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Small Group Starter

St. Mark's

Your Guide to Starting and Growing a Small Group at St. Mark's Church.

St. Mark's Church ­ 1230 St. Mark's Church Rd. Burlington, NC 27215 - 336-584-8983 - www.stmarkschurch.org

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Who me...

Start a Small Group? Yes, You!

Thanks for picking up St. Mark's "Small Group Starter Kit." Believe it or not, starting a small group is not as difficult as you might think. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be a Bible scholar, a pastor, have taught Sunday school or even have read the Bible from cover to cover. Basically, all that is required to start and sustain a healthy small group is a growing love for God and a willingness to help others connect in meaningful community. We can teach you everything else, if you're willing to learn. So, let's get started!

Group Starter Kit... Contents

This "Group Starter Kit" ­ created by others who have started small groups ­ is a simple guide designed to provide you with the necessary resources you'll need to establish a healthy, dynamic small group... the kind of group where community and life change are the norm, not the exception. As you work through this guide, you will discover that it is organized in an easy, stepby-step format that is simple to follow and takes the guesswork out of starting a new group. It's also designed with a lot of common sense in mind. Each step has been carefully thought out and naturally leads you to the next. Certain steps you'll only use once as you plan and launch your group. Other steps you will want to use time and time again to keep your group focused and moving ahead.

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Why Small Groups? Step One begins by introducing you to why we have small groups at St. Mark's. This section will help you understand the necessity of group life from a biblical, relational and organizational perspective. Everything we do in group life is taken from this understanding. Remember... biblical community is our goal, not small groups. Small groups happen to be the best catalyst in moving us toward biblical community. Small Groups - How We Do Them: Step Two begins by giving you a simple definition and model of a typical small group at St. Mark's. You will also learn what we've discovered to be the necessary elements of a healthy, developing group (i.e., group covenant, values, participating roles of members, etc.). As each group is challenged to continually prioritize these elements, members become active participants and owners of group life. Starting Your Group: Step Three walks you through the "how to process" for starting your group. This section gives you practical advice on subjects like: making a list of potential people to invite, throwing your "get acquainted gathering," and preparing for your first three initial meetings. Small Group Meetings - Schedule: Step Four is a user-friendly meeting guide that helps you plan your group's meetings. In this section, you will learn what a typical small group meeting looks like and how you prepare to make it a meaningful experience for everyone involved. You will also discover where to go for help in sustaining and enhancing your group.

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So, what do you think so far? Are you up to the challenge and willing to take the next step? If so, turn the page and get ready for real community.

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Why Small Groups?

"Christian community is not an ideal we must realize; it is rather a reality, created by God in Christ, in which we may participate." Dietrich Bonhoeffer

There is a strong case to be made for why St. Mark's embraces small group life as a normal and expected part of its ministry focus. It begins with and is mandated by biblical evidence, is supported by our relational need to connect in community, and is valuable from an organizational perspective. Community defined is: To be connected relationally with God by personally receiving the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross (Grace), and by joining together with others in loving, authentic relationships through participation in our local church (Group Life).

Biblical Evidence for Community

The Bible paints a clear picture of God existing in and seeking after community: first, in the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (John 1:1-3), then with Adam (Genesis 1:26), and finally with the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 6:4). Since God himself lives and works in community, and we are made in the likeness of God, then we too are created to live in and for community with God and one another. To be human is to hunger for community. Jesus and the disciples modeled community for us in the New Testament. Christ himself came to provide community and live with us (Matthew 1:23) and then he called a small group of disciples to live and walk with him (Mark 3:7-10,13-14). Jesus knew the masses had great needs, so he purposely chose to walk with and train a few ­ the twelve ­ and sent them out to touch many. CommUNITY is Christ's highest dream for all humanity. It is seen in the prayer he prayed for us in John 17:11, "I pray that they might be one just as you and I and the Holy Spirit are one." Further, Christ sees our unity and community as our message to the world that he, Christ, did come and that he is love; and if we fail at community, we fail our mission (John 17:21, 23). For the early church in Acts 2, living in community was a normal part of their everyday existence. It was in the environment of community that they cared for one another, developed meaningful relationships and grew as Christ followers.

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Relational Evidence for Community

There is strong relational or sociological evidence that God created us to crave a relationship with him and others. Look at the following examples: · · · · God wants people to seek a relationship with Him (Acts 17:24-27). God wants us to have relationships with others (Genesis 2:18). God reveals His emotions to us (Ephesians 4:30; Zephaniah 3:17). God intervenes when we can't communicate (Romans 8:26-27).

