We are so excited to have you as a group leader! Groups provide a great space for people to connect, develop meaningful friendships, and grow in their walk with Jesus.
On this page you’ll find resources that will help you as you get started and as your group grows. If you have any questions, the best place to start is to connect with your section leader. They are here to support you and help you grow even more in the gifts God has given you.
We can’t wait to hear about all the awesome things God does in and through your group!
Check out these helpful tips as you plan your group.
As a group leader, you’ll have an opportunity to foster purposeful conversations, call out your group members’ gifts, and see lives changed. After looking over the checklist below, take some time to explore our list of ideas for your first group meeting, group dos and don’ts, and our ingredients for a successful small group.
Connect with Your Section Leader
Every group leader has an oversight called a section leader. They provide you with covering, encouragement, and coaching when needed. Please respond to your section leader when they reach out to contact you.
Your Section Leader is also the one who will train you on using Planning Center, the main resource used for organizing and maintaining your group’s roster and events.
Pick a Meeting Place
Determine an appropriate location for your group. Keep in mind privacy, noise level, and cleanliness. Don’t assume this has to be in your home! Local restaurants and coffee shops are often excellent neutral locations.
Set the Meeting Schedule
Determine when your group will meet and establish the length of your meetings. Be sure to update your list of upcoming group meetings in Planning Center (PCO) so your group members will be aware of upcoming or canceled meetings.
Determine Your Group Focus
Some groups focus on activities or common interests while others choose to read through a book of the Bible together or review the weekly sermon notes. Many groups use published materials to learn and grow. You can visit the Gateway Bookstore, Equip Library, Group Leaders Playlist to select Gateway-approved materials for your group! There is a wide selection to choose from.
Please respond to people interested in your group within 72 hours. This communicates value and excellence as you are a representative of Gateway Church.
Check out more details on responding to group inquiries under “Group Inquiries and Responses.”
Make it Easy for People
Think about who you are hoping to reach through your group and identify ways you can show hospitality. Also think about possible barriers for that particular group of people. For example, if you think your group might benefit from children’s ministry being available, check with your campus Groups pastor or Kids pastor about options for childcare reimbursement or mid-week children’s ministry.
Plan for Fun!
Don’t forget to plan for fun in your group to help enhance relationships. You could plan an activity at a new location, host a holiday party, celebrate each other’s birthdays, or host a game night!
Use Planning Center to report group attendance each time you meet.
Share Care Requests
If you or any of your group members are hurting, struggling to make ends meet, or experiencing major life events like a birth, an adoption, hospitalization, a life-altering illness, death, or bereavement, we’d like to be there for you. Use this form to contact us with a care request.
Have you thought about what you’ll do for your first group meeting? This is a great place to start!
Gateway’s Equip Library is a new online resource that hosts a series of classes designed to help people grow and become empowered in their walk with God. These spiritually rich and interactive classes are available for you or your group to engage with at your own pace and include videos, Scripture readings, and thought-provoking questions. If you have a Gateway App account, you can use that same login to get started. If not, create an account.
Planning Center will help you manage your members, plan events, take attendance, and share resources.
Log In to Groups
The first time you log in to Groups, you might need to create a password. On the login page, click Need a password? below the Go button.
Enter the email address your administrator used to set up your profile, then a verification code will be sent to that email address. After entering the code, you will be able to create a password and log in.
So Many Resources!
One of the best things about Planning Center is the abundance of support and help. The information provided here was taken directly from the Planning Center website. Along with basic instructions, you will find videos and informative articles and be able to ask questions online! Just click the question mark on the top right of your Groups page.
Select your group to see a list of your members. Some quick actions you can take on this page include emailing members or removing them from your group. You can also add new members. When someone wants to join your group, you receive an email. You can either respond via the link in that email or respond from Groups. All requests will show at the top of your member list.
Add a New Member
Membership requests will be visible on the administrative side of Groups, on the Groups page, and in the notifications tab. To review someone’s request, select View Message, and the message expands. Whether you add or remove a person, you can email them. You can send the email directly from your Groups page.
The Events tab shows you a calendar of upcoming events for your group along with some quick actions you can take on each event: Quickly report attendance, cancel past events, request RSVPs for upcoming events, and view responses. Select an event to see more details or edit the event.
Creating an Event
From the Calendar tab on the Main page or the Events tab on a Groups page, select Create new event. Add the name, date, and time of the event. Even choose how often the event will repeat as well as when it will end. Select More options to be taken to the Event page and update the description and location or select Create to update that information later.
- Choose a location from the dropdown and use Edit location to add a specific address. Or, if you don't know the address, drop a pin at your location.
- Preview what members or non-members will see on the Groups page.
- Enter the description for the event shown on the Groups page.
- Select Create event when you're finished, and your event will be added to the calendar!
Edit Your Events
Select the event from the list. This allows you to view more details like a map of the location or select Edit event to make changes. Edit any information then scroll to the bottom and Save. If your event repeats, choose to save only this event or all future events as well. While viewing your upcoming events, you can also send an event reminder to group members.
Cancel or Delete an Event
If your event is no longer taking place, you can update the calendar:
Delete an Event: This is permanent and removes all traces of the event from the calendar. If attendance was taken and visitors were listed, that information disappears as well.
Cancel an Event: Unless your event was created by mistake, this is usually the best option for events that aren't taking place. When you use this option, the event remains on the calendar (both online and in subscriptions) but is labeled as "Canceled" so members are aware.
To Cancel an Event
Scroll to the bottom of the event and choose Cancel Event. You can notify group members by checking the box and typing a reason to send to group members.
Choose Cancel Event again to finalize the change. The event will remain on the calendar; however, it will now have a line through it, and the attendance column shows Canceled. Everyone will see the event was scheduled but is no longer taking place.
