Starting a support group may be the single most positive contribution you can make in your life or in the life of another person. The process will cause growth in your own life as you interact with other people and encourage stability and growth.
The following suggestions obviously are only in outline form, but we hope they will give you some steering you need to become the helper you want to be.
Launching A Support Group
1. Decide to do it. Don't wait for an organization or someone else to do it. You are the logical one. You have the burden. Say to yourself, "With God's help, I will start a support group."
2. Decide who needs to be supported.
A. Early midlife couples before a midlife crisis hits. People who are beginning to experience general midlife problems with kids, aging parents, career, marriage, etc.
B. Couples in midlife crisis who are exhibiting all the signs of confusion and restlessness.
C. Husbands whose wife has left, or whose wife is in an affair.
D. Wives whose husband has left, or whose husband is in an affair.
E. Husbands or Wives who may have a divorce in progress, living in "No Man's Land"--not really single, not really married.
F. Husbands or Wives who have been recently divorced.
3. Specifically identify people.
Find people who have the unique need which you want to support. List name, phone number, address, etc. If possible, identify at least 8-12 people.
4. Pick out the strongest leaders from the target group which you have identified.
Share your concern for a support group with those people, asking them to share in the leadership and formation of a support group.
5. Agree on what to do. The two of you should talk about the details:
A. When to get started.
B. Length of each session and total number of sessions. Suggestion: limit the time length to no more than an hour-and-a-half and the total number of sessions to about ten or twelve.
C. Where to meet.
D. Who to invite. (see #6 below)
E. Topics/books/tapes for the discussion focus for the group. (Write to us if you need help.)
F. Format. Suggested example:
- 10 minutes - getting settled and greeting each other.
- 15 minutes - share what has happened in your personal lives during the last week or so.
- 30 minutes - discuss part of a book, or a section of the Bible.
- 10 minutes - pray for each other
- 5 minutes - assignments for next time.
(You may decide to enlarge the time for each area or to include another section such as singing praise music.)
G. Decide on the leadership facilitator positions. Suggestion: The originators probably should be the facilitators, but each person in the group can rotate the responsibility of leading the "sharing time" "discussion time," and "prayer time," and other assignments.
H. Details related to the setting. Suggestions: Don’t offer baby-sitting and don't serve food until after the meeting. Have drinks available as people come into the room so that no one has to be the hostess or leave the room to get food.
6. Recruit other people. Discuss the people on your original list and add other names. Divide up the names. Each of you prayerfully invite people to be in your support group.
It is very crucial at this point that you tell the people your specific group plans. "This is a support group for ______. We will meet once a week at _____pm for an hour-and-a-half. We will share, discuss, pray, etc."
The more specific you are at this point, the more successful your group will be later. If you invite people to "just come," they will come with all kinds of agendas and your group will fall apart by the third or fourth session.
7. The first meeting. Start on a positive basis by carefully considering the following:
A. The facilitators should explain to the group the exact purpose of the group including such details as when, who, where, why, etc. It is very important that the whole group agree that these are your goals and format.
B. Have a sample abbreviated meeting that includes sharing, discussion, prayer, or whatever is to be in the format you have chosen.
C. Assign tasks for the next meeting. Who will lead the "sharing time," "discussion," and "prayer time?" Suggestion: The facilitators should meet with the secondary leaders and coach them about what to do during the "sharing" "discussion," and "prayer time."
8. The third or fourth meeting. Your group will either come together or fall apart at this point. If you have done a good job of recruiting and getting everyone to own the group's directions, then they will refer to the group as "we" and "our" instead of "I" and "my." (If the group members have very different goals, help each differing subgroup to start their own group. It's OK if that happens. Just start again at #1.)
9. The last meeting. Don't let the group just die off. Have a specific last meeting celebration. This might be a good time to have a party with the major focus on sharing and praying. Encourage the people to talk about how they have grown and changed through this experience. Make sure there is plenty of affirmation for each member of the group. Spend time thanking God for all the changes.
10. Now, decide what to do next. How about splitting the group in half. Then invite enough new people so they can also enjoy the same growth that all of you have experienced.
You may not want to leave each other. Why not continue to meet at the same house? Spend the early part sharing together, then split into two separate groups. That way you can continue to enjoy each other, and at the same time, be forming two to four other groups--thus allowing more people to find support.
Conway / Farrel Articles ~ Reprint by permission only, ©2011 Midlife Dimensions ~ www.Midlife.com The Conways and Farrels are international speakers and popular authors. Midlife Dimensions is a ministry founded by the Conways and continued by the Farrels.
Conway / Farrel Articles ~ Reprint by permission only, ©2011
Midlife Dimensions ~ www.Midlife.com
The Conways and Farrels are international speakers and popular authors.
Midlife Dimensions is a ministry founded by the Conways and continued by the Farrels.