There is also support that comes from being in community: · · · · Strength during storms of life (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) Wisdom for making good decisions (Proverbs 15:22) Confidentiality and accountability for spiritual health (Proverbs 27:17) Strength, reliability and assurance (Proverbs 18:24).

Organizational Evidence for Community

Community Doesn't Happen By Itself! As St. Mark's continues to grow, organizational structure becomes necessary to ensure that people are connecting in community. Small groups are a way to guarantee this is happening in a life-giving manner through what is called "Span of Care" - everyone is cared for and no one cares for too many. Small groups also help us make sure that no one stands alone, struggles alone, serves alone, develops alone, seeks alone, or grows up alone (Acts 2:42-47). Small groups are a proven organizational way to provide infrastructure to assure the workload is shared (Exodus 18:9-22), that everyone receives care (Acts 6:1) and that leadership is provided (Titus 1:5). Finally, small groups provide a structure for unity in the body (Ephesians 4:1-6, 11-16), a sense of belonging to one another (Romans 7:2-4) and a place to edify, bless, grow, serve and challenge each other through the exercise of each person's spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

Think About It:

How can being in a small group community help you learn to love others and put them first? ____________________________________________________________________________ How can being connected in small group community impact your spiritual life? ____________________________________________________________________________

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Small Groups: How We Do Them

The goal at St. Mark's is for us to do all we can as a church to "Connect People To Christ And To One Another." Small groups help us achieve that goal by creating a place where individuals can grow in their relationship with God and others through fellowship, biblical study, meaningful service and reaching other people who are seeking the same. As a Small Group Ministry, our part is to connect people relationally to God and one another in authentic small group community for the purpose of helping them become fully developing followers of Jesus Christ.

While all that might sound rather heady or philosophical, it's actually very easy to understand. Here's what we've discovered to be some of the important information for anyone considering starting a small group.

Small Groups... A Working Definition:

A small group is described as a gathering of 3 to 12 people (give or take a few) who meet at least twice per month (mostly in homes) with the common purpose of developing spiritually, caring for each another relationally, making a meaningful serving contribution and reaching out to others needing to be connected.

Essential Parts of a Small Group Are...

1. The Primary Roles Group Members Play

Just as a family is comprised of individuals who contribute to the family through their different roles and responsibilities, a healthy and growing small group is made of up people who not only receive but also give back to the group by supporting a piece of the responsibility. Some of the primary roles group members play are: Group Facilitator: The Facilitator is the person who plans the group schedule, runs group meetings, oversees sharing of responsibilities among group members and interacts with ministry leaders on behalf of the small group. We ask that facilitators of St. Mark's Small Groups have a commitment to growth in their

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personal faith journey and in their understanding of the essential beliefs of the Christian faith as well as a commitment to the St. Mark's model of small groups. Group Apprentice: This Apprentice assists the facilitator and study leader in coordinating the group, running meetings and leading discussions. Their primary responsibility is to learn the skills necessary to lead their current group or help in the process of birthing a new group. He/she also fills in when the facilitator and/or study leader is absent. Group Host or Hostess: This person coordinates the group meeting location(s), refreshments, etc. He/she may or may not have the group meet in their home on a regular basis. Refreshments depend on the group's wishes. Group Bible Study Leader: This person presents the material being studied and leads the group through the discussion. In some groups, this position rotates among group members wanting to lead. Other Possible Roles... The above mentioned are what we feel to be essential roles to a growing, healthy small group. Other groups have members fulfill roles such as updating prayer requests and needs by email, birthday card sender, ministry planner for yearly group projects, etc. A group is really only limited to its imagination in how it can get its members to take ownership in group life. Feel free to dream and don't be afraid to ask people to participate.

2. Small Group Values

While each small group at St. Mark's takes on its own identity, we've discovered that it's important for all groups to share a few common values. These values help groups stay connected to the vision, mission and life of the church and keep us unified and committed to one common goal ­ biblical community. They also help move us toward being the type of church described in Acts 2:42-47. While we encourage all groups to embrace and incorporate into the life of their group the values of Love, Learn, Serve and Reach, it's natural and okay for a group to have one of the four values as its primary focus. See the diagram below.

