Setting an Atmosphere
When people arrive at a small group the atmosphere they experience upon arrival speaks volumes. It can communicate organised, prepared, expectant and that they are valued or it can communicate haphazard, underprepared, low expectation, last minute rush and that they aren’t valued as much as they could or should be. Whether we realise it or not the way we prepare can set the tone for the night so what are some practical things we can do to set an atmosphere?
Music softly playing in the background can help people feel comfortable as they arrive and can break an awkward silence. It’s important not to have it to loud and you don’t want to kill conversation, but obviously loud enough so that people can hear it.
Can also make a difference. If the room is lit up like Christmas it can be a bit stark and confronting and likewise if the light is insufficient it is weird and may make it difficult to read materials.
The space used for your small group should be in line with the size of your group. A massive space for a small group can feel impersonal and a tiny space for a big group can feel uncomfortable. If your group has outgrown your current space you will need to prayerfully consider a new space or the possibility of multiplication of your group into two spaces in the one venue or two different venues altogether.
Smell can attract and smell can repel and so you might want to consider the smell of freshly baked food, fresh coffee or even a candle or incense that lets off a pleasant odour for your guests as they arrive.
Have you ever been to a group that was to hot or freezing! Hard to enjoy groups like that. If the space you use for your small group is too hot, you will put people to sleep. If it is too cold they won’t be able to concentrate! Make sure that your room is a comfortable temperature for your guests and this may require the use of air conditioning or heating, depending on the season of the year.
Who doesn’t like to arrive to the smell of fresh coffee and some food already prepared and set out. Community is built around food and Jesus modelled this better than anyone. If you want to build community, make sure you have some food.
Any multimedia you intend to use on the night- make sure it is all cued and ready to go. Press play on the CD player, have the DVD loaded and ready so the night continues to flow.
In our small groups, we don’t expect our leaders to know everything about everything. We expect our leaders to lead by example with character but to function as a facilitator when it comes to the discussion. Small Groups aren’t a place to preach or teach people with long winded explorations of Greek and Hebrew! The idea is to help prompt and facilitate discussion so that all people in the group feel valued and comfortable enough to share. Each leader should pray, familiarize themselves with the passage for the week, formalize some thoughts to contribute to the discussion and be ready to share at the appropriate times. In this way, your prep should be the same as all of the members of your group!
I’m sure that most of us have been to a group and when we arrive it is clear that nothing is prepared and the leaders of the group are nowhere near ready to greet their guests. We all know that sometimes things happen, but if you are regularly like this as you lead your group it is important to consider what that communicates to your group. They likely feel that group is an afterthought, that it is not high on the priority list and no real thought or passion has gone into preparing the atmosphere for God to work in people’s hearts. People are always more receptive when they feel valued and cared for so communicate this by being ready when they arrive.
It goes without saying, but it is often the key step that we leave out! Prayer is powerful and effective so take the time to pray for your group regularly and allow it to shape an expectation of great things within your group.
These are some practical things we can all do to set an atmosphere in our small groups. I hope these have been helpful and you might be able to think of some other things that you have found helpful. Feel free to share these by contributing to the discussion.