Listed below are tips garnered from my own personal experience with Small Groups and my work reviewing/recommending Small Group web sites.
"Timely Tips" is a combination of serious recommendations but also suggestions provided in a more humorous light. Groups are made up of people (individuals) and individuals "as we know" can be unpredictable
1. Pray Frequently
Pray when you contemplate starting a Small Group, Pray when you actually start the Group and Pray continuously. Jesus will Bless your Group. Pray hard your Group will grow strong and develop many Disciples for Jesus.
2. Get Trained
The success of a Small Group is based on the leadership skills of the Leader or Coach. (And of course Prayer) A Small Group can be successful in the short run, but long term growth and sustainability depends on the Leader or Coach. Take advantage of training at your Church, ".org" & ".com" Nonprofits, Consultants and Other Small Group Leaders.
3. Have a Sense of Humor
You will certainly experience trials and tribulations in your Small Group. (See "Small Group Issues" Section) The key is to realize you need help at certain times in your Small Group Ministry. Support comes from within your own Group, other Group Leaders, your Church, Small Group sites, your spouse/family and Jesus. They will help you put things in perspective, sometimes finding the humorous side of problems and issues.
4. Identify your Group "Model" and "Structure"
It is important to identify the Biblical Model for your Group. The two main Model's are "Moses" and "Jethro". Decide the Structure of your Group picking from over ten styles designed to meet the purpose of the groups and needs of the Group Members. (See "Starting a Small Group" Section)
5. Create a "Vision" for your Group
It is extremely critical that you create a "Vision" for your Group. Unless you do this upfront, it is easy for a new Group to wander off course from the original intent of the Group. Even for Groups that have been in existence for awhile, it is important to revisit the "Vision" occasionally. Praying and periodic Group input are important regarding developing a Vision.
6. Feed Them Food
Many times in my business career and Small Group experiences I have "managed by food". Everyone likes to eat, whether it is breakfast, snacks, lunch, heavier snacks, dinner and last but not least dessert. Of course, I would try to balance "sweets" with "healthy food/snacks" but food brings a feeling of sharing and togetherness.
7. Belong to your "own personal" Small Group
In addition to being the Leader or Coach of a Small Group, I believe you need to belong to a separate, personal for "you only" Small Group. This Group will help you grow in your personal journey with Jesus but also provide a forum or backdrop for support in your Small Group Leadership role.This Group can also bring a "positive levity" to help you see the light and sometimes humor in any situation.