Care Group

Study Group 8

Task Group

Seeker Group

We describe the values of Love, Learn, Serve and Reach the following way: Love ­ Our Concern and Care for One Another Love is expressed in a variety of ways in group life. Through prayer and worship we express love to God. We express love to members in our group as we fellowship together, serve each other, care for one another, and pray for the needs represented in our group. John 13:34-35 tells us, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." It is Christian love that makes our groups distinctive and provides that sense of belonging that comes with community. Ideas: Here are a few ideas on how some groups have chosen to express the value of love in their group: discovering ways to pray for one another, caring for each other in time of crisis ­ death, illness, etc., celebrating life's milestones ­ birthdays, anniversaries, births, new jobs or homes, etc., surprising group members with unexpected acts of kindness ­ cards, babysitting, work on their home, etc. Learn ­ Our Discovery of God and One Another Why is it important to have the "learning element"? Learning about God and our relationship with him is a key component of group life and helps us to grow individually as fully developing followers of Jesus Christ. All groups learn in one way or another -- they learn about the Scripture, Christ, one another, and themselves as they read and discuss chosen study materials and experience life together. Choosing a study is usually one of the more challenging responsibilities of group life. The Loft Resource Center at St. Mark's has a large variety of study resources in stock for you to review and choose from. The Loft carries topical studies, verse-by-verse Bible studies and video/DVD-driven curriculum. 2 Peter 3:18 says, "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." It is through the study, discussion and learning of God's word that our group members grow spiritually. Ideas: Here are a few ideas on how some groups have chosen to express the value of learn in their group: select a popular Christian book to review, take notes from the weekend message and discuss them, choose a topical study ­ parenting, marriage, relationships, etc., pick a resource on a certain book in the Bible and do a verse-by-verse study, etc. The Small Group Ministry recommends the DVD curriculum Doing Life Together ­ Connect as a great starter study for beginning groups.

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Serve ­ It's Not About Me, but One Another Service is part of any vibrant, healthy small group. Challenge your group to think of ways to serve one another, the community or the church. Serving can take many forms so don't limit the possibilities. For example, it can begin by serving one another within your group when there is a need such as a surgery, a new baby, a death or even a home project. It can include serving together at St. Mark's as an usher team, in the Atrium, or on a grounds maintenance day. It can also include serving at the Homeless Shelter, or participating in the Samaritan's Purse Shoebox Christmas outreach. Groups find that when they serve together, they get to know one another better and the group is energized by its outward focus. James says, "Faith by itself, if not accompanied by actions, is dead" (James 2:17). It is in serving that we become the hands and feet of Jesus in the world and learn to turn our focus beyond ourselves. Groups are encouraged to plan a serving project at least twice a year. Ideas: Here are a few ideas on how some groups have chosen to express the value of serve in their group: Serving members of your group during a specific time of need, participating as a group in serving opportunities around the church and community ­ Operation Christmas Child Ministry, adopt a Christmas Cheer family, Good Shepherd's Kitchen, Loaves and Fishes, serve at the church on designated project days, etc. Reach ­ Helping Others Discover What I Have Opening your group to new people at different times throughout the year ensures that your group doesn't become inward focused and stagnant. Let's face it, without new people, it's easy to get in a rut and possibly bored with each other. New people force us out of our routine, causing us to take a fresh look at our group and ourselves and also allowing us to partner with the church in fulfilling its mission - "Connecting People to Christ and One Another." It is in committing to reach spiritually lost people and others needing to be connected in community that we ultimately fulfill Christ's commission in Matthew 28:19-20, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." To express the value of reach, your group can open its doors to others in the church looking to connect in community or choose to encourage unchurched friends to join you for group gatherings and studies. Ideas: Here are a few ideas on how some groups have chosen to express the value of reach in their group: have the group create a prayer list of people needing to be connected, do a study on God's heart for disconnected people, have a social gathering where group members invite friends/neighbors or others

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interested in getting connected in a small group, partner with and coach a newly forming group, bless and send a few members of the current group out to begin a new group, etc.

3. The Group Covenant

Why A Group Covenant? Imagine watching a football game where members of one of the teams didn't play by the same rules. What do you think would happen? Probably complete chaos. The success of any great team isn't determined by just its coach or individual team players, but mostly on the team's ability to learn and play by its team's playbook... its agreed-upon covenant. In the Bible, we learn that God made covenants with His people out of His compassion and love for them. For example, God made a covenant in Genesis 9 with Noah never again to destroy the earth with a flood. These divine promises in scripture form the basis of God's relationship with His people. In the same way, a group covenant forms the basis of the relationships in the group and binds group members to one another. A covenant is an expression of your group's purpose, values, expectations, and behaviors for which group members agree to hold themselves mutually accountable. It serves as a set of ground rules that help to establish boundaries, common expectations and encourage a safe-place mentality. With a clear, written covenant, you have a road map to help you achieve the group's goals. Every small group covenant should be discussed and developed by the group over several meetings, and finally agreed to by the group members. It should not be written by the facilitator and imposed on the group. Whenever new members join the group, all members should review, revise and agree on the new covenant. This helps newcomers to feel like part of the group and serves to remind original group members of group expectations. A sample covenant for small groups at St. Mark's begins on the next page and we included extra copies for your group members in this packet so together they can brainstorm and discuss your group's values. We encourage you to customize your covenant to include those values most important to the members of your group (refreshments, child care, etc.).

