Gathering your group together can be hugely beneficial to inspire and allow leaders to connect with one another. But effective meetings do not emerge, but require forethought and planning.
Here are 5 tips I have learned from planning meetings with my small group leaders.
Plan, set, and communicate the date well in advance. If the goal is to get most of the leaders at this meeting, we need to give them enough notice to plan accordingly. People who lead small groups typically have a lot going on, and if the expectation is for them to give up part of their day for a church activity, the least we can do is plan far enough in advance. This simple act communicates that you value their time and energy.
And as you advertise the event, give them a reason to be there. Be specific about the nature of the meeting. I prefer to hold leadership breakfasts right around the time we start a new small group season, so I have typically organized one in the fall and in the winter. The breakfasts are typically time to renew the vision (we all need to be reminded of why we do what we do), and to commission them as leaders.
Have food and feed them well. There is the old adage in the evangelical world, “We don’t meet till we eat.” At times, I have found myself thinking, “Do we need to have food at every event?” But food shows appreciation. If small groups are central to the vision and mission of our churches, then we need to put the money where our mouth is, to use another cliché. This does not mean you have to have it catered, but don’t skimp. At the last gathering we did for our small group leaders, we actually found a small group that was willing to do the cooking and decorating for the event (granted I oversee around 50 leaders). Based on the size of the gathering, you may need to have it catered.
During the meal, allow plenty of time for conversation to occur around the table. Don’t rush this aspect. One of the most beneficial aspects to a leadership meeting is the connections leaders make with other leaders. Our leaders need a chance to connect with one another, and this may be one of the few times to actually do this. I have typically allotted half of the meeting to the meal for this very purpose.
Invite your senior pastor to share vision. At every leadership gathering, no matter how large or small, reminding leaders and ourselves the vision is important. And who better to do this than the senior pastor? Most likely the vision for small groups flows from your senior pastor, so it is easy for him to wax eloquently, and leaders within the church enjoy the opportunity to enjoy a little more intimate time with the pastor. But more importantly, he/she gets to interact with the small group leaders. As the senior pastor spends time around your leaders and sees their enthusiasm, it will hopefully energize your senior pastor.
Allow a time of dialogue among the group. Again part of this will depend on the size of your gathering, but if you are able to, allow them to speak into and give ideas/thoughts about the small group ministry and how to continuously improve. As they are able to share, it allows them to own the vision. But here’s the kicker: do something with the feedback and dialogue. In your follow-up to the breakfast, let them know what you learned from the sharing and how you plan on using it in the near future. Sharing does no good if people believe their ideas will be ignored.
End on time. If the meeting is scheduled from 8:00-10:00 am, do everything within your power to end on time (factoring in that your senior pastor may use more time then you allotted him). Like I mentioned earlier, we all realize how busy our small group leaders are, so show them the respect they deserve by wrapping up when you say you will wrap up.
Use the meeting as a catalyst for your small group season and your leaders. There is great potential in gathering together, covenanting and praying together about God using all of us to conform us to the image of His Son.