Some Basic Guidelines for Starting A New Group

This is a “basic formula” for facilitation of group meetings, large or small, business or personal. The philosophy used is the same as in The Old Chinese Verse. See at (click). If the group is very small and all know each other, you would skip certain steps. If your group will be a share group, you may want to spend more time on the dyads and checkin. Use your creativity to make modifications for your group charactics. The basics for a first meeting are provided below:

As a leader, your first task is create comfort by building trust and respect and excitement . Interaction of group members is a primary way of doing this. The first 5 steps may take between 20 to 60 minutes depending on how you do them and the size of the group. Following this will get your group off to a good start by creating some intimacy.

1. Briefly, introduce the purpose of the group, not more than 2 minutes at this point. End by saying you say more later.

2. Briefly, introduce yourself by telling how you are qualified to facilitate this group. When appropriate, add in some personal items about your family, your hobby, etc. If you have some fear about being facilitator, mention this authentically to the group. Again, make this brief, not more than 2 minutes.

3. Provide an agenda or schedule for this meeting, no matter how brief or simple. An agenda provides structure and reduces anxiety that some may feel. It also shows you have a plan. Outline primary items on a poster or handout. Make it brief. You can add criteria for future meetings as appropriate. Include how they will help form what the group does. 2 minutes.

4. Tell more about the purpose of the group as necessary. This may be a time to add information to create excitement. It’s also where you ask them questions about what they want in this group. One way to start this is to ask a good question of the group that requires a show of hands. "How many of you would like ........" Put your hand up as you ask the question. It’s often good to ask at least 2 questions that may be opposites or parallel on a subject.

5. Build some trust and respect within the group to further reduce anxiety that many people bring into a new group. There are a number of options for this depending on the group size and how much they know each other and other factors you will know. I like doing a simple ice breaker called "The Checkin" that allows group members to share about themselves. See this as here. It's no. 1 on the page.
Dyads are effective in creating trust and getting a group off to a great start. See no. 2 in the above link.

You frame these so each person has an opportunity to speak, but keep it brief. If your group is too large for this, you can ask them to turn to the person on their right for the first dyad and to the left or behind them for the second dyad. Do some follow up questions about the dyads by asking a few people to share with the large group what they talked about. I often take 10 to 20 minutes for feedback.

In some groups, it may be necessary to ask a series of questions about what trust and then respect means to them. This is frequently used with youth for up to an hour. It sets the stage for them to state some group guidelines that may or may not be documented by them in a summary for use by the group.

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