Significant life change can happen in the context of small groups. In this setting, group members can feel safe to discuss issues and share experiences on a more personal level. One of the keys to small group effectiveness is the leaders and the preparations they make.
We asked Scott and Sue Allen, small group leaders for 25 years, to share their top 10 tips for leading marriage enrichment small groups. Here’s what they shared:
1. Choose materials wisely. Group leaders will find a plethora of resources available on marriage enrichment. Begin by asking your pastoral staff to preview and approve materials before choosing what you’ll use.
The optimal length of a small-group class is six weeks, with each session lasting 60 to 90 minutes. A six-week class keeps the material fresh and is short enough for people to make the commitment to attend.
We recommend starting with The Art of Marriage Connect® series. Improving Communication in Your Marriage is an ideal starting point in the Connect series.
If you use digital media, make sure the delivery technology works well in your chosen location.
2. Enlist primary and secondary group facilitators. If you are the primary facilitators, then enlist another couple to serve as the secondary facilitators. Secondary facilitators assist in leading the class and helping with discussion. They can step in as the primary facilitators in your absence.
3. Choose the meeting time and location carefully. Sunday morning at church fits most church structures. Childcare and classroom space are usually available. If you decide to have a home study, consider how you will handle childcare, a very important issue for parents.
4. Personally prepare week to week. Study the material early in the week and meditate on it throughout the week. Refresh your memory by looking through your notes, either the night before class or the morning of. Guard against letting up on your personal Bible study and prayer time because Satan will be eager to attack any good work.
5. Be punctual. Each week, arrive at least 20 minutes prior to class so that you can have everything ready and have time for personal prayer, yielding to God’s direction and wisdom.
Start and finish on time. Resist the urge to “wait until everyone is here” before starting, or to “keep going because everyone is engaged” when it is time to stop. People appreciate when you stick to your schedule; it shows you respect their time.
6. Promote through multiple channels. Different channels and methods catch different people’s attention. Facebook, email, Instagram, text, church bulletins, church foyer table, posters, word of mouth, pulpit announcements—use all channels available to you. We recommend that you start promotion three weeks before your class begins. Visit the resource publisher’s website; sometimes you’ll find downloadable promotion files there. Create an attractive flyer that gives the class details: location; time; subject; length; childcare; and contact name, email, and phone number, along with a call to action such as “Sign up today.”
7. Provide snacks and drinks. Food, even just something to drink, usually puts people at ease. During the first class, circulate a sign-up sheet for couples to volunteer.
8. Communicate with group members throughout the week. Create a class roster and communicate often with reminders of topics discussed, homework for couples to do, the snack schedule, or articles participants will find interesting. Send reminders of prayer requests and encourage members to pray for one another. Keep up with members’ contact info for when you offer other marriage enrichment opportunities.
9. Consider the seating arrangement. If you are able, arrange the chairs in a circle. This facilitates good discussion.
10. Encourage participation. During discussion, become comfortable with silence. You may find it uncomfortable to ask a question and sit in silence for a few seconds, but doing so often encourages a group member to interact who normally might not. Resist the temptation to answer your own question.
Start each class with an “ice breaker” question. Possible questions are “Where was your first date?” or “What is your favorite restaurant?”
Participants aren’t the only ones who will benefit
Leading a marriage class can be very rewarding to you and your spouse in addition to those who attend. As you prepare for each class, you will find God strengthening your own marriage and giving you a heart to minister to others.
Meet the Authors: Scott and Sue Allen
Scott and Sue Allen live in Fairfield Glade, Tennessee. As lay leaders, they speak at events and retreats and provide marriage enrichment through mentoring and coaching. Over the last seven years, they have directly applied their experiences to couples in the marriage space through successfully launching a marriage ministry in a church of 450 people.