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.
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.
Accessibility may be a distinct challenge for older adults; wherever you decide to meet, ensure that everyone can get there with dignity. Stairs are a particular challenge of which to be aware.
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. For instance, if your small group is mostly made up of retirees, you might consider meeting during the day so that your small group members do not need to drive after dark. Facilitators and hosts should also check the parish calendar to make sure that there aren’t any major scheduling conflicts.
Another about timing: If this is going to be a small group run during Lent 2018, please see our timeline recommendations, found here.
How can we meet the special needs of older adults?
Special considerations may need to be made around vision, hearing, and mobility issues.
- Large print journals should be made available to participants who need them.
- Sessions should be held in places that are quiet and do not have too much noise reverberations, as that can make it particularly difficult for those who have hearing aids to hear.
- Participants should be seated in a circle so that everyone can see the person who is talking.
- Ensure that everyone can get to the meeting place. Are the doors wide enough for wheelchairs or walkers? Are there steps that could be problematic? Does everyone know where the handicap entrance is to the building?
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.
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. 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.