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St. Mark's Church Small Group Covenant

The purpose of our group: While we encourage all groups to embrace and incorporate the four values of Love, Learn, Serve and Reach into the life of their group, it's natural and okay for a group to have one of the four values as its primary focus. After a discussion with your group, select the value that best describes your focus.

Love (Care) Learn (Study) Serve (Task) Reach (Seeker Oriented)

Details: We will meet from ______ to _____ (time) on __________ (day of week). We will meet at _____________________________________(location). We will embrace and express Love, Learn, Serve & Reach the following ways...

Love. We will connect to Christ and care for one another by... ______________________________________________________________ Learn. We will grow and develop by... ______________________________________________________________ Serve. We will serve one another, the church and/or our community by... ______________________________________________________________ Reach. We will reach the disconnected and the unchurched by...

______________________________________________________________ We Agree to Commit to and Honor the Following...

· Group/Church Unity. We will ensure that all of our decisions are consistent with Scripture and model the mission and vision of St. Mark's Church ­ "To Connect People to Christ and One Another" reaching the disconnected and spiritually lost people and assisting them in becoming fully developing followers of Jesus Christ. · Group Ownership. We will seek to share the following roles and responsibilities based on our gifts, talents, and personal style: facilitator, apprentice, subgroup facilitator, host/hostess, prayer coordinator, event planner, administrator, service project coordinator, etc.

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Group Multiplication. Our group will open itself to other disconnected and/or spiritually lost people periodically throughout the year and/or at the beginning of a new study as long as they commit to the group covenant. Once we reach a sufficient size (12-14), we will begin the process of multiplication (birthing) by creating new space for other people to connect and enjoy the benefits of group life.

Note: St. Mark's does not dictate how a group should birth. Rather, we partner with groups to assist them in choosing the best multiplication plan for their group. 13

Additional values for our group will be... (Choose 5 to 7 values for your group. Check those agreed upon by your group. Potential values are listed below, but you may create your own.)

Affirmation. It is important to create an atmosphere where group members affirm and encourage one another, build each other up in Christ, and help each other grow. Availability. Group members and their resources of time, attention, insight, as well as material resources, are available to each other in order to meet needs and serve one another. Prayer. Prayer is valued in group life. Prayer encourages group members to be humble, knowing that all comes from God. In prayer, they also feel valued and come to understand their own worth. As the group sees God move to answer prayer concerns of members, the whole group will grow in their understanding of God. Openness. Openness in the relationships within the group promotes honesty and an ease of sharing feelings, struggles, joys and hurts. Reaching the goal of authentic relationships begins with being open with each other. Honesty. The desire to be honest with each other is critical to authentic relationships. In order for trust to be built among group members, they must speak the truth in love, so that "we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is Christ" (Ephesians 4:15). Safety. Honest, open relationships must be guarded with an agreement of safety--that what is said in the group will remain confidential, that opinions will be respected and differences will be allowed. Confidentiality. As part of the concept of safety, confidentiality promotes openness by promising that whatever is shared within the confines of the group will not be repeated elsewhere. Sensitivity. A commitment to sensitivity to the needs, feelings, backgrounds and current situations of other group members will help build relationships in the group. This includes not taking advantage of professional expertise of a member as a result of group meetings (e.g., asking the member who is a plumber to take a look at the leaky faucet) and agreeing not to gossip or speak derogatorily about people not at the meeting. Accountability. In authentic relationships, accountability is voluntary submission to other group member(s) for support, encouragement, and help in a particular area of your life, giving them some responsibility for assisting you in that area. Attendance. Attendance at group functions will be a priority for all group members. Participation. Everyone is given the right to their own opinion, and "dumb questions" are encouraged and respected. We are committed to participating. Transparency. We will be "real" with God and with each other, becoming vulnerable with other group members. This is an imperfect group for imperfect people in an imperfect church.

