What Are Healthy Boundaries?

HEALTHY BOUNDARIES FOR YOUR SMALL GROUP

CLEAR COMMUNICATION OF YOUR SMALL GROUP’S BOUNDARIES ARE IMPORTANT TO THE HEALTH OF THE GROUP.

Most people feel more comfortable when they understand the basic ground rules and expectations for the group. Discussing them when you start a new group and periodically revisiting them will help your group maintain a safe, healthy relational culture.

Boundaries

  • Communicate Start and Stop Times and stick to them.
  • Ensure people understand confidentiality (Proverbs 11:12-13).
  • The collective group is not to be a counseling session. People want to be heard and not fixed. If people ask for suggestions, keep the responses Biblical.
  •  It’s OK to pass during a discussion question. Knowing how people process information and communicate is important. Remember some of us are extroverted while others are more introverted.
  • Time out called by the leader when things get out of hand (rabbit trails, high emotions, disrespect). Leader has the authority to end the discussion. Communicate this in a light hearted way like... ‘We can all get distracted or too passionate about a given topic; if this happens I may signal for a time-out to refocus our discussion. It’s not a big deal, but I want us to get back on track’.
  • The group will not debate or argue non-salvation issues that lead to division. Let’s remember that we unify in essential beliefs, we have diversity in non-essential beliefs and we show charity in all of our beliefs.

These boundaries are essential for a balanced, thoughtful group. As a leader, sharing these in a non-legalistic, light-hearted way will help your people respect and appreciate the need for them as we give grace and love one another.

Leader Orientation

Dear Small Group Leader,

Thank you for your willingness to serve God by opening your homes and hearts to meet God’s purposes. Stepping out in faith to lead a small group can be challenging or even intimidating. I want to encourage you that God is with you and wanting to use your life to impact others. This is a very exciting time in our church as we see God working in the hearts of many, challenging them to grow spiritually. You play a very important role in creating environments spiritual transformation to happen. Thank you for your commitment and obedience.

This resource contains some practical ideas and suggestions that we believe can make your experience of leading more fulfilling and rewarding. As you read through this material, many of your questions will be answered while it may generate new ones. We have a coaching team want to respond to your questions as they arise. The last thing that we want to do is load you down with extra responsibilities, so use the ideas that work for you and don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Thanks again for taking a step of faith! May God make this journey one of the most exciting and enriching times of your life.

Sincerely,

Jim Blazin
Small Groups/ Discipleship Pastor

What to Do When Your Small Group is not Growing or is Growing Too Fast

1. What criteria are you using to define growth and health? Is it quantity? How many people are sufficient for a healthy group? We find that 6-12 people makes for a great size group that allows for transparency and healthy discussion.

2. If your group has high turnover, ask people who came, but stopped attending why they stopped. Do this with a humble and teachable spirit listening to their reasons why they are not coming.

3. Discuss with your coach these honest questions about your group dynamics: *

  • Are you regularly praying for the people in your group and the actual evening of the meeting?
  • Are you meeting in a host home that is conducive for peace and fellowship? Is it warm and inviting or is it hard to find, cold, uncomfortable, and too small? Are there offensive smells, children out of control, animals, etc?
  • Is the Bible Study and discussion effective and interactive? How do you quantify this?
  • Are contentious, negative or over talkative people dominating the group?
  • Are you playing regularly, doing things you and the group members enjoy?
  • Are you meeting the practical needs of the people in your group?
  • Do you need to make better arrangements for child care? (if applicable)
  • Are you personally enjoying the meetings? Would you come if you weren't the leader? Why? What would help you want to come?
  • Are you and others continually inviting people to the group, or passively waiting for others to just show up?
  • Do you see your group as closed or open? Explain which?
  • Are you following a consistent curriculum and format?
  • Are you staying close to start and stop times for your group that others can rely on?

4. Another issue related to a lack of growth is whether or not the group is becoming complacent or stagnant. When this happens it could indicate that the group needs a change, small or large. This change may include re-casting vision and purpose, re-sharing of the values, adding new members, bringing in a new leader, a new meeting place, branching the group, or maybe disbanding that particular group altogether. Some things to look for as signs of group stagnation:*

  • Group apathy
  • Group cynicism
  • Irrelevant conversations
  • Dependence on a certain format or traditions (unwillingness to change)
  • Lack of diversity or creativity
  • Focus on only one member
  • No goal for multiplication
  • Unwillingness to serve outside the group
  • Reminiscing past interactions (the "good old days")
  • Group gossip
  • Group exclusivity

5. When a group grows too fast, it represents a very interesting opportunity. Be sure to deal with rapid growth with the same care as a stagnant problem. If a group grows too fast and its dynamics aren’t dealt with and adjusted, people will leave. Here are some ideas:

  • Pray and search for others within the group who can help share the needs of the group. Your goal is always to have an apprentice to prepare to lead.
  • Have the group meet into two smaller groups in the same home with another leader from the group leading. Take time to establish a plan for the group to branch. If the two groups stay strong, branch one into another host home. (See Group Branching Doc.)
  • Realize that quick growth isn't always the best growth. Give the group time to level off and establish relationship, trust and vulnerability. There is no set time to branch.
  • Give entire group vision for the opportunity to have multiple environments for others to connect and grow.
  • Don’t try to do it all yourself, delegate.

