Using This Resource 7
Section 1: First Steps—Ways to Get Your Group Going 12
6 Questions to Help You Promote Your Group 14
6 Agendas for Small Group Meetings 18
6 Small Group Child-Care Solutions 25
13 Practical Ways to Make Every Meeting Count 26
8 Do’s and Don’ts for Your First Meeting 28
3 First Meeting Fellowship Ideas 30
2 First Meeting Devotional Ideas 31
10 Easy Warm-Ups 32
5 Meaningful Wrap-Ups 43
13 Approaches to Group Prayer 48
40 Questions to Help You Stay Spiritually Focused 50
Section 2: Fine Art—Ways to Keep Your Group Going Strong 54
12 Ways to Decide What Your Group Will Study 56
4 Guidelines for Developing a Group Covenant 60
13 Items to Consider Including in a Group Covenant 61
7 Basic Ways to Deal With Problems in Your Group 64
7 Specific Problems and Ways to Deal With Them 67
7 Roles to Get Group Members More Involved 69
15 Tools Every Leader Needs 71
13 Great Ways to Welcome New Members 75
4 Best Endings for Small Groups 78
3 Ways to Gauge if It’s Time to End Your Group 80
11 Steps to Take When You Know It’s Time to Go 81
Section 3: Shake Up—Easy Ways to Breathe Energy Into a Stagnant Group 84
18 Ideas for Places to Meet 86
22 Fun Small Group Activities 89
10 Small Group Movie Nights 99
Section 4: Deep and Wide—Ways to Get to Know Each Other Better 110
42 Practical Ways to Show You Care 112
13 Ways to Live Out “One Anothers” 115
50 Questions to Deepen Group Relationships 120
12 Ways to Encourage Each Other Outside of
Section 5: Digging Deeper—Fresh Ways to Foster Spiritual Growth 128
17 Creative Ways to Approach Bible Study 130
3 Guidelines for Group Prayer 136
6 Ways to Make Group Prayer More Meaningful 137
8 Things Your Small Group Can Pray For 139
12 Practical Ways to Live Out What You’ve Learned 141
14 Ideas for Small Group Worship Times 145
15 Ways to Make Communion More Meaningful 150
Section 6: Great Escapes—When Your Group Needs to Depart From the Ordinary 154
5 Ready-to-Go Special Occasion Bible Studies 156
2 One-Day Retreats for Small Groups 171
Section 7: Take Care—Ways to Serve Beyond Your Group 194
4 Basics for Small Group Outreach 196
10 Questions to Prepare Your Group for Outreach 197
6 Principles for Planning a Small Group Outreach 198
30 Outreach Opportunities Within Your Church 201
40 Ways to Serve Your Community
(and Sometimes Beyond) 209
Section 8: Exceptional and Distinctive—Ideas for Leading Specialty Groups 218
20 Tips for Seniors’ Groups 220
8 Questions About Intergenerational and Family Small Groups 226
6 Basics for Creating Free-Market Small Groups 232
12 Principles for Men’s Small Groups 236
6 Ways Small Groups Can Meet the Needs of Women 242
12 Tips for Leading Singles’ Small Groups 246
Appendix: Group Publishing’s Small Group Resources 252
“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy” (Psalm 126:2).
Sounds like their small group activity was a success! With a little planning and a lot of imagination, your team can pull off a great time of fun, too. There’s something about simply getting a bit crazy that bonds people like nothing else can. Most of these activities cost less than five dollars per person, and many are absolutely free. Peter said we were set aside as a “peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9, King James Version). Loosely translated, that means going bananas every once in a while is biblical, so let’s party!
1. Karaoke or really bad stand-up comedian night
“Cel-e-brate good times, come on!” Here’s your chance to boogie or bewilder fellow group members with renditions of your favorite tunes or jokes. Choose someone to emcee, and have each person perform to the worst of their ability. The audience can hold up numbered index cards to rate performances. Booing and heckling are encouraged. Let the popcorn fly!
