for Community Group Leaders at Christ Community
Who You Are
Christian leadership begins with followership. As a Community Group leader, the most important thing about you is who you are following. Our desire is that all of our leaders be growing apprentices of Jesus. We believe leaders who are following Jesus:
- Attend church consistently
- Engage the disciplines regularly (Bible reading, personal prayer, etc.)
- Support church doctrine and leadership
(our beliefs >)
Staying healthy as a leader
Healthy leaders make for healthy groups. Here are a few key disciplines to thrive for the long haul.
DELEGATE: Don’t do everything yourself. When you schedule meetings and times, have others in the group share in bringing snacks, facilitating, hosting, sending prayer requests, etc… Not only does this keep you healthy, it moves group members from “renters” to “owners.”
TRAIN: No matter how long we lead, we can always get better. That’s part of staying healthy! We have great resources for you as a leader. Huddles twice a year, study ideas, etc. are designed to make us better together.
REST: The breaks in between sessions are there for you. Consider asking a different group member or two to coordinate the social gatherings when you are off session. Staying in touch is great, but keeping you fresh and ready for the next session is even more important.
What You Do
A Community Group leader’s primary responsibility is to create an environment where joyful committed relationships can flourish. We have listed the most important tasks for every leader to accomplish this goal.
Make a plan.
You are the planner for the group. It’s your job to make sure people know where the group meets, when it is meeting, and what will be discussed ahead of time for each and every gathering. This will mean proactively communicating to the group even when it is not meeting. Remember, if you aren’t planning ahead, no one is.
Set the tone.
Regularly communicate expectations for the group and guard them. Remind the group what the group is for, why we meet, why attendance is important, etc.
You are the “first responder” for the group. If there is a problem within the group, something changing within the group, or a conversation that needs to happen within the group, make the first move! In those moments where you find yourself thinking, “someone ought to do something!,” remember that someone is you. Maybe that first move is to call a church leader. That’s okay! Just make the first move.
Humility is a high calling, and is essential to creating healthy community. In a group, being humble most often means putting the needs of others before your own. So come prepared to listen and share honestly without judgement.
- Humility requires honesty: If you have a concern with your group, contact your leader first, before discussing it with others.
- Openness to being wrong. Let others know the real you, so that you will be best positioned to grow in your relationship with God, with others, and with your neighbors.
- Resist immediately sharing advice to those voicing struggles unless you are invited to do so.
Lead with the church.
We are here to support you in this ministry. Let us help by keeping us in the loop. Communicate needs and questions to the church. Respond to emails and communications promptly. Fill out the attendance report so the church knows who is engaging in the group, how to pray for the group, and how best to support your leadership. We are better together!
Rounds are another way to connect and deepen with your group. The structure provided helps guide a group’s conversation and may take you to topics or feelings that may not come up naturally. When more intimacy is reached in a safe space, trust is built and joy is produced.
Emotional Check in (SASHET)
S – Sad
A – Angry
S – Scared
H – Happy
E – Excited
T – Tender
WHAT IT IS:
Using the list above, each person gives a quick response about their current primary emotion. All our emotions are valid, and as a caring family, we commit to be together through the happy and the sad feelings of life.
Note: Refrain from providing fixes, but rather be with each other in whatever emotion someone is feeling and give them the sense that “you will not leave the room.”
Consider writing the acrostic out for the group to see and refer to it the first few times.
WHAT IT IS:
Recognizing what we have been given attunes us to God’s heart and generosity, giving us eyes to see him at work. Gratitude is also an excellent way to reset our joy level if we are feeling low. Take turns sharing something you’re grateful for today.
WHAT IT IS:
Jesus promised to give us peace (John 14:27), yet oftentimes our lives feel anything but peaceful. This brief exercise helps us notice the moments of peace that might have been all too easy to miss.
Step 1: Take a few seconds of silence to relax. Then think back on your last week or two to a moment when you felt things were right in your world. It might have been just a brief moment. It might take 30 seconds to lock in on a memory.
