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Growth groups: finishing the year well

Growth groups: finishing the year well

As with so many things in life, there are only three things you need to get right as the leader of your home group: (i) start the group well, (ii) continue it well throughout the year, and (iii) finish it well at the end of the year. Simple really. 😃

It’s a little late in the year to offer suggestions for (i) and (ii), so let’s get to (iii) so you can at the least stick the landing!

Some churches like to change the groups around each year or so, and so for groups in that situation there is an extra dimension to finishing up, because you won’t be together next year. Or your group might be continuing next year, but still taking a break over the summer. Either way, you can end the year with a bang, rather than a whimper; with intent, rather than fizzle.

Here are some suggestions:

  • The obvious thing to do, especially if you’ve been meeting online, is to get together in person for a group social (coronavirus restrictions permitting). Sharing a meal is a special act of fellowship—but noisy restaurants aren’t always conducive to group conversation. Think about a picnic in a park where you can talk in twos or threes as well as a whole group, or pick up some take-away and meet in someone’s house or a room at the church. Some of the other ideas below can also be done as part of the social if the environment is suitable for it.
  • Ask group members to review the year. To help, we’ve extracted the ‘My yearly review’ pages from the Growth Group Notebook; you can download the PDF for free and either email it to group members or print it off and hand it out the week before. In your final group time for the year, encourage people to share some of their answers to those yearly review questions. In particular, share answers to the question “What or who are you thankful to God for in your group?” Take the lead in encouraging others, and then spend some time in prayer as a group actually thanking God and praying for each other.
  • Alternatively, break into twos or threes and share (and pray about) answers to some of the more personal questions in the yearly review: How have you grown in Christ? What have you struggled with this year? What areas of godliness do you need to work on?
  • If you’re brave enough, ask group members to give you some feedback on how they found the group and your leadership. My experience is that people will tend to respond in a more gracious and gentle manner if you ask them in person or on the phone rather than giving them an anonymous or impersonal survey to fill in or email to reply to. Calling them personally also demonstrates your care for them. Of course, you may learn more about them from their answers than you do about yourself and the functioning of the group. For example, it may come out in their answer that they think the group should have a different focus. That can be really useful information if they are going to be in your group again next year (or to pass on to their next group leader). It might, for example, give you an insight into why they didn’t seem quite as committed to the group as you’d have liked, and so is something to have a helpful conversation about. Here are some questions you could ask. 
    • Do you think our group contributed to your growth in Christ this year? If so, in what ways?
    • Can you think of changes we could make to our group that might result in a greater impact on your growth in Christ?
    • Do you think your participation contributed to the growth in Christ of others in the group? If so, how? If not, why not and how could that change? 
    • Are you keen to be in the group again next year? If not, is there any reason you feel you can tell me?
    • Do you have any suggestions for me in terms of how I could improve as a group leader? Or about how the group operates?
  • Consider setting up something like a WhatsApp group (if you haven’t already) for group members to keep in touch over the summer, even when they are away. Pick some key Bible verses you’ve read through the year in your group and send one or two a week to group members, like: Remember this? “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1).
  • Pray for each of your group members over summer. Message or phone them and ask if there’s anything specific you could pray for them at the moment. (And ask later how that prayer matter is going or went.)
  • Keep an eye out at church to see which group members are missing and follow-up as needed.

Any other suggestions on how to end the year well and care for your group members over summer? Let me know.

Ian Carmichael

Ian has been with Matthias Media from its beginning (1988). In late 2020 he stepped down from the CEO role, and now works as an honourary consultant and editor for Matthias Media and Vinegrowers. Ian and his wife, Stephanie, have two adult children, two (gorgeous) grandchildren, and are part of Chatswood Presbyterian church in Sydney. Ian is one of the Vinegrowers team providing free consultations for church leaders who want to more effectively grow the disciple-making culture in their church.