Below you’ll find the show notes for episode 47, Caring for the Needs of Your Bible Study, Discipleship, Small Group, and Women’s Ministry Members, from the Women’s Ministry Toolbox Podcast.
EP 47: Caring for the Needs of Your Bible Study, Discipleship, Small Group Members
Today we’re continuing our discipleship series by talking about caring for your Bible study, discipleship, small group, and women’s ministry members.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
Small groups should be a place where group members find comfort and feel cared for.
My favorite small groups have felt like family. They cared for my spiritual, physical, and emotional health. They’ve sent us texts when we’ve walked through a difficult season. They brought meals and sent cards when my dad died. They prayed for us through parenting struggles and physical sickness. They cared about us and for us.
In many churches, small groups or Bible study groups are the first responders to people in need.
Together we celebrate new babies and we grieve the death of loved ones. We rally around and divide up tasks when a group member is diagnosed with cancer. We rake leaves and mow lawns for those who can’t. We are the hands and feet of Jesus.
Today we’re going to talk about:
- Caring for the spiritual health of your small group
- Meeting the physical needs of your small group members
Caring for the spiritual health of your small group
Collecting and sharing prayer requests, which we talked about in this post, is one way we can provide spiritual care.
In addition, we’ll want to pray specifically for each group member by name. We can pray for their attendance, homework completion, and spiritual growth. Check out my Prayer Guide for Small Group Members for additional specific prayers.
When crisis strikes and your group members don’t know what to pray for, we can provide prayer coverage. There is great comfort in knowing others are praying when you can’t find the words.
When my dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor over 15 years ago I quickly ran out of words. Most of the time I had no idea what to pray for. Knowing our small group was praying brought such great comfort to me.
Caring for your small group can mean stopping for a moment in the middle of a lesson to pray for one of your group members.
We need to have boundaries on spiritual support, which can sometimes turn into emotional support, that we offer.
Most of us are not certified counselors and we need to make referrals to experts when warranted.
Physical harm, abuse, and threats of suicide should all be reported.
Find out what the law requires in your state you may need to contact local authorities. And if your church fails to address these critical situations, take things to the next appropriate level. While we hope and pray that our church staff members will not fail us, it does happen as recent news stories have repeatedly revealed. Lord willing those situations will be few and far between.
Having an action plan will help you to act quickly when a group member is in crisis.
If you are tasked with training your small group leaders, be sure you distribute these guidelines in writing to your group leaders.
Caring for our group member’s physical needs is where most groups shine!
In many churches, small groups are the first ones to provide physical help when needs arise.
Your group might send cards, set up a meal train, activate the prayer chain, provide rides to doctor’s appointments, mow lawns, and clean houses.
Here, too, boundaries and bandwidth are important. If the need is lengthy or extensive, be sure to contact your church staff so others can also help. There are likely people outside of your small group that want to care for your group member too.
Earlier this year, one of my husband’s best friends unexpectedly passed away. While we weren’t in their small group, we wanted to help care for the family. Their small group was quick to bring us into the loop and we were able to support their efforts. Our small group also helped with meals and sent cards – several because they also knew him too, but some because they wanted to come alongside us in our grief.
As your group considers how to offer physical support, please put some boundaries in place.
We want to help and not hinder. Sometimes people need to do the hard work to move forward.
Be mindful that what you do for one group member can set a precedent. Other group members will expect similar care. Maybe meals for new moms are distributed every other night for two weeks. It’s one thing to ask everyone to chip in for a small gift or gift card, but frequent requests for money could burden your group members.
Sometimes another ministry in your church or community is better suited to care for a group member. Be sure to ask church staff members for direction when needs arise. Your church may have a benevolence fund to help those with financial needs. They may have a list of parachurch ministries that provide what your group member needs.
Communication is key in caring for your group members.
You’ll want to decide how your group will share needs with one another.
Our small group uses an app called Slack. Some like Group Me. Some people don’t mind group emails or group texts. If you’re introducing something new, please take the time to teach everyone how to access and use it. Our small group leader connected a tablet to the TV in our meeting room to show our group how to use Slack.
Tips for Organizing Meals:
- When meals are needed you’ll want to have a point person set up instructions.
- Ask them to note any food allergies and foods the family does not like.
- The option of sending a gift card or having a meal delivered allows those who don’t cook or aren’t able to make the drop-off time the ability to participate.
- We’ve found staggering nights meals are delivered is appreciated too.
- Online sign-ups can smooth the process.
Do you need a community leader?
The small groups in our church have a teaching leader and a community leader.
I’ve served as the community leader for the past couple of years. My responsibilities include taking attendance, checking on our group members, and planning fellowship activities, some include service projects. When group members are absent for more than a week, I try to reach out and check on them. If someone is going to be absent for an extended period, I try to remember to reach out to let them know they are missed. On more than one occasion people in our group have let me know those little touches – just a text or Facebook message – have meant so much to them. There’s something about knowing you were missed!
It can be especially difficult to care for small group members who are facing circumstances we’ve not personally experienced.
We don’t always know what to say or what to do. When we ask what they need, they may not be able to answer.
In the fall of 2020, I interviewed 13 women who have walked through difficult seasons and situations. These thirteen speakers shared their stories, advice, and resources via video to help you serve and support the women who are: single, divorced, widowed, military spouses, sexually abused, special-needs moms, walking through grief, struggling with infertility, moms with many young children, facing life-altering diagnoses, struggling with anxiety or mental health issues, encountering addiction and infidelity in marriage, and adoptive, foster, and stepmoms.
The insight you gain, the resources they share, and the advice you receive will enable you to better serve every woman in your group. You’ll find more information at the Ministry to Women Summit.
Today’s Toolbox Task:
Prayerfully consider ways in which you can better care for your group.
Maybe that means you recruit a community leader or set aside a day of the week to pray for each group member by name.
Caring for your small group can seem like an enormous task, but it’s not just your responsibility.
When possible, share the needs with the rest of the members of your group. Let them know specifically how they can help. They may have walked through a similar experience and know just how to provide the comfort that they received from others and God.
You may also want to read:
Collecting and Sharing Prayer Requests in Your Discipleship, Bible Study, or Small Group
Praying for Your Small Group (Free Printable)
Ministry to Women Summit
Supporting Bible Study, Discipleship, and Small Group Leaders
Great Discipleship, Bible Study, and Small Group Leaders
Volunteer Appreciation: Great Gifts and Guidance
Creating a Schedule for Discipleship, Small Group, and Bible Study Meetings
Dividing Women into Groups for Small Groups and Women’s Ministry Events
Discussion Group Guidelines
The Benefits of Bible Study Homework
Coordinating Childcare for Your Bible Study and Women’s Ministry Events