*Ideas from mygrouplaunch.wordpress.com 

Biblical Shepherding

Ancient cultures understood shepherding. It was the shepherd’s job to feed the lambs and sheep, bring them to green pasture and water, groom and shear them and deliver new lambs. They led with their staff, teaching the sheep to stay together, chasing the strays, and protecting them in the field and in the fold. As followers of Christ, we are ‘under shepherds’ and Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

Take a few minutes to discuss these questions with your leaders. It’s vital that we understand our shepherding role in the context of our small group:

  1. As a leader, what does it look like to ‘feed’ and give ‘water’ in your small group? (John 21:15-17)

  2. What do you think grooming and shearing equate to? (Matthew 28:20)

  3. What does it look like to lead and teach? (Psalm 23, Matthew 5:1-10)

  4. How do you shepherd if people in your group don’t want to be led?

  5. What ideas do you have about going after missing people? (Luke 15:3-6) How far should

    you go?

  6. What are some predators that come to distract, harm and steal sheep today?

    (Colossians 2: 8; 1 Timothy 6:10, 20-21)

  7. What is your responsibility as a small group leader to shepherd? (Ezekiel 34:1-10, John

    10:1-18)

As small group leaders, we are not counselors and cannot possibly meet all the needs of every person in our group. We strive to be caregivers of God’s children with gentleness and respect. Our goal is to listen well and walk beside our people, offering help where we can and resourcing needs from appropriate sources. Below are some needs that you should not try to meet on your own - they require professional help. Please seek Venture Pastoral staff or a Stephen Minister for help.

  • Child abuse

  • Sexual abuse

  • Spousal abuse

  • Suicide

  • Heavy addiction

  • Volatile anger/threats

  • Custody battles

  • Long-term marriage counseling

  • Depression/mental health

Our heart is to keep 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 at our fore front as we deal with difficult circumstances.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

If a crisis occurs beyond your comfort or training, contact your coach and discuss a plan for help. If your plan requires pastoral help, please call the church office and speak to a pastor on staff. If this happens after hours, leave a message and an on call pastor will return your call.

As another resource, we have Stephen Ministers who are trained to help in certain situations. See below.

Stephen Ministry Small Group Leader Partnership

The purpose of Stephen Ministry is to equip lay people to provide one on one care to those within the body of Venture, addressing their spiritual and emotional needs. Stephen Ministry is not a counseling service but rather a caring relationships to help others navigate extended difficulties and crisis in life.

It is our desire as a Small Group Leadership Team to collaborate with Stephen Ministry help when appropriate. Stephen Ministers are not to be a dump off place for difficult people but rather support and encouragement for those going through an extended period of difficulty.

Small Group Leader shepherding responsibilities:

  • Regularly pray for small group members

  • Reach out and connect with small group members going through life challenges

  • Go after group members who stray or disappear

  • Be a good listener administering God’s grace

  • Facilitate and participate in providing meals to a small group member when appropriate

  • Make hospital visits when appropriate

  • Help develop a safe culture for transparency and vulnerability within your group

  • Be willing to ask for help in assessing a pastoral need

  • Be the liaison for needs greater than your understanding, training and small group maturity

If you think your circumstance calls for a Stephen Minister, please contact Beth Yamada at the Venture office. 

Small Group Structural Components

Welcome (initiates relationship)

  • Greet new people and help them feel valued.
  • Starts the moment someone is contacted & invited and then continues at group.
  • Establishes and models a relational foundation for entire group.

Opening Prayer

  • Invite the Holy Spirit to lead and guide the small group time.
  • Prepares hearts for what God wants to do in the group.
  • Shifts attention from the individual to the group as a whole.
  • Places expectations on God.

Purpose of the Small Group (why we are in a small group)

  • To live out the Great Commandment in Matthew 22:37-38, to grow with God, love Him and each other.
  • To make biblical disciples in a relational environment (Jesus’ method and model).
  • To focus our hearts and minds on biblical community.
  • To live life intentionally on mission.

Guidelines (sets appropriate expectations)

  • Establishes clear boundaries for a healthy group (see guidelines sheet).
  • Helps establish a safe environment where everyone can share openly and honestly.
  • Provides biblical guidance for healthy conflict resolution.
  • Establishes the group start and stop time.

Icebreaker/Warm-Up/Group Connection Time/Worship

  • Intentional activity that sets the stage for transparency.
  • Helps create a safe environment.
  • Offers ‘low risk’ participation for people to share.
  • Options: game, testimony, hook question, or worship.

Topic/Story (Encounter God through His Word)

  • This is the ‘business’ of the group, being before God.
  • Curriculum, Bible story, agenda, etc., serve as a tool to discover, learn and grow.

