by Austin Maxheimer
There are two different levels of preparation that need to take place if you are going to lead a dynamic group: long- and short-term planning. What you are really doing when you are planning for a group is preparing to take them somewhere…whether that is through the next group time or toward an ultimate destination.
Short-Term Planning (STP) creates a comfortable environment
Long-Term Planning (LTP) generates excitement
LTP—Come up with a unique group mission statement that you revisit frequently. This will set the tone of your group and keep everyone on track.
STP—Pray. Pray for the people in your group; pray for your group time. Just talk to God about what He wants to do with your Life Group.
LTP—Think in 4- or 6-week blocks. Begin planning halfway through the block, and have the next block ready to go immediately upon finishing the previous one.
STP—Clean, straighten, and set up your room. Cleaning and straightening need no explanation, but setting your room up for discussion or breakouts or whatever you have prepared is also a must.
LTP—Every so often have a “vision night.” Look at where you want your group to be in 3, 6, 9 months…1, 3, 5 years. Devote a whole night for your group to envision this.
LTP—Set group objectives and goals. Set dates for evaluation. Then evaluate. There is nothing negative about open and honest evaluation. If you do not evaluate, then you cannot redirect to get back on course.
STP—Communicate regularly with your group outside of group time. Simple format for midweek communication: (1) Recap last meeting (2) Challenge them toward daily Scripture reading and prayer (3) Give them what to expect next meeting.
STP—Know the material you are covering. Please know the material. And if you do not, don’t fake it. Just be honest, “Hey guys, I didn’t get to it this week…”
LTP & STP—Create a calendar for the group. Some people really like to see a visual timeline.
LTP & STP—Create a culture of creativity. This may not seem like “preparation,” but if you are not intentional about doing this and planning for ways to make this happen, then it will not happen.
LTP—Set agreed-upon rules/expectation for the group during the first couple of meetings. This might seem like short-term prep, but believe me, this has long-term ramifications if not discussed early in the life of your group.
STP—Outline group time…but remember to have fun and leave room for the Holy Spirit. As important as preparation is, don’t sacrifice natural group movements for premeditated outlines.
And these are just some ideas and suggestions. What other preparation tidbits do you have that can help lead your group to where they are going?