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Guidelines for Small Group Ministry Lesson Plans

Developed by Peter Bowden, editor of Covenant Group News

In order to prepare a session plan that will be widely used it is essential to understand the common format of a small group session. Below is an outline of the most common session format used in our congregations, with notes for writers.

Title: Titles help leaders and participants discuss which sessions they are working with and indicate the focus of the session.

Opening Ritual: Groups often design their own opening rituals. Most often this includes the lighting of a candle or chalice. On prepared sessions this may be simply listed as an element of the session.

Opening Words: This is a good place to provide an excerpt from the book, a reading to set the tone of the session. Some groups read the selected opening words as part of their opening ritual. Others have a standard opening ritual followed by opening words for each session.

Check-In: Participants take time to share, usually one at a time, how they are doing physically, mentally, and spiritually. Details for check-in should not be offered in the session plan.

Focus: The text of the session focus tends to be fairly short, from a quarter to half a page. It may be another book excerpt that indicates the topic of the session. It is important to note that the session serves as a context within which participants share their own stories, reflections, and learning. If a topic is too narrowly focused on a particular book, it is less likely to be used.

Questions: Sessions tend to include three to five questions to guide discussion. These should provide ample room for the sharing of stories and other personal experience. When too many questions are offered, groups may lose their focus or fail to deeply explore any single question. Some examples are:

  • What is your experience with …?
  • What concerns you most about …?
  • What challenges does … present?
  • What opportunities does … present?
  • How might we as a group support each other in …?
  • How does … relate to your beliefs?
  • What is your relationship with …?
  • What do you think it means to …?

Likes/Wishes: Some groups end each session with an opportunity to share what they liked about the session and any ideas or wishes for future sessions.

Closing Words: As with the opening, this is an opportunity to share an additional reading from a text. This may be used by some groups in conjunction with the closing ritual.

Closing Ritual: Groups often design their own closing rituals. On prepared sessions this may be simply listed as an element of the session.

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Last updated on Wednesday, June 2, 2010.

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