Take Away/Recap/Application (Faith in Action)

  • Discuss implications of passage - how my beliefs have been challenged by truth.
  • Application - What do I need to do in light of God’s truth?
  • Challenge to grow beyond present.

Celebration

  • Recognizes what was accomplished in the group.
  • Thank group for participating, praise God, encouragement.

Prayer Time

  • Re-focuses our attention to God and His provision.
  • Pray through key subject matter and the implications/applications, personal requests, group needs, praise God. 

 

Why Ask Great Questions?

A great question is a hook or vehicle to lead to deeper discovery of truth and relationship. These questions tend to be open-ended and intentional, not random or shallow.

Great questions combined with intentional listening opens the door to:

  • Discover the hearts of our people
  • Discover where they are in their spiritual maturity.
  • Discover what they believe and what their world view is.

We have identified two obstacles that get in the way of asking great questions:

1. Personal Obstacles

  • Your heart is in the wrong place to engage the person.
  • You are not a good listener.
  • Feeling insecure about answering the question yourself.
  • Feeling inadequate on what questions to ask.
  • Fear the discussion may go the wrong direction.
  • You like to teach vs. facilitate. (talk at vs. talk with)
  • Afraid of silence.  

Which of the above do you relate to? Why?

2. Corporate Obstacles

Along with having to face the obstacles just mentioned, many of you have run into obstacles of feeling boxed in by the questions the curriculum or book asks.

Some obstacles:

  • Feeling you are not allowed to branch outside the questions printed in the curriculum.  Feeling the questions are closed ended or may lead to dead end discussions.
  • Feeling you can ask better questions.
  • You don’t understand the “why” behind the questions given.

Which of these do you relate to? Why?

3. Working around Obstacles

Obstacles are not barriers or stop signs but rather opportunities to create, innovate and grow.

Solutions:

  • Pray for God to use you and speak through your questions.
  • Have freedom to write you own questions.
  • If the question you ask isn’t understood, ask it differently.
  • Let your question sit with silence if need be. Good questions require thought.
  • Know where you are going with the question you ask.  

Benefits of asking great questions...

  • Following Jesus’ model. Jesus asked nearly 100 questions in the Gospels. Here are three invitational questions he asked to initiate dialogue. Once the discussion is started there is a great opportunity to discover and learn something about someone.

WHAT DO YOU WANT? (JOHN 1:38)
WHY WERE YOU SEARCHING FOR ME? (LUKE 2:49)
WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO FOR YOU? (MARK 10:36, 51)
  • Less talk by the leader is better for participation and further discussion.
  • Open ended questions help create relational environments for personal discovery.

Here are two example of open-ended questions Jesus used.

WHO DO PEOPLE SAY THE SON OF MAN IS? (MATTHEW 16:13)
WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD LIKE? (LUKE 13:18)
  • Everybody gets involved – creates participants, not spectators.
  • Reaches heart issues – takes you from the head to the heart.
  • Builds humility and overcomes inadequacy.

Application:

  • How can you improve your question asking? (Hint: practice with friends or family)
  • How can you improve your intentional listening? (See Listening Lessons)
  • What will you do to ask better questions? 

What Do You Do With Over and Under Talkers

Small groups are made for people to share, explore and discuss their lives before god and each other. group participation of every member is crucial.

In order that everyone feels a mutual commitment to the group, they all must feel they are equally important to what happens in the small group meetings. Whenever a few people monopolize the group, or when a few people tend to sit it out and not participate, the group will not meet its full potential.

Here are some suggestions to address these issues.

Dealing with over talkers, people who disagree, and always-right members

Over Talkers

In dealing with the overly talkative people, model your own desire to hear from others. Ask, “Thanks for your input, what does someone else think?” Encourage everyone that we need silence after some of the questions or sharing to simply reflect. Again, model this. If it doesn't help, you may need to speak to the individual(s) in private, sharing your concern and giving ways to help include others. When you ask them to help you draw others in, they may feel a sense of value and become less talkative. Sometimes people’s insecurities won’t let them get past the need to talk. You will have to use wisdom, concern and counsel as to how far you let this go before asking someone not to share until you call on them. Talk with your coach for additional ideas.

People who Disagree

In dealing with those who always disagree, do your best to give them honest feedback in the group. You might ask one who is constantly in disagreement with the group or with you, "What exactly causes your hesitation?" or "What would it take to get around this objection?" or “We will just have to agree to disagree.” This may where you meet one-on-one to address the issue. Our position should be from...“help me understand your heart” or “it seems that there is a pattern where you often disagree with what we are saying, help me understand what you are thinking or feeling.” If the individual is unable to self-regulate, you may have to ask the person to not attend your group as long as they are disruptive.

Always-Right Members

To the one who always claims he/she is right, put the focus back on the subject, or the passage, or the group. Avoid arguing right and wrong with the person. Let the facts clarify. Help the group to see the "right" person's frame of reference by asking, "In what circumstances might John's interpretation hold true?"

