Setting clear expectations for your group can help avoid miscommunication and frustration for members and leaders alike. The right tools will help you do so effectively.
Expectations are important in every single relationship, and mismanaged or poorly communicated expectations often create conflict and dysfunction inside of relationships. What’s true of your friendships or your marriage can also be true in a small group.
When people show up in your small group, they have different expectations of what a small group is supposed to be and how it’s supposed to function. That’s why it’s critical for you to get everyone on the same page and to set the expectations clearly at the beginning of your small group experience.
One of the best ways to do this is by using something called a group agreement or contract. A group agreement is a tool to help you walk through expectation management with your group. You’ll want to get a list of everybody’s names and then as a group, decide where and when you’re going to meet, what you’re going to do about refreshments and what you’re going to do about childcare.
Forming a group agreement also means clarifying the values of the group. For instance, one of your values might be that everybody is going to show up at your group meetings, and if someone can’t come he or she will call the group leader to notify the group. Another value that’s often in the group agreement is one of confidentiality. People want deep, authentic community and they want it to be a safe place where they can be honest with each other and there is confidentiality. This should, ideally, be established right from the very beginning.
Another value that is often included in these group agreements is that everybody in the group participates. Although there are different responsibilities and roles, like a family, everyone chips in and helps. So then it is not just you, the leader, doing everything but everyone is getting involved.
By establishing a group agreement you can set the expectations for the group, right from the very beginning. But even if your group’s been meeting for a while, it would be a still a good idea to go back and just talk through the expectations. Allow there to be input so that by the end of the discussion everyone is in agreement and is clear on what those expectations are. This process might seem uncomfortable or a lot of work at first, but in the long run, you will have a healthier and happier group.
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