Small group session length: How long should it be?

Aug 2, 2018 7:00:56 AM / by Sparkhouse

Small group of diverse smiling adults | Sparkhouse Blog“That small group topic sounds great! But, I have no idea what my life will look like next month; so, I can’t commit.” Any ministry leader has heard that. And, may have also thought that.

It’s what often keeps people from saying, yes to joining classes or a small group. Thinking about their many responsibilities – from the everyday to the big accomplishments – feels overwhelming. Adding one more thing to an already full plate can turn people away – even if it is a topic that resonates with them.

The best small group session length

Instead of thinking about it in terms of how much time or number of sessions for your small group participants, turn planning around and start thinking about the value of the topic and fellowship to your participants.

Here are a few dos and don’ts to consider as you think about your small group sessions:

  • DO set a goal. Research shows that people who set goals are more successful – and the same can be said of your small group ministry! Make sure you know what your small group will offer you and your small group participants.
  • DO communicate your goal to your participants. There’s always great interest in participating in a small group; but, to make sure it becomes a priority for participants, help them understand the value they’ll receive. What will they get out of it? How will it help them grow in their faith?
  • DON’T set the parameters without talking to the group. Helping your participants own small group strategy and decisions gives them ownership – and makes them more likely to stay engaged throughout the sessions.
  • DO tell participants a structure for sessions. Once you determine how often and long your group would like to meet, communicate it with your participants. It can also be helpful to include a structure for sessions – indicating how much time for reflection, group discussion, and facilitator-led insight – so they know what to expect.
  • DO think creatively about engagement. Group text messages, social media, and email, offers other connections for your small group – meaning that, even if someone can’t make the session each week, they can still participate in the conversation. Creating deeper connections makes it more valuable for all involved.


Setting the stage for your small group before you dive in can ensure expectations are clear, and in the end, can help your participants feel more engaged and excited about participation. Spend some time throughout the sessions checking in to see how it’s going; and whether they would like to modify the session length or meeting frequency. It’s always easy to make a shift!

Looking for a new book or curricula for your next adult small group series? See our small group ministry resources to find the best fit for you.

Topics: Adults Ministry


Written by Sparkhouse


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