The core of many women’s ministries is small groups that are Bible study focused. Perhaps you have been doing these kinds of groups for years, and it’s just part of the DNA of your ministry. The end of the year is a great time to evaluate what you have been doing to see if you need to change, add, or stop anything in the way you are serving and leading your groups. Look at what has been accomplished and take a moment to evaluate the effectiveness and options.
Here’s a list of questions to consider as you think about your own groups:
1. Do you see the same women in your groups year after year or are you training up small group leaders to start new groups?
Building this into the environment of your groups helps women be open to taking what they’ve learned and leaving to start another group. As my own church has changed over the years, we have had to readjust our groups often, sometimes starting new groups to meet more needs.
2. Have you ever thought of having a co-leader or apprentice that you pour into as she helps you lead this group?
Modeling leadership and then turning over bigger and bigger assignments to someone you are mentoring is a great way to let her try it out and even fail so she can learn to effectively lead. Twice now in my women’s small group I have worked a little at a time to develop a co-teacher/leader. It has helped me tremendously, and I’ve watched hesitation become confidence in their teaching.
3. Do you share the responsibilities of the small group with all the members?
You cannot take care of everything from snacks to member books to registration. And ownership happens when women have specific roles use their gifts in the group. My main focus is teaching the Bible, but I have members who plan fellowship get togethers, mission needs, care for members, and other responsibilities I cannot do alone.
4. Do you ask the small group members what they did with the insights they gained from their personal study or from the group meeting?
Holding members accountable with what they are learning keeps them from just being a sponge who never gets squeezed out. We should constantly challenge our members with what they are doing to act on the truth they learn.
5. Do you include prayer as a starting point for the study of the Word?
Share stories of how God speaks to you as you have read. Show your members the importance of reliance on prayer for the Holy Spirit to teach us as we read and study.
6. Do you stop and pray as needs are mentioned during the meeting?
Share how prayer is being answered even if it’s not in your timing but in His. Be sure to include praises as well as requests and answers. I send out an email each week after we meet recapping a principle from the study and then listing the prayer requests that were shared in class so that even if women are absent they still know how to pray for each other.
7. Are members open to reaching outside the group to reach new women, or are they a “closed” group only?
If your groups are short term using a 6, 8, or 10 week curriculum, then it’s hard to include new members mid-stream. But you can certainly encourage them to join a group as soon as the next round begins. In the mean time, you might consider offering a drop-in type group so that new women have a place to connect. There is definitely a place for both types of groups to reach all women.
8. Does your small group ever reach out and participate in community ministry?
This might be monthly or periodic or both. Help your small group see the mission outreach and evangelism as a part of growing in Christ. Our women’s group has a monthly serve day at our local crisis pregnancy center. We participate in other ministries as needs arise and we are able.
9. How does your group support the church as a whole?
If you jump at opportunities to help out other ministries as needed or give to missionary or other financial needs, you stand under the mission of the church as a whole and become team players in Kingdom work through your own local body. A few dollars here and there do add up! I’ve seen this over and over in my women’s small group. Each time a need is mentioned, these women (many single, many financially strapped) give what they can to help others! I am continually humbled by their giving hearts.
10. Do you follow up between sessions regarding needs, prayer requests, or just to continue building community?
Social media is one way to stay connected, but perhaps you can also schedule time to just go do lunch or dinner with a different member monthly or weekly. Community is a huge part of small group ministry even if studying the Bible is the main focus. Find ways to grow the relationships among your members.
11. Are you seeking and seeing life transformation as you bring women together in small groups?
I wrote 9 part series called Are We Discipling Women or Just Hosting Them? This final article in the series links to all 9 articles.
After teaching small groups for many years now, I have learned some of these things. Other items on this list I am still struggling with as I evaluate the women’s small group I currently lead.
Maybe this list of considerations will affirm you are leading your small groups very effectively. Perhaps there are a couple of suggestions that will add a new dynamic to an already great group to make it even better!
You might think of other questions to include. If so, please post in the comments to share your idea!
Chris Adams is senior lead women’s ministry specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn.