5 Ideas to Help Small Group Members “Be Present”

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People are going to arrive for small group in five minutes. The house is a mess. The kids are crying. Your spouse is running late. And you have not even looked at the study to prepare. And now you need to lead a conversation?

We have all been there whether we have kids and/or a spouse. Whether we are leading the small group, or just trying to attend our small group, we rush into it feeling frazzled and out of sorts, distracted by the day that has been and the long list of things to do for tomorrow. And yet when we welcome others into our home or walk into someone’s home, our goal is to be present to each other and to Jesus.

How in the world is this supposed to work?

In my last blog post, I shared about improving your conversational skills by offering support responses versus shift responses taken from Celeste Headlee’s great book, We Need to Talk.

Part of the difficulty in having conversations is our ability to be present, not just bodily, but emotionally and spiritually. This can be difficult in small groups when just getting there can be a real chore. So how can we as leaders be more present and then also invite others in our group to be more present as well?

First, we have to realize, as Headlee points out, in order to have a good conversation, we have to give it our full attention. This is a struggle today because of the myriad of distractions we are confronted with every moment. Second, instead of owning the distractions, we try to multitask, which research has proven, humans are incapable of. Unfortunately, our brain likes to think it can multitask and gets an adrenaline rush trying to do so.

Thankfully, most small groups are structured in such a way as to help people be present: beginning with prayer. But I must confess that I am all too guilty of not being intentional with this prayer as a means for our people to intentionally and prayerfully be more present.

Here are are 5 suggestions on how to use the opening prayer to center the group:

  1. Take 2 minutes before others arrive to pray yourself. Helping others become more present will be a lot easier if you yourself are present.
  2. Slow the prayer down. It’s amazing what a soothing, slow prayer can do to help people slow down themselves.
  3. Begin with encouraging people to take a deep breath and exhale slowly. We are, after all, physical bodies, and physical acts and postures can aid in us spiritually.
  4. Slowly read a short passage of scripture a few times, asking people to prayerfully consider what the Lord might want to say to them.
  5. Invite the members to silently pray themselves, specifically voicing to Jesus where they are at.

Q What have you found to work to help people be more present during your small group time?


  • Andrew Camp

    Andrew Camp has an MA in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care from Talbot Seminary. He is also a professionally trained chef, most recently as the sous chef at Silver Restaurant in Park City, UT until it closed in 2015. Since then, he has served as the Spiritual Growth Pastor at Mountain Life Church in Park City. He and his wife, Claire, live just outside of Park City with their two young daughters, Hazelle and Hannah.

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Daniel Thomas

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Daniel serves as Executive Pastor at Community Church of Mountain City, TN.  Daniel and his family are on a mission to establish roots within their community, fight for peace and serve well.  He serves as our Connections Director in laying the groundwork for Circles. He loves great coffee and traveling with his wife Tia and two children, Deklan and Aden



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