Tips for Structuring a Small Group
Welcoming (5-10 mins.)
This is a time for the leader and group members to doing some visiting.
Opening Prayer (5 mins.)
This is a time to get focused and invite our Lord to guide the group and the discussion. The “Our Father” or another prayer may be said during this time.
Discussion Time(30-40 minutes)
This is the time to discuss the study questions for the weekly lesson or chapter (Participants may be expected to have read the lesson material and answered the study questions prior to each group meeting.).
Another option could be reading the material and answering the questions together during this time. At the end of the discussion time, the leader may want to see if there are any specific goals that the members would like to work on between now and the next meeting (Make sure to follow-up on the goals at the beginning of the this discussion time at the next meeting.).
Closing Prayer (5 mins.)
This is a time to bring closure to the discussion, pray about what has been talked about, and allow time for any other special intentions from group members. The “Hail Mary” or another prayer may be said during this time.
Socializing Time (5-10 mins.)
The leader and/or group members may decide that this is a time they would like to have a snack and beverages (tea, coffee, etc.) available.
Guidelines for New Groups
I. The size of the group should not exceed 5 persons. Three is ideal.
II. All issues are shared in complete confidentiality-including from one’s spouse. Failure to do this kills trust faster than anything else.
III. New participants are admitted only upon unanimous consent of the group. New participants should agree to participate for 4 weeks and then evaluate their future participation. Most groups do not accept new participants often due to trust development challenges. Your call.
IV. Begin each meeting with an Act of Contrition.
V. Each participant should, in turn, read each question and answer the question fully. Be mindful not to “omit” something related. Be as open and honest as possible. Limit answers to approx. 10 minutes/person.
VI. Each participant should commit to being held accountable for one specific action in the upcoming week. Action chosen by the participant should be accounted for in the following meeting-even if not met.
VII. Decide if your group should allow feedback to any participant who admits to a failure in one of the questions. Such an agreement must be unanimous. Always pray for one another by name daily.
VIII. If a participant does request comments, those responding should not minimize the problem, but comment only as their own experiences might assist or something that the Holy Spirit prompts you to share.
IX. If a participant has repeated lapses in a given area, other participants should perform special support such as phone check-ins, prayer, fasts and intercessions for the struggling participant.
X. Initially, each participant should identify a prayer partner who will commit to praying for his partner’s weekly intention. After a year, the group determines if this is helpful or should be altered in some way.
XI. If you are a participant’s prayer partner-try to NOT write down his prayer need. This protects the confidentiality of the person/situation.
XII. Open your session with an Act of Contrition and close it with prayer of your choosing-many pray the prayer to St. Michael. Some groups take a patron saint and to request special assistance from Our Lady.
NOTE: Remember this is not a reconciliation experience. Share only what feels comfortable, but go as deep as possible. Candor breeds brotherhood.
**From Dan Spencer who is a parishoner at Church of the Ascension in the Kansas City Kansas Archdiocese