Finally, if the person insists on being argumentative or divisive, seek counsel from your coach and then meet with them privately for boundaries and discipline.

Dealing with quiet members and/or superficial sharing

Quiet Members

The issue of the quiet member(s) will always be with us in small groups. Sometimes people do not share because the questions are too hard, or we run through them so rapidly that they don’t have time to respond. The leader and the group that does not handle silence well, jumping in too quickly, does not give others the chance to respond. To help this problem, direct some low risk questions to the quiet ones, or maybe go around the room, stopping for each one to share, and not moving on (unless they pass) until they have had ample time to participate. Never force someone to respond to a question.

Superficial Sharing

When superficial sharing becomes a point of struggle in a group, it can mean that the leader is not setting a good example of how this is done, or that the leader and/or the group overreacts (verbally or non-verbally) to honest sharing. Being open, specific and transparent as a leader will model the depth you desire for your small group. Be open to meet one-to-one outside the group for sharing and prayer with those who may live at the surface. Sometimes the "issue of not sharing" is because the individual does not feel accepted or safe in the group and/or particularly accepted by the leader. Valuing these people takes time, grace and patience.

Let’s remember that if we don’t address these issues where they exist, the health of the group suffers. It is our responsibility to help model the healthiest environment we possibly can for people to engage for growth. 

Leader Listening Lesson

Listening is a very important skill to getting to know the people in your group.

When you listen well, you will discover what someone believes about God, themselves and the world they live in. In Acts 8, Philip listened carefully to the Ethiopian eunuch and was able to answer the very question he asked, meeting his ultimate need. Let’s look at some scripture that reveals the importance of listening.

Proverbs 18:13 (NIV)
He who answers before listening—
that is his folly and his shame.
 
James 1:19 (NIV)
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
 
John 10:27 (NIV)
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
 
Proverbs 1:5 (NIV)
Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.
 
Deuteronomy 30:20 (NIV)
...and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
 
Proverbs 18:2 (NIV)
A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.

Here are some questions to think through as a leader that will help you understand the heart behind the skill:

  • What do these verses teach us about listening?

  • What are some traits of a good listener?

  • How do you feel when someone listens well to you?

  • What is your response to these feelings?

  • What are the hindrances to feeling safe? (What makes us feel unsafe or brings up our walls?)

  • Which of these would be your top two hindrances?

  • What is going on in me when I am an offensive listener? (An offensive listener may be; insensitive, agenda driven, utilitarian approach, ‘what can I get the other person to do or how do I tell them what I know?’)

  • What keeps me from being a good listener?

  • Just listening can be uncomfortable so we tend to do the above things. How I feel as a leader is not the point. I need to listen, making the other person my focus instead of trying to make myself feel more comfortable.

By listening, we can earn the right to speak into someone’s life where otherwise they would be a closed book! 

Listening 101 (Mark Wilson)

LISTENING IS REALLY GIVING UP THE NEED TO BE RIGHT.

Listening is the art of understanding all that you can about the one you are listening to. It’s about gathering the who...what...when...where...how from their story without providing answers from yours. Never do we ask the question ‘why’; because ‘why’ demands justification. This is not about you separating right from wrong. Instead, we seek to understand the thought process behind their words.

Listening to their story is all about you gathering their information without interrupting them with yours. This is about their journey. Your answer to their problems, or your agenda only confirms to them that you are not listening to them.

Listening with the sole purpose of understanding while you participate with the story of their journey keeps them in discovery mode. Their own memory will inform them of what in life has worked and what has not. This verbal communication helps them determine what beliefs work and separates them from the ones that do not.

Listen and ask questions that focus on understanding. Utilize the words, phrases and examples they are using, without correction or injection of your thoughts that might be different than theirs. Understanding is your goal.

Listen for consistent words or themes that they may use to tell their story and record them either in your memory banks or on paper. Then use them to ask questions or to clarify your understanding of what they are saying.

Listen with the purpose of understanding and confirming that they know you hear them. Example: “ I heard you say..... Tell me more about what you mean when you use that word/phrase.” Or, “Please forgive me for interrupting, but I really want to understand what you meant by....” Or, “Tell me more about that.” Or show a puzzled look of confusion so that they see you need clarity.

Listen with your eyes, not just your ears. Truly focus on the person with your heart. You are looking for the “Yeah, that’s it. You heard me!” 

Ice Breakers and Warm-Up Questions

Icebreaker/Warm-Up Questions:

The group should "warm up" before diving into the study and discussion can begin. This can be accomplished with an effective ice-breaker. The list that follows is simply a compilation of "clusters" of questions that we have used in the past. Some relate to special age seasons of a person’s life, others are more general, but all tend to have themes. Following the "cluster examples" is a lengthy list of questions that you can sort and pick to form your own "clusters." Our experience has been that 3 to 5 questions are more than enough.

