Small Groups continues to be a cornerstone to the infrastructure of growing churches. At some point (around 200, give or take) the pastor can’t know everybody’s names. At another point (400 or so), he or she loses track of where most people are in their spiritual maturity. And, after about 60, it can be hard to help friendships form. After all, on Sundays, we are all interacting with the pulpit and not each other.

Enter Small Groups.

Group leaders who’ve “done it” for a while know the potential for discipleship, pastoral care, and relationships. Groups aren’t perfect at all three roles, but with intentionality, they can be catalysts for care, growth and friendships

I’ll talk about discipleship (missing in way too many church plans) and pastoral care (often relegated to the “pastoral care guy”) later. But what about creating a place for relationships to begin and grow?

Here are five ways to make your Small Group “friendship friendly.”

  1. Chill – Schedule time during each group meeting to talk about stuff (the game last week, hobbies, projects, etc.) Eventually, the convo will move toward kids, family, and stuff that matters more. Laugh a lot. Guard your Group’s “chill” time. The “hang out” time at your Group may not seem spiritual, but the friends made at Group are the ones who show up at the hospital bed or the baby shower.
  2. Mill – This one goes along with the “chill-time” principle. Make sure you mill around the during this relational time. I know you got your peeps, but drop in on each conversation you can. Find someone who hasn’t “connected” yet. Drag them along into a conversation. Introduce them, so your peeps will become his/her peeps, too.
  3. Grill – This isn’t “grille” as in pound them with questions. This means that you find your “personalized” way to meet outside the Bible Study time. Have a cook out and call it a “bonus meeting.” We build a fire pit in the back yard (I’ll send you my plans if you need them, but don’t hold me liable if you flame on one evening.) Sitting around the fire has been our best icebreaker.
  4. Quill – I know this one’s a stretch (but it does, at least, rhyme.) Write notes to your group members. Not just emails or texts – of course, you are doing this already. Send a card every few weeks and share a verse or word of encouragement. Do this with new and not-yet-connected members more often. And, share the list of names and contact info for your group and encourage them to stay in touch. They will if you will.
  5. ’til – One final way to create a place that encourages friendships – hang in there and keep doing Group until it happens. A four-week study will help with discipleship, but not so much for friendships. I am grateful for leaders who lead short Bible studies, but the group leader who stays in it regularly and consistently will see the disconnected embraced, the lonely befriended, and the newcomer connected.

Keep doing Group!