We have updated our Privacy Policy to provide you a better online experience.

Organizing Small Groups, Part One


The body of Christ is a beautiful example of what small groups should be. Each person should participate and every small group environment should include structure, flexibility, fun, growth, and ultimately life change.


Read 1 Corinthians 12.

The following eight steps (covered in parts one and two) will help you organize your small group ministry:

1. Determine the needs of those you are reaching and the goal the group should accomplish.

The key to effective small groups is being in touch with the women you serve and creating groups that will involve and instruct them accordingly. Be sensitive to the interests and needs of women in your church and community. Listen to what they say during casual conversations in hallways, bathrooms, and at café tables. Based on their feedback, what do they need?

•    Social connection?

•    Opportunities to join in prayer?

•    An outlet for ministering to others?

•    Spiritual growth and biblical knowledge?

•    Personal growth or skill development?

•    Recovery from a particular life issue?

Also, be mindful of the schedules and lifestyles of these women. Are they working, or do they stay at home? Are they juggling a stressful home life? Are they caring for small children? Do they live far from relatives and need a sense of family? Are they able to attend other existing church programs that could meet their needs?

2. Determine the type of group(s) you are forming.

    Based on the feedback you gathered, you can decide what type of group(s) will best meet your goals. 

There are six basic types of groups:

•    Fellowship Groups often provide simple gatherings for individuals to meet and form friendships with others in their similar stage of life. Fellowship groups might meet for coffee, dinner, or at the park for a BBQ.

•    Common-Interest Groups are often a non-threatening avenue for individuals to begin to form relationships without feeling pressure. Common Interest groups could be scrapbooking, painting, and any other hobby individuals may enjoy.

•    Prayer Groups unite women for prayerful intercession and worship. These groups can focus on different issues such as teen children, marriage, unsaved friends and family, or prayer for church leadership. 

•    Compassion (serving) Groups are a great way to get individuals involved by making a difference in their community. Serving is a wonderful way to grow together and have fun in the process.

•    Study Groups are focused on a topic of learning. Many study groups do a certain curriculum which could include a book, workbook, or possibly a sermon-based study group. Sermon-based study groups answer questions that go deeper into what the pastor communicated the weekend before.

•    Growth Groups are versatile because they provide help in different stages of life or meet particular needs of women. You may consider specific growth in areas of finance, parenting, or abuse recovery.

Keep in mind you will not be able to offer a one-size-fits-all approach to small group ministry. Every small group is different because every group consists of unique individuals bringing different thoughts, histories, dreams, and life to the table. Your church might even go through different phases of small groups. When you begin, common-interest groups might be the right fit, but as you grow and learn, your groups might want to flow into compassion or study groups. You might even want to offer various types of groups at the same time. Ministry is all about flexibility. The moment we are unwilling to change is the moment we will no longer grow.

3. Recruit women to lead small group(s).

The leader’s role should not be complicated. Small groups are a team: the leader should facilitate discussion and delegate responsibilities so everyone plays a part and no one is carrying the entire responsibility of the group. Delegation and teamwork are essential in the health of a small group. Here are some guidelines to help you recruit small group leaders:

•    Look for people who have a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and support the mission/vision of your church.

•    The best way to recruit leaders is to ASK! When you ask, let them know why you believe they would be an effective leader. Let them know the responsibilities of small group leaders. If possible, provide the information in writing. Also let them know about the support they will receive from the leadership team.

4. Train small group leaders.

Training is essential and will translate into healthy small groups. Depending on the number of leaders and their availability, you can choose a creative training option:

•  Arrange for each small group leader to get access to the online training area at www.equipwomen.ag.org. Each leader can customize her training by completing units specifically targeted for her role (i.e., Bible study leader, recovery group leader, book club leader, etc.). Encourage leaders to complete a certain number of training units on their own time and provide a completion date.

•  Host a training brunch. Print handouts from key training units at www.equipwomen.ag.org. Give each leader a set of handouts and complete the units together as a group. You may need to consider a series of brunches or training units.

•  Complete a group study of a relationship-building book. For example, meet periodically to complete a six-week study of The Relationship Principles of Jesus (Tom Holladay), with companion DVD, 40 Days of Love.

•  Pair an experienced small group leader with a woman who is less experienced. This way, new leaders can naturally be trained and ready to lead their own group when the next sessions begin.

Once your small group leaders are trained, allow them the freedom to define the details of their group (steps 5 through 8 in the next lesson). Be available for guidance as needed, but encourage them to take ownership—which will help them be passionate leaders. For example, provide a list of approved small group resources, but allow the leaders to choose what their group will do. (You can compile a resource list from your church library and from resources featured in the introduction to this unit.)


All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®. COPYRIGHT ©1973, 1978, 1984 BY INTERNATIONAL BIBLE SOCIETY®.

“A Leader’s Guide to Forming Small Groups” is published by National Women’s Ministries at women.ag.org, ©2020. Permission granted for personal use or within a teaching setting. Do not reproduce.