Step 2: Relive that moment for 90 seconds, which is about how long it will take to feel at peace. What was that moment of peace like? What were you feeling? What did you see, hear, taste, smell? Who else was there? In what way was God there with you? What was He doing or feeling toward you in that moment?
Step 3: Share your memory with the group. It’s important to share these stories with one another because verbally telling the story involves the whole brain by moving from reflecting to telling. This helps the memory stick better. And when we hear stories of how other people found God’s peace in their lives, it becomes a model that helps us recognize God’s peace for ourselves.
WHAT IT IS:
A way to encourage one another with the truth about who we are in Christ and who he is making us into. Practicing it helps build a deeper connection in your group, as many people receive love primarily through words of affirmation. This is also a great way to celebrate the end of a community group session as people can share how they have seen each other grow over the time together.
Step 1: Take a minute of silence in your group for everyone to pray and ask God to bring one person in the group to mind with whom they can share a brief word of affirmation/encouragement.
Note: God wants to speak to us and encourage us through one another so we should expect to get a sense from him of who to encourage! Of course, whatever is shared is not God’s Word from the Bible, so it needs to be tested to scripture and with wisdom.
Step 2: Go around in a circle and each share a word of affirmation/encouragement with one other person. Once everyone has had a chance to share, allow people to ‘popcorn’ around the circle and share more words of affirmation they might have.
WHAT IT IS:
When we bond around our shared weaknesses, we lose our fear of exposure, and the walls we sometimes hide behind can come down. Sharing our strengths and what God enjoys about us gives us a reset so we are not defined by our weaknesses.
Note: It can be hard to talk about our gifts, but we can agree that it’s good to recognize the brilliant things God designs. Recognizing them isn’t conceited or prideful; it brings glory to God.
Step 1 (Weakness): Invite people to share an everyday weakness that may be physical, relational, or a character weakness.
After each person shares, the group will respond by saying “Lord, have mercy.” Refrain from making comments about what others have shared.
Step 2 (Strength): Take a moment of silence to ask God to share with you something he enjoys about you. What does he see as one of your strengths? After each person shares, the group will respond by saying “Thank you, Lord Jesus.”
Names of God
WHAT IT IS:
The more we recognize God in our life, the more we fall in love with him. Biblical writers gave God names, and we can do that, too.
Looking back at your week, what facet of God did you see, or looking ahead, who do you need him to be?
Fill in the blank:
You are a God who ________________.
You are a God of __________________.
WHAT IT IS:
Recognizing how God has been near to us in the past helps us remember that he is with us now. The Bible gives us examples of Ebenezer stones (Joshua 4:1-7) and the practice of remembering beautiful moments as worship.
Note: As you go back to good memories, give yourself permission to go to a time when you did not yet know God as your savior. This helps us remember he has always been with us, pursuing us. Your memory may also be after salvation, and that’s ok too!
Step 1: Take some time with eyes closed to quietly walk back through your history and look for a time when you felt everything was just as it should be, or maybe it was a time when you were struck by the beauty of creation, or perhaps it was a moment when your gifts and talents were naturally flowing from you with ease. This is your ‘golden memory’.
Give this golden memory a title, like ‘Longs Peak Summit’ or ‘Tea with Grandma’ etc.
Step 2: After everyone has a memory in mind, have the group take one more silent moment to consider where God was in that moment. Picture him with you, how he was working in the moment, and how he felt about you in that moment.
Now, share the title of your memory and how you pictured God involved in that moment.
Select a title below for details.
Book & Study Ideas and Reviews
- Gentle and Lowly
Through an insightful and beautiful look at the true character of Jesus and the Father, the author brings a fresh and current perspective to the age-old wisdom of Puritan writers. Blast through preconceived notions and misconceptions and discover your Creator’s love for you.
The book has manageable, readable chapters. Works well for two chapters a week to create a ten-week study or easily adapted to three chapters a week for a shorter period.
Leaders who want help with discussion questions may find the study guide helpful, but overall, it isn’t necessary for a good in-depth study of such rich content.
- Prodigal God
This book walks the reader through a detailed and introspective explanation of the story of the prodigal son. Compact and ideal for a short four to six-week study, it elicits good conversations and seems especially impactful for those that grew up in more structured or liturgical churches. It strongly emphasizes the older brother’s barriers to celebrating with his father.
- Confronting Christianity
Confronting Christianity covers 12 current issues surrounding Christianity and the culture. The author provides good research and insight into each of the topics, allowing readers to form their own conclusions. Reading this book as a community group provided a safe space to discuss hot-button topics from a biblical perspective and produced rich conversation. The chapters are quite long, so one chapter per session was enough homework and discussion material for our group.
- Compassion (&) Conviction
Political questions are too often framed in impossible ways for the faithful Christian: we’re forced to choose between social justice and biblical values, between supporting women and opposing abortion. As a result, it’s easy for Christians to grow disillusioned with civic engagement or fall back into tribal extremes. This state of affairs has damaged the Christian public witness and divided the church. Compassion (&) Conviction will help your group have a vibrant and fruitful conversation about politics and how to approach it with love and truth―compassion and conviction.
- Life of the Beloved
Author Henri Nouwen, one of the most influential writers on Christian ministry and spiritual formation, explores in this book how to develop a vibrant spiritual life in a secular age. It focuses on God’s deep love for each of us in a way that those unaccustomed to religious language can comprehend. Nouwen also blends his own story of serving and living with the mentally disabled of L’Arche Daybreak community in Toronto.
FAQs both Tactical and Practical
Select a question below for details.
How do groups handle childcare?
Groups have handled childcare in a variety of ways. Some groups get a sitter and split the cost. If your group goes that route, be sure to look for ways to bless the sitter! Other groups rotate the childcare duties between the adults in the group. This works best when two adults watch the kids each week. Be sure that spouses are not paired so that one from each household is able to be involved in the group each week. Some groups have embraced a hybrid model with one gender meeting together in person while the other gender meets via Zoom while watching their children at home. The next week they switch which gender is in person. We have had a few groups with each family providing their own childcare. However, this is typically much more expensive and difficult to sustain.
What’s a typical schedule for a meeting?
Begin the meeting time by offering a warm welcome and space for connection. Greet each person with eye contact and a smile as they arrive—help them to genuinely feel you are glad they are there. Intentionally build in hospitality time to allow members to casually catch up with one another—snacks or a meal may be part of this time. If children are present, they are typically dismissed after this point. From here, leaders guide their group in three components: prayer, the study of the word, and application. Whether prayer time comes before or after the discussion is up to the group, but do keep track of time, so you have ample prayer time, as it’s easy to run short for this important moment to connect with each other and God.
Do all groups have a meal?
Sharing a meal or snack is encouraged! Everyone needs to eat, and this is a great way to bring people closer together. This can happen in various ways. Take turns bringing a dessert or snack or coordinate potluck-style dinners. Let others help with this. The purpose is to gather around the table together (or living room, kitchen, etc.) and enjoy God’s blessing through food. It is not about how perfect the spread is. Acts 2:46-47 says, “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God.”
Which activities can I delegate?
Don’t do everything yourself. When you schedule meetings and times, have others in the group share in bringing snacks, facilitating, hosting, sending prayer requests, planning group get-togethers, etc. Not only does this keep leaders healthy, it moves group members from “renters” to “owners.” Consider passing around a signup sheet with a slot for “discussion facilitation” and “snacks” for each week of the community group session. If a member feels apprehensive about leading discussion, offer to look over the discussion questions with them beforehand.
How do I transition my group to a new leader?
Take some time and prayerfully identify who in the group would be the best leader. Who in your group has a growing relationship with God and emotional intelligence? Who is teachable and curious? Who would you want to be led by?