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Step

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Starting Your Small Group

Making the "BIG" Jump

Okay, while starting a small group is not as difficult as some may think, there comes a time when we have to move from just thinking or talking about it to actually starting a group. We like to refer to this step as "Making the BIG jump." As you do, remember, you're not doing this alone but in tandem with many others who are ready to assist you. So, begin by following the five "Group Builders" below and you'll be on your way.

Group Builder One - Pray about and write down

who to invite to join your group. While small groups at St. Mark's usually consist of 8-12 people, you don't have to have a list that large to get started. Allow your group room to grow and develop. It's much easier to start with 5-6 people.

Group Builder Two - Plan a Simple "Get Acquainted" Gathering with the people you want to invite to be in your group. Explain that you are

having a social gathering to discuss starting a new small group and you're inviting them to come check it out. Let them know that they're not making a commitment to the group by coming to the gathering. It's just for information and discussion. At your gathering, discuss some of the details of the group. For example: · Why are you choosing to start a small group? Cast your vision for starting the group. · Set the date you want the group to start. · Discuss whether the group will meet weekly or bi-weekly.

Note: It is impossible for people to connect in genuine community when they interact with one another less than every other week. Community will never fit into our schedule. We must fit our schedule around community.

· What day and time is best for everyone to meet?

Note: You will never find a date/time that works for everyone, so don't let that stop your group from forming. Begin with the date/time that works for the majority of those wanting to be a part of the group start-up.

· Where will the group meet? (Example: One location or rotate to others in the group who are willing to open their homes.)

Note: Not everyone in a small group is comfortable in opening their home for group meetings. Ask for those willing and begin with them.

· How will you handle childcare issues?

Note: The Small Group Ministry at St. Mark's can suggest several great ideas on childcare successfully used by other groups.

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Group Builder Three - Initial Meetings

A few days prior to your first meeting, contact those planning to attend and remind them of the meeting place and starting time. It is appropriate to ask people to bring a snack/drink to share, but be careful not to make it a requirement. Some individuals not having time to make or pick something up may choose not to attend if they feel it to be a requirement or burden.

First Meeting:

Relationship Building: The majority of people attending a newly-forming small group may only be acquainted with a few people in the group. It's important to make relationship building the main priority at your first meeting. Here are some examples of how to help people break the ice and begin to connect. Create a casual atmosphere around light refreshments for everyone to mingle and get acquainted. Gather the group (living room, den, etc) and have everyone reintroduce themselves (name, where they live, work, family, etc). Give an opportunity for those in your group to share why they are choosing to be a part of the small group and what they're hoping to get out of it. Choose an "icebreaker" from those listed in the appendix of this starter kit and encourage everyone to participate in answering the question. Note: Try to avoid the routine of getting everyone involved by starting with one person and going around the circle. This may make some feel uncomfortable if they choose not to speak in front of the group. Instead, ask a question(s) and open it up for others to answer. If no one immediately responds, get the conversation started by answering the question yourself first. Make sure group members exchange contact information with one another before the conclusion of the meeting. Also, discuss and decide the best way to communicate group information with one another (Example: email, phone, etc.). Covenant: 1. Pass out to members a sample copy of a group covenant (provided). Have members review the material and discuss it as a group. Some members may not understand why a group covenant is needed. The objective at your first meeting is not to determine the specifics of the covenant as much as it is to communicate the value and necessity for having a group covenant. Remember, a covenant is an expression of your group's purpose, values, expectations, and behaviors for which group members agree to hold themselves mutually accountable. It serves as a set of ground rules that help to establish boundaries, common expectations and encourage a safe-place mentality. With a clear, written covenant, you have a road map to help achieve the group's goals.

