Structure & Guidelines

What Are Healthy Boundaries?



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.


  • 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.

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.


  • 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. 


Small Group Guidelines

This is a safe group

  • We will all do our part to create an environment where every person can be real, open, and honest with their struggles and victories.

Confidentiality is very important

  • What is shared in the group remains in the group. Integrity with someone being vulnerable is key to a trusting environment.

We will not crosstalk

  • Crosstalk is a conversation during discussion time that leaves others out and can be hurtful.

We will not give advice unless asked

  • We are not here to fix each other. Jesus does that part. Often people just need to be heard. They will ask you if they need advice.

We want everyone to have an opportunity to share

  • As a group member, be sensitive about the amount of time that you share, and encourage others to share.

We will commit to resolving conflict Biblically

  • Matthew 18 addresses a sin against you. Not everything done to you is a sin issue.

We will start and stop our group on an agreed upon time

  • Groups often start at 7pm and end at 8:30pm. You decide times in your group.

We will commit to make living life in Biblical Community a priority

  • Consistent group attendance helps create a healthy, safe, stable environment while positioning ourselves before God to grow spiritually.