0-5 years

  1. Where were you born?

  2. Warmest place in the house?

  3. Favorite game?

  4. Nicknames or imaginary friends?

6-12 years

  1. Where did you live between the ages of 6 and 12?

  2. What stands out the most in your mind about the school you attended?

  3. How many brothers and sisters were in your family between the ages of 6 and 12?

6-12 years

  1. Best friend?

  2. Favorite place to play?

  3. If you could change anything during that time, what would it be?

6-12 years (favorites)

  1. Favorite time of day?

  2. Favorite holiday?

  3. Favorite room in the house?

  4. Favorite kind of literature?

I prefer:

  • Fast food --- Fancy restaurant
  • Bach --- Beatles
  • Sports car --- Classic car
  • Blind date --- Second choice
  • Mountains --- Sea
  • Drumstick --- Breast
  • Comics --- Sports
  • Going steady --- Playing the field

I see myself more like a --- than a ---:

  • Rolls Royce  ---  Volkswagen
  • Robin  ---  Eagle
  • Rabbit  ---  Turtle
  • Mountain  ---  Sea
  • Fighter  ---  Lover
  • Clown  ---  Lion tamer
  • Spark plug  ---  Die Hard battery
  • Oak tree  ---  Evergreen
  • New York City  ---  Small town
  • Amusement park  ---  Library
  • Quarterback  ---  Lineman
  • Picture  ---  Puzzle

Complete this sentence:

  1. As a child, my favorite game was...

  2. At 12, my favorite movie star or athlete was...

  3. As a teenager, my favorite music was...

  4. To get away from it all, I like to...

  5. In the future, I would like to visit...

I prefer:

  • Staying up late --- Getting up early
  • Classical music --- Popular music
  • Shower --- Bath
  • Country --- City
  • Sea --- Mountains
  • Gourmet food --- Meat and potatoes
  • Football --- Baseball
  • Musical comedy --- Western movies
  •  Life of ease --- Life of surprises

I am someone who would? (Yes, No, Maybe)

  • Y  N  M     Hang up my clothes properly at night
  • Y  N  M     Go to the bathroom when a movie gets scary
  • Y  N  M     Kiss on the first date
  • Y  N  M     Lie about my age
  • Y  N  M     Buy the first thing I see at the store
  • Y  N  M     Gamble on fourth down in a close game
  • Y  N  M     Go skinny dipping
  • Y  N  M     Eat exotic food

Risk test

In grading give yourself 1 point for every (a), 2 points for every (b), 3 points for every (c). Add it up and share your results.

If lost, I would probably...

a)  Stop and ask directions

b)  Check the map

c)  Keep driving on my hunches

On a menu, I look for something...

a)  Familiar

b)  Special

c)  I have never tried before

In playing Monopoly, I would...

a)  Play it safe and hide money under the table

b)  Hang loose and keep a little money

c)  Go for broke and gamble everything

In choosing a job, I would prefer...

a)  A routine job with security and benefits

b)  A good job with little security

c)  An exciting job with no security

In dating I would prefer a....

a)  Third choice

b)  Second choice

c)  Blind date

Reminiscing

  1. The first time I tried to swim?

  2. The first time I tried to dance?

  3. The first time I tried to smoke?

  4. The first time I tried to play hooky?

Peer Pressure

  1. Greatest peer pressure as a teen?

  2. Greatest peer pressure as an adult?

  3. How do you handle peer pressure?

Music

  1. What is your favorite worship song?

  2. How do you react when people sing "Happy Birthday" to you in a restaurant?

  3. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

  4. Who is your favorite singer?

  5. What is your favorite musical instrument?

Belief about God

  1. What three things do you believe without any doubt?

  2. What is usually the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about God?

  3. How would you describe God to a child?

  4. One day as God is sitting around heaven visiting with the angels, He begins to speak highly of you. In His proud, fatherly way, what would He say to show He was pleased with you?

Your week

  1. What was the high point of last week? The low point?

  2. What color best describes last week?

  3. What one word best describes last week?

What ifs

  1. If I knew I had only one year to live, I would spend it...

  2. If I could visit any place in the world, it would be...

  3. If I had a million dollars to spend for the benefit of mankind...

  4. The thing that causes me the greatest satisfaction is...

Wallet scavenger hunt

  1. The most worthless item?

  2. The most priceless item?

  3. The most revealing item?

  4. The most memorable item?

General

  1. How did you get warm when you were chilled or cold as a child?

  2. When was the first time you kissed a member of the opposite sex?

  3. How old were you when you learned to ride a bike?

  4. During your childhood, where did you feel the center of human warmth was? Was it a room or a person? (For example, the TV room where your family was all together? The kitchen?). It may not have been a room at all; it may have been a person around whom you sensed safety and warmth. Would you care to share?

Relationship with God

  1. When in your life, if ever, did God become more than a word to you?

  2. Using a one sentence prayer, thank God for something or invite Him to come to our meeting tonight.

  3. Describe an experience when the Holy Spirit was your comforter.

  4. When was the first time you became aware of God’s love for you?

  5. What are your strongest convictions about God?

  6. If you could hear God say one thing to you, what would it be?

  7. If you knew God could hear you, what one thing would you most want to say?

  8. What single question would you most want God to answer for you?

  9. Describe the person you have known whom you felt knew God most intimately.

What Would You Do If...