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2. As part of your covenant discussion, introduce your group to the small group values of Love, Learn, Serve and Reach. Stress the importance of your group incorporating these values as a part of the covenant. Your group may not be prepared to give specific details at the first meeting, but the goal is to embrace the four values as an essential part of group life. For example, if you can't think of how you might want to serve, ask if the group will commit to the concept of group service. Over time, move toward group service. Many times groups begin by serving one another before they develop a heart to serve others. 3. Be sure your group members understand and embrace the primary values of Unity, Multiplication and Ownership described in the sample covenant. These values are critical to group health and offer you the opportunity to join with other small groups at St. Mark's in accomplishing the church's Acts 2 vision and mission. * As God works in the lives of group members, the group is transformed, and St. Mark's becomes the Acts 2 church God desires us to be. 4. Encourage members to take the sample covenant home and to pray about additional values for the group. Group Member Roles: Discuss with your group the opportunity to participate in the primary roles described below that help to sustain and bring health to the group. Some members may be willing to take on a role immediately. Others may need additional time to consider it. Plan to discuss it again at the second meeting. Group Facilitator: The Facilitator plans the group schedule, conducts group meetings, oversees sharing of responsibilities among group members and interacts with St. Mark's ministry leaders on behalf of the small group. Group Apprentice: The Apprentice assists the facilitator and study leader in coordinating the group. Group Host or Hostess: This person coordinates the group meeting location(s), refreshments, etc. Group Bible Study Leader: This person presents the material being studied and leads the group through the discussion. In some groups, this position is rotated among group members wanting to lead. Other Possible Roles... While the mentioned roles are essential to a growing, healthy small group, other groups have members fulfill roles such as: Email updates on prayer requests and needs, birthday card sender, ministry planner for yearly group projects, etc. A group is only limited to its imagination in how it can get its members to take ownership in group life. Feel free to dream and don't be afraid to ask people to participate. Announce The Next Meeting: Before the conclusion of the meeting, announce the date and location for the next group meeting. If a location has not been chosen, ask for a volunteer host home. Note: What if someone can't make the next meeting? Do we still meet? One challenge a group will encounter at some point is whether to meet or not due to group members having other prior commitments. While you may have to postpone a meeting from time

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to time, consistency is CRITICAL to a group's momentum. It should be agreed upon that the group will meet... regardless of how many can attend.

Second Meeting:

Relationship Building: Begin your second group meeting by continuing to focus on relationship building as a main priority. Covenant ­ Continued: Pass out index cards to group members and ask them to list five additional values from the back side of the covenant that they feel are most important to include in the group covenant. Take up the cards and compile the results for the group before the next meeting. Group Member Roles: Ask if members have had time to consider participating in one of the primary roles of a small group and discuss any questions they may have. Affirm those willing to step up and participate. Group Study Curriculum: Some members may ask you why the group needs to have a study element. It's important to help your members understand that while building relationships is the primary reason why a lot of people join a small group, social interaction alone will not sustain and promote healthy group development. Learning about God and our relationship with him is a key component of group life and helps us to grow individually as fully developing followers of Jesus Christ. If you have not already decided on a study, have your group discuss and make a list of study material ideas. Offer a few suggestions like: selecting a popular Christian book to review, taking notes from the weekend message and discuss them, choosing a topical study ­ parenting, marriage, relationships, etc., picking a resource on a certain book in the Bible and doing a verse-by-verse study. The Small Group Ministry recommends the DVD curriculum Doing Life Together ­ Connect as a great starter study for beginning groups. Compile and narrow the results to 2-3 options before the next meeting. If you have already determined a study prior to your group forming, introduce the study and pass out the materials to group members. Let them know the study will begin the following meeting. If study materials are on hold at the Loft ­ Resource Center at St. Mark's, remind group members to pick up materials before or after one of the weekend services. Note: For those attending the Mebane Church Campus, study materials will be available at the resource table located at the St. Mark's Mebane facility.

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Announce The Next Meeting: Before the conclusion of the meeting, announce the date and location for the next group meeting. If a location has not been chosen, ask for a volunteer host home.

Third Meeting:

Relationship Building: Begin your third group meeting by continuing to focus on relationship building as a main priority. Covenant - Continued: Identify for the group the top five values chosen by consensus on the index cards completed in the previous meeting. Discuss whether there are other values the group would like to add to those top five. Try to limit the values to seven so that you aren't trying to accomplish too much. Review and agree on your final group covenant. Group Member Roles: Ask if members have had time to consider participating in one of the primary roles of a small group and discuss any questions they may have. Affirm those willing to step up and participate. Note: Filling the various roles in your small group is a process that may take some time. Two or three members may choose to partner in one role. That's okay! The idea is to encourage (not assign) group members to help shoulder the responsibility. If a role goes unfilled for a period of time... don't stress over it. Simply remind the group of open opportunities and allow God to stir someone's heart. Group Study Curriculum: Begin your group study. Invite everyone to participate in the study but do not make it mandatory. Some may be more than willing to give their insight and opinions. For others, it might take awhile to feel comfortable enough to share. Remember: Try to avoid the routine of getting everyone involved by starting with one person and going around the circle. This may make some feel uncomfortable if they choose not to speak in front of the group. Instead, ask a question(s) and open it up for others to answer. If no one immediately responds, get the conversation started by answering the question yourself first. Announce The Next Meeting: Before the conclusion of the meeting, have the group host/hostess announce the date and location for the next group meeting. If a location has not been chosen, ask for a volunteer host home.

