ion Keeping multiple small groups going can be challenging. Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee has six Companions in Christ groups meeting in addition to their other ministry groups. Recruiting, publicizing, resourcing, and keeping good communication within and among all these groups can be difficult. And there is also the need to look ahead — what are the future needs of these groups, and what should be done now to prepare for the future? Here are some tips from Lynne Deming who serves as Belmont's Companions in Christ coordinator:
- Have a volunteer coordinate and support all the Companions in Christ groups. This person should look to the short-term and long-term needs of the groups.
- Announce when groups are forming and how parishioners can become part of one.
- Post sign-up sheets around the church.
- Report regularly to the congregation on what is going on in the groups. Here is an example of something that happened within one of the Belmont groups that the congregation might hear:
"Last night at our weekly Companions group a wonderful thing happened. At the end of the session, when we were sharing prayer requests, one of the members of our group asked for prayer for a decision she needed to make. She had been asked to do a writing assignment on a very short deadline. She needed our prayers for discernment about how to respond. We talked with her a bit about her decision, and as a result of the discussion we decided to meet as a Companions group to help her think through the scripture selections and how she might approach the writing. We scheduled that meeting to occur in a week or so, and we are all reading the texts ahead of time to prepare for the discussion. When she completes the writing project, it will, at least in part, be the product of the best thoughts and prayers of our Companions group."
- Keep meeting days and times posted in the bulletin or newsletter.
- Be sure Companions is part of your church’s "Ministry Fair" if you have one. (Ministry Fairs present the many different ministry opportunities in the church so that members can find the best ministry for them.)
- Stay in touch with the leaders of all the groups and help them stay in touch with each other. This can be done by passing along significant news about group members or by reporting on the progress of the groups. Sharing tips among the leaders is also helpful. We have monthly meetings with our leaders to facilitate this kind of sharing.
- Arrange for the printed resources for all the groups and collect the money from the members. Ordering books for six groups that start at different times and collecting the money for the church can be very time consuming and frustrating. Relieve the small-group leaders of this responsibility and work directly with the church treasurer.
- After polling our groups, we decided to hold all our closing retreats on the same day. Groups will meet individually in the morning; in the afternoon we will all meet together. The coordinator should be available to assist all the groups with their retreats.
- As groups complete the 28 weeks, reserve time during the Sunday worship service for presentation of certificates. (Certificates can be downloaded from the Companions in Christ website without charge.) The group members should be recognized for their dedication, and members of the congregation may be inspired to make a similar commitment of their time.
- Create a long-term plan for how you will start new Companions groups, move the existing groups into The Way of Forgiveness or other next-step, and develop leaders for all these groups. Ideally all of our leaders would attend a leader training event, however our timing didn’t allow for that. So in order to develop leaders for Belmont, I attended one of the Upper Room Companions in Christ leader training events and became familiar with the resources as well as the leadership skills required. Following my training, I trained the leaders of our first six groups by leading them through one week from each of the five parts of the resource. By the fifth week, they felt confident that they could lead a group. Another option is to have new leaders sit in on 4-6 weeks of an existing group. That models the formational leadership style for them and familiarizes them with the rhythm of the week and the weekly meeting.
- Encourage participation of church staff. I co-lead my Companions group with our senior pastor and that has worked very well.