St. Matthew > How to: Host Essentials

Hosting Your First Gathering

  • Contact all group members as soon as the date of your first gathering is set. Make sure everyone knows the starting time and can find your address. Please be sure that everyone has the book or can access the video (if need be).
  • Pray for guidance to be a good host. Pray for your group members and this opportunity to grow together in spirituality.
  • Prepare. Read or watch the section beforehand. You might want to answer the sharing questions yourself ahead of time, so that you have some conversation starters if needed.
  • Ensure that the DVD player and TV are working, if you will be using these tools.
  • Create a climate of hospitality. Select a location and seating arrangement where all participants can see each other. Provide beverages or light refreshments (the group can decide on this and take turns). Use a candle and a Bible as a centerpiece. Soft music in the background during the gathering helps everyone calm down and let go of their busy-ness.
  • Greet everyone personally. If members do not know each other, you may want to provide name tags.
    Start and finish on time.

Handling Challenging Situations

Question yields nothing but silence. Be patient. Silence is an important part of the process. People may need a moment to think about the question. When someone does respond, thank them and ask if anyone else has something to share. After a few moments of silence, move to the next question. Increased vulnerability hopes for increased affirmation.

You realize you are talking too much. Are you trying to fill silent space or are you simply dominating the conversation? In either case, consider using some of the suggestions from “hosting your first gathering” or from “hints for good group interaction”

The group gets off topic or dwells on minor points. Gently guide the group back to the topic of the week, pointing out all of the wonderful parts still undiscussed. If the group is stuck on a particular point of discussion, tell them that you will bring more information next week. Sometimes it’s okay to go off topic—the mission is spiritual growth, an increase of knowledge and love of God, your neighbors and yourself. Just because something appears to be off topic doesn’t mean it actually is – be patient. Sometimes the connections are there and simply hidden.

The latecomer. Remember that people may have personal situations and issues. Start the group on time; always thank the participants for being on time. Make sure that a clock is visible. Build group accountability.

The preoccupied. Always ask the group to shut off all cell phones, to respect each other and to avoid interruptions. Promote group discussion. Initiate a private discussion with the preoccupied person.

The introvert. Everyone needs positive feedback. Don’t put people on the spot – they might not be ready. Listen, and if they comment, help them draw out their points. Use group-generated questioning. Allow participants to share and take part at their own comfort level.

The domineering. “that is an incredible point, and I would be happy to stay after group to discuss it further, but in the interest of time – let’s move on.” Question another participant directly; “Jane, how did you feel about that point?” Make and break eye contact. Have a private discussion with the person. The person may not know that they are dominating the conversation.