Tell me this has happened to you before: You want to get connected to a support group. You’ve finally mustered up the courage to get help. So you look up a recovery group online and go to it.
Not a single person talks to you the whole evening! And the leader doesn’t even acknowledge you. So afterward you head straight to your car—feeling invisible and swear you’ll never go back to another small group again.
Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone.
We’ve all been in small groups where we’ve felt invisible. Now that you’re leading your own group, though, you can learn how to cultivate community. Here are some tips to help your group not only survive, but thrive!
- Pray. Meet with the other leaders to pray for the group. And have prayer warriors in your church praying for your group. Ask members if they have any prayer requests and pray for them during the meeting. Remind them about confidentiality. Appoint a volunteer to write down the prayer requests and email the group so they can be praying for each other.
- Greet. Welcome each and every person that comes into your group with a smile. Get to know anyone new and introduce them to others in the group. The first few minutes of your meeting should be spent getting to know the people in the group and catching up with how everyone’s week went. So plan to spend the first 10 minutes or so in your group just talking with each other.
- Eat. Have coffee and other drinks available before, during, and after the group. If possible, have food at the meeting. Food is a great way to bring people together. After all, slowing down and enjoying a good meal helps people get to know each other. So to build friendships and connections, go out to eat or have a potluck at least once a month.
- Ask. An icebreaker question at the beginning helps spark discussion. You can email the icebreaker question to the members a couple of days before the group meets to give them time to think about it. Choose a question that’s fun, easy to understand, and a topic everyone feels comfortable discussing.
- Recruit. The secret to any support group is recruiting members to help. You can ask for volunteers to greet people, bring food or drinks, help set up chairs, mail birthday cards, and follow-up with new members. The more your members get involved in the group, the more committed they’ll be.
- Have fun! You can’t get to know the other members just by spending time in the meeting. So plan fun events such as bowling, watching a movie, having a barbeque, or going to a concert. As you spend time together having fun and hanging out, your group will bond and develop friendships for life.
- Follow-up. If someone is new to your group, get their name and contact information. Make sure to follow-up with anyone new within a few days of your meeting. And have a sign-up sheet each week so that you can get everyone’s contact information. If possible, find out their birthday and address so you can mail them a birthday card.
Nothing is worse than going into a support group for the first time and not having anyone talk to you. As a leader, you have an opportunity to change lives. But whether your Life Recovery Group is geared toward men struggling with a sexual addiction or a women’s prayer group, it’s important that you make each and every person feel as if they belong.
Follow these 7 tips to cultivate community, and your group will be thirsty for more!