Invite: Get the Small Group Ball Rolling

By Valerie Matyas

Note: this blog is the first of a four-part series for Small Group Leaders: Invite, Equip, Explore, Express. Sign up here to receive more small group resources.

So you enjoyed the first Hymn Journal and you are excited for the next? You heard that some people went through the resource as a small group and you would like to do the same? Great! We are here to help!

Here are five quick tips to get the ball rolling for your small group. You probably know some of these already, but sometimes reading what you already know affirms what you were going to do in the first place. And sometimes, you even learns something along the way. You might want to add to this list, but if you are wondering where to start or how to get moving, try taking these small steps one at a time. And don’t forget to have fun!

1. Pray and Imagine

My best advice for all of life’s endeavors: start in prayer. The fact that you are interested in walking through this resource in community indicates that the Holy Spirit is already working in your heart.

You have a desire, a God-given desire to be joined with fellow believers in a Hymn Journal; that’s fantastic! Are you excited or apprehensive? Boldly moving or cautiously looking?

No matter how you feel, Jesus is not surprised and He wants to use you for the Kingdom. Be honest about your emotions, present them to Him, pray for guidance, and be willing to let the Spirit of Jesus lead. Imagination and Godly wisdom are a powerful combination.

2. Start with Conversation

Every good invitation starts with a conversation. Perhaps, you already have a regular small group and you want to “pitch the idea” of a Hymn Journal. Perhaps, you have never led a small group, but you had such a great time with the resource that you are really excited to share the experience with a small group of people. Or perhaps, you have already engaged a small group with the last Hymn Journal and you are just looking for additional resources from Next Step Press to make this hymn journal experience even better.

No matter where you are, start with a conversation. The way you ask will be up to you. The words should be yours not mine; authenticity is your best bet. Here are a few phrases offered for consideration, not recitation:

  • “I am going to journey through a new Hymn Journal; want to join me?”
  • “I just finished a Hymn Journal and another one is coming in June. I think you might like it; want to do it together?”
  • “Over the years I have come to realize that I work best when I work through a resource in a small group; would you be part of a Hymn Journal community with me?”
  • “I know of a book that uses Scripture, hymn lyrics, illustrations, and creative faith experiments. I think our group would enjoy it; what do you think?”
  • “The new Hymn Journal is coming in June! Want to do it again? Who else could we invite to come along this time?”

3. Leave the Invitation Open

There is no need to be discouraged if your invitation is turned down. You took a risk. You were faithful to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Sometimes we plant seeds, invite, smile, make ourselves available and are declined.

You are in good company. You are not alone. Many of Christ’s disciples do the very thing you are doing and receive unexpected results. Keep inviting, keep moving, keep trying.

There is no perfect number for a small group. If the group expands and swells quickly, don’t be surprised by what the Holy Spirit is doing. If the group is you and one or two other people, don’t be surprised by what the Holy Spirit is doing. You don’t have to be fully equipped to get the ball moving. In fact, I think Jesus works best with followers who are not relying on themselves but on Him.

At this point you don’t need to know all of the details; you are garnering interest and creating an opportunity. Move forward in faith, and keep the invitation open.

4. Make Room for the Holy Spirit

One thing is for certain: God is in control.

Call yourself a facilitator, a coach, a guide–but your group is ultimately being led by the Holy Spirit. Keep Christ at the center of your emerging group.

If the details of your group do not match your original plans, recognize that God’s plans always see the whole picture. There is no perfect small group. We are imperfect people following a Perfect God; you are in good company.

We follow Jesus better when we follow together. Those who are supposed to be in the group will be; those whose time is not now, will not be. Don’t be surprised; be faithful. 

5. Be Honest and Available

Be honest with the people you invite. I don’t mean you should be rude or lack personal boundaries. I do mean, you should share why you are asking. Your personal invitation let’s them know you care. Your excitement might be evident in your voice. Answer questions about your experience with the past Hymn Journal. Show them some pages; be a bit transparent; allow yourself a certain amount of vulnerability.

Discipleship belongs in relationship; the sanctified life is meant to be shared. As you express your need for relationship, you invite them to see that need in their lives as well. Let your light shine to the glory of your Heavenly Father.

These five quick tips aren’t a fool-proof method of starting a stellar small group. Rather, these thoughts are meant to help you take a small step in the right direction, even if your group doesn’t end up looking the way you thought it would. All of this is covered in grace. Go ahead and give it a try! Jesus is with you no matter how it turns out! And we’re cheering you on, too! Keep up the good work!


Still interested in leading a small group? We really are here to help!

We have a Sample PDF of Ponder Anew : A Hymn Journal of Trust and Confidence available for prospective small group leaders who would like to have something in hand during the invitation phase. The PDF includes

  • the front and back cover of the Ponder Anew hymn journal
  • the table of contents (including the titles of all 12 hymns)
  • an introduction to Hymn Journal Theology written by author Justin Rossow
  • “How to Use This Book” written by Lead Illustrator Valerie Matyas.

You even get the first two hymns: music, hymn cover art, Scripture, devotion, hymn lyrics, and visual experiment. The PDF is a great way to show your pastor, your future group members, or your Board of Education what the Hymn Journal entails.

Sign up here to receive the Sample PDF to share people you want to invite. We’ll add you to our list of small group leaders we resource. You can opt out at any time. We follow Jesus better when we follow Him together, and we want to resource your next step. Thanks for being part of the Next Step family!

Looking Ahead: Equipping the Leader: They Said Yes! Now What?


Featured image by Casey Bolt. Casey had a small group that met in person, and then online once shelter-in-place orders went into effect. The group wasn’t what she started out expecting, but it was still a real blessing to all who were involved!

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