Below are logistics to consider to ensure that your small group runs smoothly:
Where should the session be held?
Sessions should be held in a place that won’t be interrupted, and where group members feel safe and comfortable. Your group may decide to meet at the church, or may decide to meet at the host’s home. A classroom where all the seats are facing forward is not ideal; look for spaces where chairs can be arranged so that participants face one another.
Young adults may have particular challenges finding a place where everyone can meet; not many young urban adults have homes large enough to host a small group. You may have to get creative and think outside the walls of church or home– is there a bookstore that has a place for book groups to meet? Or does your local library have conference spaces to reserve for free? If you live in a warm climate, could you meet at a park? Restaurants, bars and coffeeshops could all be good options as well if you can meet without being constantly interrupted. We recommend calling ahead to see if there is some kind of reservation policy or fee associated with meeting at their place of business.
If the small group will be held in a home, the homeowner should ensure that the home is tidy and comfortable for guests. If the homeowner has pets, please be sure to ask the group members about allergies.
What time should the session be held?
When determining a time to meet, the facilitator and host should take into consideration who will be in their small group. Facilitators and hosts should also check the parish calendar to make sure that there aren’t any major scheduling conflicts.
How should we make the participants feel comfortable?
Provide clear instructions about group norms. Some groups prefer to create these as a group, other groups will be okay with a pre-made list that everyone goes over together. Let your group know that it will always be visible in the room and that you will be referring to it as necessary. In addition, provide simple acts of hospitality, such as ensuring that participants know where the restrooms are and where they should hang up their coat. Take the pulse of the group: Does the thermostat need to be moved up or down? Do participants need to take a short break? Let participants know from the very first meeting that their comfort is important to the leaders.
Should we provide food?
This is a choice that is often restricted by where and when the group meets. Of course, table ministry was central to Jesus and his followers, and Christian small groups have been meeting over and before meals ever since! We do recommend that, wherever possible, groups share meal fellowship together.
If your group decides to provide a meal, the Host should be responsible for coordinating meals. Depending on your context, you may wish to take turns providing dinner, order simple takeout, have a potluck, or cook together. Before planning a menu, check with group members to see if anyone has dietary restrictions, and practice hospitality by accommodating their needs. We recommend budgeting at least 30 minutes of additional time to eat together before you begin the session.
Should we provide childcare?
Again, this depends on your group. If you do decide to provide childcare, we recommend that the group meet where the participants (especially harried parents!) won’t be distracted by the children. If you do decide to provide childcare, please refer to your diocesan or parish guidelines about how to provide safe childcare.
How will participants be notified of changes to session location, time or cancellation?
In case of inclement weather or illness, your small group may have to be postponed. This decision should be a joint decision made by the host and facilitator, and communicated to everyone by either of the two leaders. When individuals join your small group, please collect their name, phone and email so you have multiple ways of contacting your small group members. Depending on your demographics, you may find the easiest way to communicate is to set up a group text message or closed Facebook group. A decision to change the meeting should be communicated several different ways to ensure that everyone knows about the change. If at all possible, place a physical sign at the original meeting place to alert those who did not get the message or forgot.