Once you think you have determined that person, check in with the community group coordinator at your campus and bring them into the decision. Once the new leader(s) have agreed to take over leadership, begin the training process. Make decisions for the group together, asking for their advice. Have the new leaders begin to facilitate the discussion if they have not already been leading.
Consider using The 5 Steps of Leadership Development to build their confidence and turn over leadership. When it is appropriate, let your whole group know about the decision and have a space for them to ask questions. Set a date for the new leaders to officially assume leadership, and then give them the space to lead! If you are still a part of the group, let them know you are available to assist with their transition, but the group is theirs to lead in a way that fits their personality and style.
Select a question below for details.
An issue in my group feels beyond me - what do I do?
If anything in your group feels like it’s beyond what you can or should handle, please reach out to the Community Group point person at your campus. Examples could include interpersonal conflict in your group or how to handle a challenging group member. You should often contact your Community Group coordinator to inform them about pastoral care situations (i.e., a group member’s loved one passes away). This will bring the pastoral staff into the loop so that they know how to pray for their congregants, and they may decide to reach out to the congregant personally. Church staff are also networked to professional counselors and therapists should a referral be helpful to a congregant.
What if one person is dominating the conversation in my group?
Be proactive and start each meeting with a reminder that the goal is to hear from each member. Sometimes that can be enough to solve the issue. It may also help to have a “talking object” that you pass around so that only the person holding the object (like a pen, ball, etc.) can speak. If push comes to shove, you may have to interrupt the over-sharer with a gentle, “Thank you for sharing, but we’d like to hear from others.” You could then intentionally call on a quieter member to get them engaged. If the message still isn’t getting through, it may be time for a conversation over coffee.
What if I have members who will not contribute to the conversation?
It’s normal for certain group members to be slow to speak. Some personalities are quieter than others and may only share when they feel it is helpful. However, if someone is never sharing, it may help to strategically ask questions so that everyone has to answer, round-robin style. If there is enough trust, it may help to call on specific people to answer a question simply. If you sense that the problem is more than shyness and is related to a lack of trust, it’s time to talk to that person individually and get to the root of the issue.
What are some ideas for group prayer?
We believe spiritual growth happens when we ask God to be a part of all of our joys and hardships, and interceding for each other grows us closer to each other and the Lord. Prayer time can take on many forms. You might try one approach for a season and then need to switch to something new. Here are a few ways groups have approached large-group prayer:
Begin with each person sharing their highs and lows from the week, then pray to celebrate the highs and ask for help in the lows. You might open the prayer time up to anyone comfortable voicing a prayer and assign someone to open or close.
Developing a comfort level for praying out loud can take time, so don’t rush this with your group. Allow your group to build trust and participate by praying out loud when they are ready. Specifically, discuss this issue with your group to help you understand each person. If everyone is ready and willing to pray aloud, you can build in different prayer practices.
You may also consider dividing men and women for prayer time. Sometimes the smaller group environment allows for a higher comfort level and a deeper level of sharing.
It’s easy to run out of time to pray. If this happens often, re-evaluate what is eating up the time, make a schedule, and have the group help you stick to it. However, if you can’t gain time anywhere, try taking five minutes to write down a prayer request on a card for each person. Draw random cards and have each person commit to praying for one of the requests all week. This often spurs texts and check-ins between those praying for each other.
Other great ideas about growing in prayer and adding variety to your format can be found in this article.
What do I do if I’m feeling burned out?
To help prevent leaders from reaching the point of burnout, try practicing these four disciplines:
- Delegate what you can to other group members
- Sharpen yourself as a leader by attending community group leader huddles, reading books, listening to podcasts, etc.
- Lean into seasons of rest between community group sessions
- Prioritize your own emotional and spiritual health as you are pouring into others. If you begin feeling yourself burning out as a leader, reach out to the community group coordinator at your campus. They can figure out how best to care for you and your group!