  1. You could take an extra day off work?

  2. You could go anywhere in the world?

  3. You could become an animal for one day?

  4. A picture you were looking at came to life?

  5. Your wildest dreams came true?

My Mood

Report your feelings by using weather terminology - partly cloudy, sunny, and stormy.

And the list goes on... (mix and match and make clusters)

  1. Whom do you admire the most? In what ways does that person inspire you?
  2. If, at birth, you could select the profession your child would eventually pursue, would you do so?
  3. Do you feel ill at ease going alone to either a movie or dinner? What about the way you are now living?
  4. If you knew that in one year, you would suddenly die, would you change anything about the way you are now living?
  5. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
  6. What do you strive for the most in your life; accomplishment, security, love, power, excitement, knowledge, or something else?
  7. You are invited to a party that will be attended by many fascinating people whom you've never met. Would you go if you had to go by yourself?
  8. Given your ability to project yourself into the past, but not return, would you do so? Where would you go and what would you try to accomplish if you knew you might change the course of history?
  9. Would you be willing to make a substantial sacrifice to have any of the following: your picture on a postage stamp, your statue in a park, a college named after you, a Nobel Prize, or a national holiday in your honor?
  10. How many of your friendships have lasted more than ten years? Which of your current friends do you feel will still be important to you ten years from now.
  11. If someone were to write a book about you, what do you thing the title would be?
  12. What things make your life complicated?
  13. In one line, what is life all about?
  14. If someone could give you anything in the world for your birthday, what would it be?
  15. Of all the material possessions you have, what gives you the most pleasure?
  16. Give three words to describe how you feel right now.
  17. If you could hang a motto or saying in every home in the world, what would it be?
  18. Share something that you fear.
  19. What feelings do you have the most trouble expressing?
  20. What one quality do you look for most in friends?
  21. What activity do you engage in that involves all of you - your thoughts and feelings, your body and your spirit?
  22. When was the last time you cried? Why did you cry?
  23. Describe the "ideal wife."
  24. What four things are most important in your life?
  25. If you wrote a book today, what would the title be?
  26. If you received $5,000 as a gift on the condition that you spend it, how would you?
  27. Share one of the happiest days of your life.
  28. What is something that makes you angry?
  29. What do you want to be doing in ten years?
  30. What is your favorite song?
  31. Describe your life at age 70.
  32. What do you like most about yourself?
  33. Share a big letdown in your life.
  34. Thinking back, what can you identify as a turning point in your life?
  35. What bit of advice would you give a young man about to get married?
  36. Complete the statement, "A new world opened up to me when__________.”
  37. Describe the "ideal husband."
  38. Share a time in your life when you were embarrassed.
  39. Do you ever feel lonely? When?
  40. Complete the statement, "If I could live my life over again__________.”
  41. Complete the statement, "One thing I missed during my childhood was__________.”
  42. In what ways do you act like a child?
  43. Share a frightening moment.
  44. If you could live anyplace in the world, where would it be? Why?
  45. What do you like to do in your spare time?
  46. What is something that makes you feel sad?
  47. What is something that really "bugs" you?
  48. What do you dislike most about yourself?
  49. What do you like most about yourself?
  50. Share a time when your feelings were hurt.
  51. What talents do you have? (Don't be modest, be honest!)
  52. What lifetime dream are you still trying to make come true?
  53. What talent do you wish you had?
  54. If you could receive a sixth sense, what would you want it to be?
  55. If you could receive any spiritual gift, what would you want it to be?
  56. When do you feel closest to God?
  57. Jesus wept. (Luke 19:41 & John 11:35) What makes you feel like weeping?
  58. What is prayer to you?
  59. What is your favorite hymn or worship song?
  60. What song would you like sung at your funeral?
  61. What is your favorite Bible story and why?
  62. What is your favorite name for God?
  63. What epitaph do you want on your tombstone?
  64. Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter, meaning "The Rock". (John 1:42) If Jesus changed your name, what do you think your new name would be?
  65. Describe "Hell."
  66. Describe "Heaven."
  67. If you believe in God, what do you base your belief on?
  68. What is your definition of sin?
  69. Share a phrase that comforts you.
  70. Share an experience of answered prayer.
  71. What do you think it means to be "Made in the image of God?"
  72. What does this mean to you: "Bear one another’s' burdens?" (Galatians 6:2)
  73. Say something about your funeral.
  74. In what ways does your faith in God affect your life?
  75. What does "faith” mean to you?