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15 minutes

D

Small Group Meeting ­ Schedule

While small group meetings will vary, they all will have similar elements. Use the guide below to help plan your meetings.

Small Group Meeting Guide

Most group meetings last 1½ to 2 hours. This guide is based on a 2-hour meeting. Use the following time segments as an example to structure your meeting. Feel free to adjust accordingly. A blank guide is provided on the following page. Start Time: 7:00 PM

Note: It's tempting to want to wait and start your meeting once everyone has arrived, but beginning at your set time encourages people to be prompt. Remember, occasionally people will need to be late. Encourage them that "arriving late" is better than "not arriving at all".

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Fellowship Time. As members arrive, plan on time to fellowship. Refreshments will depend on what your group has decided.

5 minutes

· Gather and Open in Prayer. Your group may choose to have worship time with music or singing or just have the leader greet the group and open in prayer. · Icebreaker. The use of an icebreaker will help open the group for discussion. Your curriculum may include a suggested icebreaker. We have included some in this packet for your use. · Group Concerns. Discuss concerns/business from previous meeting (e.g., covenant, meeting location, group role participation, etc) · Presentation of Lesson or Study Material and Discussion. Your study or lesson leader will present the material and lead the discussion. · Prayer Requests. This is an opportunity for group members to share their needs. While there will be some discussion, try to keep prayer requests brief. Breaking into smaller groups is an option to give everyone a chance to voice concerns. · Prayer. The leader can pray aloud for all group concerns, group members can join in praying for each other's requests, or the group can split into smaller groups to pray. · Closing Fellowship Time. Your members will linger to visit with one another for additional fellowship time.

Respecting the Meeting Location: Help your group members to be respectful of the host location by leaving at the designated ending time.

10 minutes

15-20 minutes 40-45 minutes 15 minutes

2-5 minutes

10 minutes

Ending Time: 9:00 PM

21

Small Group Planning Guide

Start Time: _________ ____ minutes

D

Date________

Use this guide to plan the amount of time and specifics needed for each part of your small group meeting.

Fellowship Time ____________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ Gather and Open in Prayer ___________________________________ ___________________________________________________________

D D

____ minutes ____ minutes

Icebreaker _________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ Group Concerns ____________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

____ minutes

____ minutes

Presentation of Lesson or Study Material and Discussion_________ ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

____ minutes

Prayer Requests _____________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________

____ minutes

Prayer ____________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ Closing Fellowship Time ______________________________________ ___________________________________________________________

____ minutes

Ending Time: __________

22

Can The Group Change The Meeting Schedule?

Sticking to an expected routine establishes stability for your members, but that doesn't mean it has to be boring. Encourage your group to think of creative ways to keep your group fresh. The old statement, "Variety is the spice of life" is not only relevant to us as individuals but also to the life of our small groups. Examples: Some groups focus on studies from September to May, but only do social gatherings during the hectic summer months. Other groups plan trips together, bike rides, lake retreats, evenings out at restaurants, etc., as a way to keep their groups exciting. The goal is not necessarily what you do, but rather to prevent the group from falling into a rut.

Who Do I Contact If I Need HELP?

This contact information is provided so that we can partner with you and your small group. We are committed to helping with WHATEVER needs may arise. You are not in this ALONE. Please call or email any of the following individuals should there be questions regarding your small group. Eric Allred Cathy Lamb Chris Doiron Melanie Hebert [email protected] 584-8983, ext. 20 [email protected] 584-8983, ext. 28 449-4101 [email protected] 437-8652 [email protected]

In addition, we are currently creating a page on the church's website which will provide news from the St. Mark's Small Group Ministry, links to other small group websites which have helpful information, and downloadable forms for your use. From time to time, we will offer coaching and gatherings for facilitators in order to further develop their skills in leading groups as well as to enhance the entire group experience.

So, are you still asking yourself if you can start a group? Well, here's your answer.

Yes, you can!

