How To Keep A Small Group Small (the art of subgrouping)

30 Mar

After reading last months post on Group Size, a friend smiled and said, “It’s more art than science isn’t it.” He was right, and when it comes to successfully sub-grouping, his observation rings even truer. So get ready to exercise the left side of your brain as we discuss the art of sub-grouping.

Sub-grouping is temporarily dividing one group into two or more groups, and the emphasis is on the idea of “temporarily.” If your group sub-groups from the start of a meeting to the finish, that’s really just two groups meeting at the same time and location, and that is not what we’re after when we talk about sub-grouping. In fact, the goal is not to make two groups out of one, the real goal is to increase a sense of closeness and connectivity that leads to individual personal growth within the small group.

For this reason, we want to encourage you to begin sub-grouping early in the life of your group and to do so frequently. As always, we expect leaders to lead through God’s perfect and creative wisdom. Mix up your sub-grouping strategy as needed to keep things fresh.

Here are a few ideas and strategies:

Stage ISub-group for 30 minutes or less.

  • Set aside time near the end of group and split up men and women for a time of connection and prayer.
  • If you routinely share a meal, consider setting two tables – stage the meal with an icebreaker question, or a short discussion on the sermon notes.
  • Depending on your study, you may find it helpful to divide into two discussion groups for a portion of the questions. Many studies finish with application questions – that’s a nice break and it allows time to refresh the coffee cups, grab dessert and divide into two or more groups. This can be done by gender or in couples – think creatively and change the makeup of your sub-groups periodically.

Stage II Utilize sub-grouping strategies for about half of your group time.

In our small group, we currently spend the first 15 minutes gathered together socializing as people arrive and make final food preparations. We then sit down and eat at two tables, varying the mix of people week by week, as we catch up and/or discuss a few questions from the sermon notes. Next, we gather for about an hour as a large group to discuss our study.  Near the end, we split up men and women for a time of connection and prayer. All in all we spend somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour in two different sub-group settings.

Stage IIIThis could be considered the pre-planting phase.

You have an emerging leader who is planning to go through the GroupLaunch process. You may even have another couple who wants to join your emerging leader. Your group is well accustomed to sub-grouping, it’s part of the group DNA, and they look forward to it! The group has been actively praying, both individually and corporately, about God’s plan for the group.

In this phase, sub-grouping could easily make up more than half of your meeting time. It’s  possible that only the social time at the beginning and end of your meetings are spent together as a large group. Even in this stage, varying the makeup of the sub-group week by week is still a great idea.

Sub-grouping could be viewed as a more intimate walk on the trail. The larger group sets up camp, pitches tents, prepares and shares a meal and then sends out smaller groups to explore and discover. After a time the larger group reconvenes to break down camp and move out again as a larger expedition. A larger group accomplishing more through smaller units.

Last month we talked about group size and the importance of embracing on open group mindset. Sub-grouping is a very practical and strategic way to keep a small group small while remaining open to new group members.

Any group can benefit from sub-grouping in some form or another, so give it a try, we’re confident that you’ll be blessed in the process!


Discussion Questions

  1. If you currently sub-group, share with your fellow leaders ways you’ve done this, and the results you’ve seen.
  2. Share any concerns you have with sub-grouping. Can you think of any potential obstacles?
  3. Talk about any other sub-grouping strategies that could be used in the small group setting.
  4. In what ways do you think creative sub-grouping could be successful given the unique makeup of people in your group?
1 Comment

Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Uncategorized



One response to “How To Keep A Small Group Small (the art of subgrouping)

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