Does Your Small Group Meeting Start and Stop On Time?

What are your members saying about the small group meeting after they leave?

People hate meetings. This is because so many of them are a waste of time. Don’t let your small group meeting fall into this category.

Doing something as simple as starting and stopping your small group meeting on time is a big step towards making sure your members view the meetings as worthwhile.

There are some who might disagree. I have read articles from people who believe the end of the meeting should be flexible. There is one reason I agree the stop time should be extended (I share the reason later in this article). But this should be an exception, not a regular occurrence.

Why is this important? There are many advantages to starting and stopping a small group meeting on time.


Demonstrates You Value Members’ Time

Ask someone how they are doing and you will likely hear the word “busy” in their answer. There is not a shortage of things to do.

Your members could be doing a number of things during the time your small group meets. They choose to take the time to attend a small group gathering. They are participating in YOUR small group gathering over anything else they could be doing at that moment.

Starting and stopping the meeting on time demonstrates that you value their time and choice to grow spiritually through the influence of your leadership.

Promotes Promptness

Leaders set the example.

When you start meetings on time, members know what to expect. Most will immediately respond by following your example and showing up on time. They want to avoid walking in to the meeting late with all eyes on them.

Shows Meeting and Members Are Important

When you start your meetings on time, you show your members that the meeting is important. It says that getting together as a small group is a high priority.

When you end on time, you demonstrate that your members are important. This is because it takes planning and preparation to hold a productive and life-changing meeting within the established time limits.

Members Can Better Plan Their Time

Your members have a number of responsibilities outside of the group. They need the ability to plan the use of their time to meet their other obligations, just like you expect them to show up on time to the small group meeting. That will be difficult if they don’t know when the meeting will end.

Stops Frustration

Members can become frustrated if the meeting start time has passed and there is no movement to get started. The same can happen for members who have plans after the meeting that get significantly delayed after the stop time for unimportant reasons.

Members leaving your meeting frustrated should not be your goal.

10 Tips to Keep Your Small Group Meeting On Time

on time small group meetingBe different. Start and stop your small group meetings on time by using these 10 tips.

1. Set the Example

Be early. If you roll into the meeting at the last-minute or late, some of your members are going to take that as permission to show up late. If you are present well before the start time, others will follow your example and be on time.

2. Be Prepared

The reason to be well prepared isn’t so you have an answer to every question that could be asked in your small group. It is so you know what is important to ask and do and what could be cut if needed to stay on schedule. Adequate preparation will also keep YOU from rambling which will use up time and distract from the effectiveness of the group conversation.

Preparation also includes thinking about what could go wrong and having a backup plan. Things like forgotten notes and technology problems can cause major delays if not thought through ahead of time.

3. Follow an Agenda

Use an agenda to help manage time for your small group meeting.

An agenda is easy to develop. Write down the different activities to be done at the meeting in the order they will happen. Then assign the time each activity will occur. That’s it!

Now use the agenda to help guide your planning and leading of the meeting.

4. Use a Timekeeper

Small group leaders need to be present throughout the meeting. Effective listening can (and should) distract you from the clock. Solve the problem with a timekeeper.

Using the agenda along with a watch or timer, have the timekeeper give you warning signal as each activity is running out of time.

Note: Keep in mind the agenda is a plan and flexibility may be required under some circumstances.

5. Be Flexible

This tip goes together with being prepared. Meetings are not always going to go as planned. When that happens, be flexible with your agenda and methods.

There are many things you can do to be flexible. You don’t have to ask every question you prepared for the discussion. Maybe you can do things like combine eating with the discussion if you usually do them separately or change the way you do group prayer.

6. Agree on Expectation

Discuss the importance of starting and stopping meetings on time when developing an agreement (sometimes called a covenant). If promptness is part of your group’s agreement, be sure to periodically remind yourself and the other members of the expectation and hold each other accountable, in a loving way.

7. Ask Permission

I stated earlier that there is one reason a meeting should be allowed to run past the scheduled stop time. If it is clear that Holy Spirit is working something important within your group then I believe the meeting should not be stopped. When this appears to be happening I try to do the following:

  • Quickly discuss the situation with group and get their permission to continue beyond the end time. This helps confirm the importance of continuing. (I have never been asked to stop when I did this.)
  • I give permission to anyone who has a time-critical need to leave at that time without any concern of repercussions.

8. Manage Ramblers

There are some members who do more than their share of talking in a small group meeting. This can have multiple consequences. One of those can be running out of time before the topic is adequately discussed or the rest of the members have had an opportunity to participate.

Don’t assume the rambler is doing it intentionally. A private, honest conversation with the rambler doused in love and prayer will help to resolve this most of the time.

9. Keep Conversations on Topic

It is amazing how far off topic a conversation can get when it is not being checked. Sometimes these “bunny trails” can be useful. But when they go on too long or aren’t serving a purpose, stop them before they become a distraction to what needs to occur.

In one small group I was a part of, we had an agreement that any member could stop a conversation that had drifted well beyond the topic being discussed. We even had a fun hand signal to use, so we always had a great laugh as we got back to the original topic.

If the “new” topic is important to discuss at another time, consider the next tip.

10. Use a Parking Lot

There will be times when the conversation strays from the discussion topic but is important to discuss at another time. One technique you can use is to add the topic to a list (called a “parking lot”) so it is not forgotten.

After the meeting, review the list and decide how and when the topic will get addressed by your group. It could be a topic for a future discussion or a research assignment in-between meetings.

Question: What tips do you have for starting and stopping small group meetings on time?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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