Step By Step
Pick a time, date and location for your small group to meet. My recommendation is to commit to meeting weekly; especially if the group is being formed only for Lent.
Location can be either in your home, a rotation of homes, or at your parish. My advice - weigh the pros and cons to decide which is best for you and your group - then trust your instincts! Some of the cons for a home meeting include having to limit attendees due to space, having to clean for company ((my primary obstacle), or limited parking. Small group size is typically 8 to 10; although 12 -15 is doable especially for a short period of time like the 6 weeks of Lent. If you are blessed with a high response rate - consider creating more than one small group either at the same or various locations.
Pros for meeting in a home include it's often cozier and may be less intimidating for some who do not typically attend church related events. The most important part is remembering the goal of the group to grow closer to Christ. After 10 years of leading Bible Study, I now host one at the parish (yearly and co-ed) and one in my home (seasonal and woman only); finding both can be advantageous. Like me, you may find that there is a place for both in your plans. Hosting at the parish has given me some freedom in the commitment that we can hold the group all year long and my home group has provided opporunity to expand my outreach.
Now which day of the week? I have found that typically Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday are best. A good rule of thumb is to check with your church bulletin, to make sure you're not competing with anything like women's Guild or religious education classes.
Lastly, what time? 7:00 p.m seems to fit most schedules, giving enough time for participants to care for family and food. I block 2 hours for the group, but some prefer an 1 1/2 hour format. Whichever you choose BE VERY punctual with both your start and end times. Trust me on this one - people are much more likely to come back if they know that their time will not be wasted and they will be able to leave when they're expecting to. Additionally, I also offer an optional 6:30 p.m. rosary before the group.
Logistics - Books and Snacks
WE NEED BOOKS
When it comes to making sure everyone has a book, there are a couple of options. You can order them for the group (sometimes publishers offer discount for bulk orders) or you can have each member responsible for getting their own book. IF you are going to be using Walk in Her Sandals check out the SHOP on their website - and take advantage of the awesome bundle available on the WINE site - including the new companion journal and bookmark. **Believe me I totally understand that sometimes personal finances just don't allow for a pre-group order however if this is something you'd like to do, it might be worth checking with your parish priest or religious education office to see if do the ordering or front the money. *Walk In Her Sandals is available in paperback and Kindle.
Additionally, I usually try to order a few extra copies so that I can accommodate any last-minute registrations. I rarely get stuck with an unused book; when I do the Lord has used it in some remarkable ways. Either it blesses someone as a gift or is offered for free to scholarship someone into the group. Actually, giving a book is a GREAT way to invite somebody (who may be reluctant) to the group. Truthfully that is how the Holy Spirit hooked me onto bible study. The book, given as a gift, got me through the door and the yummy snacks kept me coming.
SPEAKING OF SNACKS
To snack or not to snack - that is the question.
Since I seriously lack the 'mad Martha skills' that many of my contemporaries have my choose is usually not to snack. I do provide beverages -- coffee, tea, and water. If you would like to offer snacks but are either not Betty Crocker or you do not wish to shoulder weekly snack expense - I suggest a sign-up sheet. Many people enjoy being able to contribute with something as simple as a snack, especially if someone else has graciously taken care of organizing the group. Another 'trust me moment' be sure you have a sign-up so that you don't have a buffet one week and nothing the next.
Getting the Word Out
Now that you have a plan, it is time to let women in your parish and beyond, know about the Small Group - bible study, book club or faith sharing (whatever you choose to name it).
Some ideas for getting word out:
* Of course do not forget the good old-fashioned bulletin notice.
* Social Media speeds the dissemination of information with Facebook posts, private message invites, even Twitter and Instagram can be utilized to reach your potential participants.
However the truly best way to spread the news is word-of-mouth. A personal invitation either by speaking to someone after Mass or during your children's basketball games; or even a personalized email or instant message, is usually the most effective way to build your small group. Afraid you will market too well and your small group will become too large? That is a tremendous problem to have! Consider either breaking the group into small groups once everyone arrives at the Church or encouraging a friend or fellow parishioner to host at their home.
No experience is necessary for facilitating a small group discussion. The fabulous benefit of using a book like Walk in Her Sandals to facilitate your small group, is all the work is done for you. Your role as a facilitator or hostess is simply pray for the group, help get the word out, and be the timekeeper during the meeting. If you put prayer first and foremost, the Holy Spirit will take care of all the rest!
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras 2017
The Perfect Pairing ...