2. Mystery trip
Where are you headed? Only your driver and tour guide know for sure. Leaders may give clues at their discretion, like “wear walking shoes” or “bring your swimsuit.” You might head for a common local attraction or go sightseeing at a more remote location. Let group members know the time frame (“We’ll be back in two hours” or “We’ll be gone overnight”), but otherwise keep them in the dark as long as possible!
3. Back-to-school night
This game assumes there’s a mischievous fourth-grader hiding inside every adult. Have group members dress in play clothes and literally take them back to their childhood by having them play games like hopscotch, jump-rope, and dodge ball. Display elementary school pictures and awards, letting everyone figure out who’s who and celebrating those early successes that made Mom so proud.
4. Gifts and hobbies
It is time to honor the gifts and strengths of individual group members. Have all group members bring items that represent their favorite hobbies, like a piece of quilting or woodworking, pottery, a short story, poetry, and so forth. After each group member shares his or her creative piece and tells why this particular activity is special, clap and thank God for the unique talents he’s given that person.
5. Song burst
Whether you’re soprano, bass, alto, or tenor—or simply A (always) flat—this activity will have your group bursting out laughing. Pick a theme like “animals.” As you go around the circle, each person must sing a line of a song that relates to the theme, like “Old McDonald had a pig” or “How much is that doggie in the window?” Anyone who falters has to drop out. Keep going until only one person is left who can think of a song related to the theme. If the remaining person can sing one more line, you’ve got a winner!
6. Digital scavenger hunt
Divide group members into teams, then pass out lists of things to find within a designated area (such as your neighborhood, town, or within a ten-mile radius). As group members locate each item, they snap a digital photo of themselves with the item. (The goofier the pose, the better, of course!) Set a time for all teams to meet back at the starting point, then compare pictures to see which team came closest to completing the list.
7. Adult slumber parties
Remember how much fun it was to lounge around in your pajamas, watching movies and giggling and sharing secrets with your pals? Even though you’re all grown up, it can still be just as much fun. Don’t assume slumber parties are just for gals. Guys like this sort of thing, too, so set them up with their own slumber party in a neighboring house, or they could pitch a tent in the back yard.
8. Why and because
Pass out two pieces of scrap paper and a pencil to group members, asking them to write a “why” question on one piece and the proper “because” answer on another. (For example, “Why does Bill wear glasses?” and “Because he can’t see without them.”) Put the “why” questions in one basket, and the “because” answers in the other basket. Mix up the papers in the two separate baskets, then pull out a question and read it to the group. Have someone else choose a paper from the “because” basket
and see how silly the answers turn out to be.
9. Three dollars and thirty-three cents party
Gather $3.33 from each person attending, and pool all the money into a party pot. Once you know how much the group has to work with, have everyone brainstorm ways the money can be used for something fun to do that evening. Maybe you can get some pizza to eat, rent a movie to watch, buy a board game to play, or purchase kites to fly. Kick your imaginations into high gear!
10. Round robin carwash
Park group members’ cars in a circle in a large parking lot with access to water. Have couples wash and detail another family’s automobile. For instance, Bob and Mary clean Tom and Rhonda’s minivan; Tom and Rhonda wash Mike and Karen’s SUV; Mike and Karen take on Bob and Mary’s station wagon. Make this a labor of love as each couple tries to outdo the others. The bonus is that all the cars end up sparkling clean, inside and out. And if a water fight breaks out, that’s fun, too!
11. Progressive dinner
Progressive dinners work especially well with larger groups, say a dozen or more people. Have four volunteers offer their homes as stops on your tantalizing tour. Split the party menu into appetizers, salads, entrees, and desserts; decide which house will feature which course; then assign people to bring various dishes.
Once the dinner begins, transport drinks and unused plates, cups, and utensils from location to location. Choose houses close to each other to minimize drive time, and draft minivan owners to ferry people from one point to the next. Plan on spending about thirty to forty minutes at each location.