  76. What does "worship" mean to you?
  77. What is your definition of a Christian?
  78. What is something that you think God wants you to do?
  79. What are three things that you believe about God?
  80. What do you think your purpose in life is?
  81. How do you tune into God?
  82. If you were asked to preach a sermon, what would the title be?
  83. What is the "Good News" according to you?
  84. Share a personal spiritual experience.
  85. How can one know God's will for his/her life?
  86. Share a time when you believe God led you.
  87. What character in the Bible do you relate to?
  88. If you met Jesus face to face, what question would you like to ask Him?
  89. What kind of animal would you like to be and where would you like to live?
  90. Describe the "ideal mother."
  91. Where would you like to go for a vacation if you could go anyplace in the world?
  92. What does America mean to me?
  93. What makes you feel frustrated?
  94. When you are alone and no one can see or hear you, what do you like to do?
  95. What really turns you off?
  96. Share three things for which you are thankful.
  97. If you became President of the United States, what two things would you do?
  98. Complete the sentence, "The best thing about today is__________.”
  99. Describe the "ideal father."
  100. What makes you laugh?
  101. Tell what makes a happy family.
  102. What kind of TV commercial would you like to make?
  103. What would you like to become famous for doing?
  104. What kind of store would you like to own and operate?
  105. What would you do if you had a "magic wand?"
  106. Describe a "good neighbor."
  107. What would you do if you found $1,000 in a vacant lot?
  108. If you could change your age, what age would you rather be?
  109. What is your favorite room in your house? Why?
  110. Tell about a time when you felt proud of yourself.
  111. How do you look when you get angry?
  112. What do you like to daydream about?
  113. How would you describe yourself to someone who does not know you?
  114. What do you think it's like after you die?
  115. What color do you think of when you think of happiness?
  116. If you could have been someone in history, who would you have been?
  117. What is the worst thing parents can do to children?
  118. How do you feel about growing old?
  119. What is one of your hobbies?
  120. How do you feel when someone laughs at you?
  121. Name two famous people you would like to have for parents.
  122. What do you think about when you fall asleep?
  123. What gives you "goose bumps?"
  124. What would you like to invent to make life better?
  125. If you were a doctor, what ailment would you like to cure?
  126. What is something you do pretty well?
  127. If you could become invisible, where would you like to go?
  128. What would you most like to do or be, for the next five years if there were no limitations (family, money, education, health, etc.)?
  129. What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?
  130. Who is the most authentic (genuine) person you have met?
  131. What is your most satisfying accomplishment? Ever? Before you were 6? Between the ages of 6 and 12? Between the ages of 12 and 18? After you turned 25?
  132. Name your three strongest points.
  133. Name your three weakest points.
  134. What is your happiest memory? (at various ages)
  135. Describe the most significant event in your life.
  136. Describe the characteristics of the "ideal" woman or man.
  137. What person(s) besides your parents has/have been the most influential in your life?
  138. What present would you like to receive?
  139. Whose approval do you need the most?
  140. In whose presence are you the most comfortable? Why?
  141. If you had what you really wanted in life, what would you have?
  142. List your long-range and short-range goals.
  143. Describe the most exciting creative person you have known.
  144. List some creative ways to begin and end a day.
  145. What do you most often daydream about?
  146. What do you most trust in?
  147. Who has changed your life?
  148. Where would you live if you could, and what would you do there?
  149. Tell who you are, apart from your titles, honors, or job description.
  150. What kind of social gathering do you like best?
  151. What is the best book (apart from the Bible) you have ever read?
  152. Describe your favorite way of spending spare time.
  153. What feelings do you have trouble expressing or controlling?
  154. What makes you feel depressed or "blue?"
  155. What makes you anxious, worried, or afraid?
  156. What gives you self-respect?
  157. Describe the person who has meant most in your life other than a parent or a child. What are that person's outstanding characteristics?
  158. Who was the first person you felt that really understood you?
  159. Are you the kind of person others confide in? Why?
  160. What kind of person do you confide in?
  161. What makes a person a good listener?
  162. What kind of listener do you think you have been in this group?
  163. How do you feel this group has listened to you, both corporately and separately?
  164. What makes a "good" marriage?
  165. What would you like most to do in history?
  166. What is your ideal for the future of society, both immediate and long-range?
  167. How could you help to change an injustice of which you are aware?