23

Creative Icebreakers and Opening Questions for Small Group Meetings

Getting the members of a small group talking isn't always an easy task, especially if the group is new and its members are just becoming acquainted with one another. As the group facilitator or study leader, your primary role is to create an environment where people feel comfortable to open up. Often this is accomplished through creative icebreakers and opening questions. This will require a measure of skill and discretion; some questions are meant to provoke deep and serious responses while others will be light and funny. If your group is new, you will probably use questions and icebreakers that focus on information about the people in your group (where they grew up, where they went to school, etc.). As intimacy develops in a group, then you will begin to challenge your group members with questions that take them to a deeper level, invoking feelings, thoughts and insights. Pick a question from the list of icebreakers below and use it as a way to get your group to open up and begin sharing with one another. Note: Most often the facilitator or study leader will have to answer the question first to get the group going.

Ice Breakers:

If money were no problem and you could choose one place in the world to travel for a week, where would that place be and why? Write down your two favorite summer activities. Pair off and share those activities with one another explaining why they are your favorites. Who is your number one advisor in life and why? One of my biggest pet peeves is ______________. People might be surprised to find out that I ____________________. You have three wishes. What would you wish for? If you suddenly lost your eyesight, what would be the thing you missed seeing the most? What is the most daring thing you have ever done? What made it so daring? My favorite way to waste time is _______________. What does your name mean? Why were you named that? What is one of the most memorable dreams you have ever had? If you were going to leave the world one piece of advice before you died, what would you say? 24

If you were to describe yourself as a flavor, what would your flavor be? What was the best gift you received as a child? If you could raise one person from the dead, who would you raise? Why? Who was one of the most interesting persons you or your family ever entertained? What is the nicest thing anybody ever said about you? What one thing would you like your obituary to say about you? Why? What is your favorite city? Why? Where do you go or what do you do when life gets too heavy for you? Why? Which do you value most ­ sight or speech? Why? When you were growing up, who was the neighborhood bully? What made that person so frightening? What is your fondest memory of a picnic? Why was it so special? What is the best news you have heard this week? The worst news? What was one of the worst things your brother or sister did to you as a child? If your house were on fire, what three items (not people) would you try to save? What was your first job? What do you remember most about it? Who was the best boss you ever had? What made him or her so good? When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? What did your parents want you to be? Who was your hero when you were growing up? How did you try to imitate him or her? If you could go on national television and warn your countrymen to avoid three things, what would you say? What was your worst boss like? I suspect that behind my back people say I'm ______ because _____. Tell the group briefly the story of your wedding day. (If you warn them in advance, each couple can bring their pictures to share with the group.) You have one minute to speak to the entire nation on national television. What one or two key things would you like to tell them? 25

What's the story behind the longest time you've gone without sleep? What were the circumstances that surrounded your first kiss? Who is the most famous person you've known or met? How did it happen? When I dated, I was considered _________ because ________. If you could do one miracle (other than make the whole world Christian), what would you do? Why? What do you miss most about childhood? What's the biggest lie you ever told? If given a choice, how would you choose to die? How do you not want to die? What is your biggest fear about death? If you could go to college (again), what would you study? What's the worst storm or disaster you've been in? What was it like? Describe the most boring day/event/period of time you can remember. What day of your life would you most like to relive? Why? What's the smallest space you've lived in? What was it like? I was (or would have been) voted "most likely to" ______ in high school. Just for the fun/thrill of it, before I die I'd like to ____________. My number-two career choice would be _________________. As a time traveler, I would most like to visit ______because ______. What has been one of the greatest adventures you have been on? If I could invent a gadget to make my life easier, I'd invent something that would ___________because ____________. Next year looks better to me because ________________. Next year may be a problem because _______________. I am most like my mom in that I _____________. I am most like my dad in that I __________________. 26

What are a couple of things you remember about your grandparents? Tell the group what's been happening in your life lately using the following categories: something old, something new, something happy, something blue. Why do you sin? (No simplistic answers allowed!) In what area of your life would you like to have a greater peace? Why? If you could someday have a worldwide reputation for something, in what area would you like that to be? Why? What is one of your biggest fears about the future? Using a fruit or vegetable as a metaphor, how would you describe your life this week (dried fig, ripe cantaloupe, smashed banana, etc)? What do you like best about children? Why? Of the things money can buy, what do you long for the most? If you had to go to prison for a year, what do you imagine would be the hardest part of that experience? Why that? Describe a grade school teacher that made a big impression on you (for good or ill). You have been granted one hour with the president of the United States. What would you ask? What would you like to say? You have been given a year sabbatical from work. You can't go more than 150 miles for any one period of time. What would you do? Break your life into three equal segments. What was the most significant event from each of these periods of time? Have each person in the group answer for every other member of the group: "I am so glad God made you ______ because that aspect of who you are is _____." Something I have from my childhood I'll probably never give up is ______ because _____.

27

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