12. Stargazing and praising
There’s no better time to spot the heavens declaring the glory of God than on a clear night, with stars sparkling and planets twirling overhead. Choose your stargazing date, then visit Internet sites like Star Date Online (www.stardate.org) to make a list of stars and planets visible to the naked eye in your part of the world that evening. Choose a dark field away from city lights, spread out blankets, and have people lie on their backs for a panoramic view of the sky above. Telescopes are nice, but not necessary. Use your lists to find and identify celestial points, and then end your stargazing with praise songs and Scripture reading (check references to the word heavens in a Bible concordance).
13. Build-a-sundae ice cream social
To keep the line moving, have a couple of servers dish up ice cream, then direct group members to another table to add whatever fruit and toppings they desire. The key to a great sundae is keeping the main ingredient cold and fresh, so don’t bring out the ice cream until right before you start scooping. If the ice cream is too hard, just warm the scoop under hot water, and then start serving.
14. Pizza pizazz
Mix up pizza dough prior to the party, and throw some Italian opera music on the boombox. Have group members roll out and shape their individually sized pizza crust on a floured surface, ladle on sauce, and add preferred toppings. Bake, and voilà! Private homes can usually handle pizza-making groups of eight or less. Larger groups might opt for using the larger kitchens and ovens at church.
15. Screen tests
Lights! Camera! Act out famous scenes from movies (found online at sites like www.simplyscripts.com), recording your screen tests with a camcorder. After everyone does their thing, pop the results into your VCR and rate the performances: thumbs up or thumbs down. You can choose scene themes that coincide with current small group topics. For example, if your group is studying parenting skills, try this activity featuring famous moms and dads (like Joan Crawford wigging out over wire hangers in Mommie Dearest or Steve Martin trying to understand wedding planner Franck in Father of the Bride).
16. Games night
Games night is another activity that screams “the more, the merrier.” To begin, have everyone count off in threes (ones head for the first room, twos to the second, and threes to the third). Ring the bell, and group members start playing whichever game is in their particular room. After forty-five minutes, ring the bell to end the first session. Individuals can stay where they are or move to another game. After another forty-five minutes, switch again. Encourage group members to interact with different people each time. Your group can also play this outdoors, using the same setup, except playing outdoor games like basketball, volleyball, and Frisbee golf.
17. Year-round caroling
Who says caroling is just for Christmas? Gather your group and song sheets for hymns or praise songs, and head for the nearest street corner to entertain passing pedestrians. Or surprise your pastor with an impromptu concert on your pastor’s front lawn. Or perk up a friend who’s had a rough week. Afterward, meet at one of the carolers’ homes for cider, cookies, and conversation.
18. Seventies teen idol flashbacks
It’s time to drag out those old Partridge Family and Donny Osmond posters. Turn on strobe lights, black lights, and lava lamps; slap some Jackson Five or Bee Gees on the turntable; and have your partiers don seventies threads—including love beads, fringe, and polyester. Don’t forget the Happy Faces! Groovy, man.
19. What I like about you
Pass out scraps of paper and pencils to group members. Ask them to write the name of each group member on a separate piece of paper, followed by something they like about that person. Encourage people to write something nice, even if they don’t know the person they’re writing about very well. (First impressions are still important!) When everyone finishes writing, gather the slips of paper in a basket, then pull the papers out one by one, reading the name and complimentary comment. After reading a paper, pass it to the person who was praised so he or she can keep it.
Play Beach Boys surfing songs while slipping and sliding around the lawn, splashing through wading pools, and super-soaking friends with water balloons. Caution—you will get wet!
21. Story in the round
The first person begins a story with one sentence that includes a noun or verb that starts with the letter “a.” For example, “I was walking through the apple orchard the other day, when I saw something that surprised me.” The second person continues the story with a sentence that includes a word beginning with the letter “b”: “There was a boa constrictor at the base of the largest tree.” The third person continues with a sentence featuring a word beginning with “c”: “It was all coiled up and ready to strike!” and so on. Continue around the circle until you end the story with a sentence containing a word beginning with “z.”
22. Mad makeovers
In this silly hair and makeup session, you don’t do your own do, your friends do your do for you—with hilarious results. Keep mirrors hidden until you reveal the new and “improved” versions of each other. To make things even more fun, include the guys and transform Prince Charmings into Prince Alarmings!