipleship, equipping and encouragment take place. This is done through teaching of the Word, times of prayer/ministry and creating opportunities for relationships to go deeper. (There have been girls at all stages of the spiritual journey in this group - from non-Christian to mature believer - so I try to keep it a safe place for them to ask questions, explore faith & encounter Jesus.)
What do you think are the one or two main things the members of your small group are looking for (or enjoy) in being a part of your group?
1. They are looking for transparent, real community (true koininia) that extends beyond our Thursday night gathering
2. I think they are looking for solid Bible teaching as well because they have a lot of questions about the Word and how it relates to everyday life
What would it take to get more people involved in small groups across the church?
I think people need to be personally invited. The majority of people who get involved in small groups do so because they were invited, perhaps by the leader or someone who is already in the group. It's not just about inviting people you know either. People are hungry for community/koininia and will often come & check out a group even if they don't know people yet (particularly if it seems to be a non-threatening setting). A number of girls in my group started after getting a random phone call from me (the church gave me a list of young women who might be interested in a small group) or after seeing the group listed on the church website.
I'm a big fan of "Welcome Dinners" where you invite some people you know and some you don't and you just have a meal together. It begins those connections from which a small group can form. I've seen these used to welcome new people to a church, to promote community and to birth small groups. It's a fun, non-threatening way for people to connect with each other.
Any other comments you’d like to add on the topic of small groups:
I am truly grateful that you list small groups on the Riverside website. I've had 3 girls join our small group as a result of looking on the website for small group information.
I am super passionate about small groups because it's where we live life in the trenches with each other and see Jesus "with skin on". Preaching/teaching the "masses" is important, vital even, in the life of a church. But it's in small groups or life groups where people will often shed their mask and enter into community that disciples, encourages & builds them up in their faith as well as challenging them to live out their faith in everyday life. And the beauty of small groups is that there is so much flexibility to how they can be done - day/time can vary; one group may do a video series, another discusses that week's sermon while another may have a lesson written & taught by the leader; age group/special focus can also be applied. I was in a cross-generational, coed small group at my last church where the church provided us a list of questions based on that week's sermon to help us dig deeper into the text of the week. Every two weeks, our group would eat a meal together & then discuss some of the questions - it was an incredible opportunity to learn from other generations and relationships were formed that continue to this day though we now live in 3 different states. There are so many ways a small group can be structured and I think that is a beautiful thing. And I am super excited to see Riverside beginning to formulate a vision for small groups!!!
Just a few thoughts....