As Annual Conference comes to a close here in Greater New Jersey, we are reminded to “Rejoice Always.” In the small groups world, this applies well. Many churches finish their small group cycles in May and June for summer siestas. It is important to end well and that includes a time of celebration regarding all that the Lord has done throughout the season within the lives of those involved in your small groups.
This is a good time to bring participants from all your small groups together in a single celebration to:
- Connect and deepen bonds within a larger group
- Reinforce the value of Small Groups as people hear from one another’s experiences in a variety of settings
- Provide space for faith-sharing and testimony
- Offer encouragement for summer connection, personal study and intentional spiritual growth
- Preview what can or will be offered for the upcoming Fall Season. This can either be a forum for soliciting input for formulating the next season’s offerings, or for revealing details regarding what has already been planned.
An example of a church that does this well is Sharptown UMC. Kristen Raine, Director of Ministries at Sharptown, shared with me this week about the popularity and the richness of such dedicated times at Sharptown. This year they hosted a “Small Groups Re-Cap Dinner” on Tuesday evening, May 16. Over 150 people attended. She talked about the importance of the opportunity the event gave for bringing a broader group of congregants together to mingle outside of a worship service. She spoke about the moving moments when testimony, spiritual journey growth, and the value of small group connectivity was shared. She shared about the key opportunity the gathering gave for collecting assessment information about participant’s experiences and responses to curriculum and formats used.
A successful format for such gatherings that I have personally used repeatedly in the past is as follows:
Week Night Dinner 6-8:30 pm
6- 6:15 pm Arrival and fellowship time
6:15- 6:45 pm Prayer over meal and evening/meal
6:45 – 7:10 Commence Program
- Hymn or praise song
- Acknowledgement and Celebration of all Leaders
- Summer suggested readings and/or activities presented
- Announcement about Fall small groups plans
7:10 – 7:55 Sharing Time
*Have the Program Leader open the time with a review of sound rules of sharing, including:
– Keep sharing Christ-centered: The emphasis should be on what the Lord has done in their lives during their time of involvement with their small group.
– Sharing should be brief to give as many as possible who want an opportunity to participate
– Do not be ashamed of tears! Sometimes tears come easily when meaningful things are expressed.
– Be discreet; do not share anything about another person that you would not feel free to share if that person were present.
– Be conscious of keeping your voice at an audible level for a larger group.
7:55-8:20 Hymn or other special music
Pastoral Message (10 minutes)
Hand out Small Group Feedback Survey
Stand, hold hands and sing “Blest Be the Tie that Binds” or other appropriate worship music.
We would love to hear of your ideas and experiences with rejoicing at the end of small group cycles. Please respond!