Conflict Resolution

Since conflict is bound to happen when people interact, small groups need to value conflict resolution. Conflict should never be swept under the rug in your small group as it provides a great time for reconciliation and discipleship. Conflict resolution must be modeled, practiced, and taught.

Based on Matthew 18:15-20, there are six key steps to resolving conflict well. Not all conflict is sin. Remember, the goal of conflict resolution is to win over your brother or sister in Christ through a biblical conflict resolution process.

Step 1: Note the offense

Be honest, and acknowledge that you have been offended or you have offended someone else. It is important to be aware of your feelings and the feelings of others. Even if we don't think you did anything wrong but someone else does, if sin is involved, Matthew 18 calls us to engage in the conflict resolution process.

Step 2: Acknowledge your responsibility

Whether you have been offended or you were the offender, as a Christian you have the responsibility to work on reconciliation and restoration as fully as you are able. (Romans 12:18)

Step 3: If offended, consider genuinely overlooking the offense

In some cases, it might be appropriate to overlook an offense - if you are able to be genuine in doing so. The test is whether you can honestly forgive without confronting. To figure this out, take time to pray and sit on the situation. Ask God whether you need to deal directly with this or whether you can let it go. This is not appropriate for all offenses and is not meant to be a copout for conflict avoiders.

Step 4: Take the log out of your own eye

Start with self-examination. Don't face conflict resolution unprepared. Take time to reflect on what you have contributed to the conflict. (Matthew 7:1-5) Ask God to show you what part you have played in the situation, and be willing to ‘own’ your part with the other person.

Step 5: Go in private

This is significant. Don't talk about the conflict with others. Don't bring it up in small group. Talk to the person in a very respectful way. Sharing with a third party before bringing it to the person that has offended you, or you have offended, is a sin and can be divisive and destructive.

Step 6: Show your brother or sister their fault (if you were offended)

This must be done in an appropriate way. In Ephesians 4:15, Paul says to speak the truth in love. To do this you must use the right tone, body language, and choice of words. It is important to affirm the relationship first. Throughout the process, stay open-minded and focus on getting to the root of the problem. Speaking the truth in love doesn’t mean to lecture or blast the person!

Or Step 7: Confess and ask for forgiveness (if you are the offender)

To learn the seven steps of confession, see below.

‘‘HE WHO CONCEALS HIS SINS DOES NOT PROSPER, BUT WHOEVER CONFESSES AND RENOUNCES THEM FINDS MERCY.’’
PROVERBS 28:13
 
‘‘IF WE CONFESS OUR SINS, HE IS FAITHFUL AND JUST AND WILL FORGIVE US OUR SINS AND PURIFY US FROM ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.’’
1 JOHN 1:9
 
‘‘DO YOUR PART TO LIVE IN PEACE WITH EVERYONE, AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.’’
ROMANS 12:18

Seven Steps of Confession

1. Address everyone involved

That may mean confessing just to God; or that may mean confessing to others as well.

2. Avoid ‘ifs, buts and maybes’

A confession does not include making excuses.

3. Admit specifically what you did wrong

It’s easy to hide behind vague generalities. Don’t do it. Identify your sinful attitudes (pride, selfishness, envy, greed, bitterness, ingratitude, stubbornness, etc.) and sinful actions and acknowledge them clearly.

4. Acknowledge the hurt you’ve caused and ask for forgiveness

Let God and the other person know that you realize your sinful behavior hurt them. Sincerely ask them to forgive you for the hurt or offense you have caused.

5. Accept the consequences

Tell God that you’re willing to bear the consequences of your sin. God may graciously let you off the hook. That’s His call, not yours. Sometimes the consequence means a resulting lack of trust from the hurt person. This doesn’t mean they haven’t forgiven you. Be patient and let them process.

6. Alter your behavior

Proverbs 28:13 says we should confess and forsake our sin. Make a commitment that with God’s help, you won’t repeat the sin.

7. Accept God’s forgiveness

If, after confessing your sin, you find your conscience still plagued with guilt, that’s not from God. He says that if you confess, He will forgive. Believe it and accept it!


Application: Discuss these steps so your apprentice is familiar with this process. This will be a resource for future small group ministry. 

Establishing Group Relationships

AS A LEADER, HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW YOUR GROUP MEMBERS?

The purpose of this exercise is to help our leaders/apprentices understand that discipleship happens as we get to know each other. The journey of discipleship starts with the basics of relating to one another. These questions are designed for a conversation between a coach and the small group leader, or between the small group leader and his apprentice. By no means is this an interview. It is intended to serve as a guide and reminder that we ought to know our people if we are going to serve and lead them. It is also an accountability step to reveal what we know about a person God has placed in our life.

You will notice these questions increase in depth as well as in intimacy. It takes time to get to know people. Remember that people “don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”. Caution apprentices to not go too deep too quickly, as they get to know their people. It is easy to make people uncomfortable around us when we probe too deep all at once.

Make sure your apprentice is aware of appropriate boundaries with the opposite sex when discovering where people are. Some of these questions are not appropriate for an opposite sex conversation.

Basic Conversation:

(Coach asking small group leaders or small group leader asking apprentice)

  • How well do you know your group leader or the people in our group? What makes you say that?

  • What do you know about their family? Do you know their spouse and children's names?

  • Where do they work? What role do they have at their work place?

  • What is their life story? How did they become a Christian?

  • What are some major stresses in their life right now?

  • How committed are they to the mission of Christ? What have you observed that makes you say that?

  • How long have they walked with the Lord? Is this their only church experience?

  • What was the last personal victory they experienced?

  • Tell me where you think they are in their spiritual journey?

  • Are they surrendered to God?

  • How will you help them take the next step in their spiritual journey?

Application:

  • What is one thing you will do to know the people in your group at a deeper level?

  • What will you do to model an environment of honest, transparent discovery?