So often we see new small groups...so excited by the opportunity to jump into community with one another...not take the time to set up some boundaries that will help them to stay healthy over the long haul. Let's face it, at the beginning of most relationships, small groups included, everyone is on their best behavior. Who wants to be bothered with setting up a list of ground rules for the group?
The truth is, that's exactly when you need to take some time to allow members to share what they would like to see happen in the group and to get some sort of agreement by everyone. And it won't just happen...it's the group leader's responsibility to get this done. A reasonable goal is to have it completed within the first month of the group's formation. That way it will already be in place when things occur that the covenant can help you to deal with. If you don't have one yet...it's not too late to get this done.
SmallGroups.com contributing writer Jay Firebaugh, Director of Small Groups at New Life Church in Gahenna, Ohio, offers up a list of points that should be discussed and agreed upon by your group members:
So whether you want to call it a covenant, the ground rules, the group expectations...the main thing is that you have something that you can refer back to when things start to go off the track. It will provide the group leader a method of accountability for the members that they themselves have agreed to. This eliminates you feeling like the bad guy. In reality, the members of the group will be grateful for you helping to restore things to where they had originally agreed that they need to be.
If you would like to work on creating a covenant for your group, you may want to consider using our ReGroup curriculum to help you. Session 3 of this DVD resource deals with the importance of having ground rules and how to set them up. If you'd like to borrow a copy of ReGroup, drop us an email and we'll arrange to get it to you.
If you have some experience with using your covenant to help guide your group back on course, please take a moment to share some of your thoughts in the reply section below.