How to Train Internationals Joining Church Small Groups

Many internationals have never heard of a “small group,” and even if they might be interested in joining, they need an introduction to what it is and what to expect. They need to know what they are signing up for, and often need extra help connecting with a group. Here are some simple materials I created to introduce the idea to internationals here in Seattle. (Note: There is a separate training for small group facilitators whose groups will welcome internationals. This portion is for internationals.)

Why have a training?

I have found that people do not really know what a small group is and do not understand what they were committing to, which leads to some misunderstandings. We want to set people (and small groups) up for success.

What format should we use?

A 1-hour group training that can also be done in person one-on-one if someone misses the training. The interactive format and “what if” scenarios are an attempt to make this interactive, relaxed, and fun. I suggest using a location that has a projector and tables.

Who should facilitate?

Someone who can speak slowly and clearly, can use a PPT, can smile, and can lead the training in a timely manner. Ideally this person will be available for ongoing support/questions.

Part 1: What is a small group and why join?

   Facilitator’s intro

  • Welcome group, mention format and end time, make sure people are seated at least 4 to a table, ideally with one church member or volunteer at each table.

   What is a small group?

  • A small group is a group of usually 5-10 adults.These groups may also be called community groups, home groups, or cell groups. There are ______ (number) groups in our church.

   Why join?

  • Grow and learn about Jesus. Study the bible, share our joy and struggles with each other, encourage each other, and pray.
  • Connect - know and be known. Life can be lonely, and we need “family,” whether that is our biological family or not.
  • Serve one another and others. Sometimes we serve each other by listening and caring, sometimes we serve in very practical ways, or we volunteer together.

   When, where, who?

  • Some are at the church, some are in homes.
  • Some meet in the evenings, some during the day, some on weekends.
  • Church members who are Christians lead the groups. Some are more teaching based, some are more sharing/discussion based.
  • Group members are just normal, broken people with struggles, pain, joy, and a story to share.

Part 2: What is required?

   Personal requirements

  • Try the group once, then decide if you want to commit to stay in the group for _____  period of time.
  • If you join the group, come to at least 80% of the meetings. If you can’t come to one, tell your group before, because they care about you and will wonder where you are. You cannot “know others and be known” unless you come. You may miss important stories and learning.
  • Respect - be a good listener, especially when someone shares something personal or shares a struggle.
  • Be willing to be honest with others and share your own questions, struggles, and story.
  • Commit not to gossip. Explain that this also means not sharing people’s personal stories with others.

   “What Ifs”

  • Discuss attendees' questions at their tables briefly. If people do not bring up the following, mention them:
  • What if I am not a Christian?
    • You do not need to be, this is a perfect place to learn more.
  • What if I do not like the group?
    • Try it once, then decide whether to join. If something happens later to cause you to dislike it, talk to ______ about it instead of just not coming.
  • What if I cannot understand others or they can’t understand my English?
    • This is a perfect place to learn.
  • What if I am nervous to go to someone’s home?
    • You can have a friend come with you the first time, or ask the leader or any staff people about things you may be nervous about.
  • What if I have never prayed before?
    • You can tell the group leader that when the group prays, you just want to listen.
  • What are YOUR “what ifs?”
    • Write them down and have the leader collect them and address. Or, talk about them at your table if there are enough facilitators. 

   How to find a group

  • Lay out the practical steps for people—do they need to register? Contact someone? Wait to be contacted? Etc.

 

Heidi Ifland is on staff with China Outreach Ministries in Seattle, Washington. She graduated from Covenant College in 2005 and subsequently taught English at a university in China.