*If you change your mind, this option allows you to undo your cancellation.
To Delete an Event
Scroll to the bottom of the event and select Delete. If your event repeats, choose to delete only this event or all future events as well. Keep in mind that deleting an event is a permanent action and cannot be undone.
Reports and Attendance
There are currently two different reports. The Overview report gives you a bird's eye view of how your group is doing as a whole.
The Attendance report gives you a closer look at the individuals in your group. When you take attendance, this report begins to populate.
On the group’s Events tab, select an event to record attendance. Events are listed in chronological order and show the date, name, and attendance if it's already been taken. Select Report Attendance to go to the roster.
Put a check next to members who were present and search for others who attended and want to be added as a member. Visitors appear at the bottom of the roster. Add a new visitor from the search bar. Select Submit Attendance Report to record attendance.
First Group Meeting Ideas
Use your first group gathering as a social time to allow members to get to know each other. Here are some ideas.
- Set a time to pray over your first meeting. You could even plan to do this with your section leader!
- Put out sticker name tags to help people learn each other’s names.
- As people arrive, let them know how glad you are to see them and introduce them to others in the group.
- Put an encouraging note or Bible verse on each chair.
- Provide snacks or order pizza.
- Invite members to bring a favorite snack to share.
- Put conversation-starting questions out on tables.
- Play a game that allows everyone to share a little about themselves.
- Make the first night a game night and invite members to bring their favorite games.
- Put together a list of songs to play in the background at the meeting.
- Give each person a postcard and ask them to write down one thing they’re hoping for with the group.
- No matter how many people show up to the first meeting, have fun!
Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind to help everyone in your group have a great time.
Group Dos and Don'ts
As you lead your group, ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom. If you are debating on doing something with your group, you can always reach out to your section leader for a second opinion. Here are some things to keep in mind.
- Do plan and communicate with your group in advance.
- Do look for ways to make it easy for people to engage.
- Do submit attendance each time your group meets.
- Do update Planning Center with the latest details on your group.
- Do use your group time to facilitate discussion.
- Do encourage group members to pray for each other.
- Don’t use group time for lecture-style teaching.
- Don’t cancel a meeting without letting everyone know.
- Don't worry if you don't have all the answers. It's okay to say, "I don't know, but let me find out."
Find out the key ingredients to help your group thrive.
Ingredients for a Successful Small GroupPray
- Pray for those you invited. Pray for their health, marriage, children—everything!
- Pray for upcoming group meetings.
- Pray during group meetings.
- Pray for group members whether they are present or not.
- Appoint greeters for your group.
- Introduce new group members to everyone.
- Honor people’s schedule and time.
- Before your group starts, think through how you would like to use the meeting time.
- You can choose to have a time of connection after your scheduled group time for those who want to stay a bit longer.
- Keep a watchful eye for people who wander to the corners of the room and stand alone.
- Make sure you have funny or interesting icebreakers. It’s not easy to recover from a bad start.
- Be prepared and expectant. God always shows up to a prepared and expectant atmosphere.
- Believe for God to move during your group meetings.
- Be sensitive to the fact that first-time visitors often come to a meeting with a ministry need.
- Don’t let your schedule inhibit you from the most important part of the meeting: ministering to the people!
- Minister in an orderly way.
- Train the members of your group to minister to others.
- Cast vision for the meeting.
- Cast vision for group growth.
- Invite group members to embrace the group vision.
Learn how to build a healthy foundation for group members to grow.
Healthy things grow! Cast vision early for the growth of your group members and leaders. Whether your group is a social, study, or serve group, create an atmosphere where people can grow in community and their relationship with God. Just remember ESP: encouragement, scripture, and prayer.
Everyone needs encouragement. Some people need to hear they’re doing a great job while others need to hear things are going to be okay.
Empower group members by calling out the potential you see in them. For example, if someone is a great gatherer, encourage them to invite people to the group or even lead a group of their own.
You could also ask group members to share the responsibility of providing snacks, welcoming guests, and leading the discussion time.
The Word is life-giving and needed to experience spiritual growth. You can have a Scripture of the day or share a verse the Lord has put on your heart. It doesn’t require preaching; it’s simply encouraging people with the Word.
Make prayer a priority. Prayer is instrumental in building genuine community within your group and making group members feel cared for, connected, and encouraged. Prayer creates a way for each group member to hear from God, believe what He says, and obey Him.
Explore answers to some frequently asked questions about leading a group.
Group Inquiries and Responses
Planning Center Online (PCO) is the administrative side of Church Center, the site used to search for your group. The information you submit for your group will be posted on the Gateway Groups webpage, along with a link to “Ask to join.”
Once they “Ask to join,” you’ll receive an email letting you know someone is interested in joining your group! Please respond to inquiries about your group within 72 hours. Here is an example of what your response could look like:
My name is [insert your name], and I’m the Group Leader for [name of your group]. Thank you for your interest in our group! We would love to have you join our community.
We meet [weekly/bi-weekly/monthly], on [day of the week] at [time]. Our next meeting will be [date]. We hope you can make it!
In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at [email or phone #].
[insert your name]
Feel free to add any additional details you think are important for new group members.
We recommend checking your group’s page on PCO regularly to ensure that none of the inquiry emails were sent to your spam folder by mistake.
If you have any questions about accessing and using PCO, please reach out to your Section Leader for further training.
FAQHow do I invite people to my group?
A personal invitation is the best way to bring people into your group. Social media is another great way to spread the word.Who should I invite to my group?
Don’t be afraid to invite the people already around you. Group members don’t have to attend Gateway Church.
- Invite your friends and people you meet at weekend services.
- Invite people you work with or your workout buddies.
- Invite parents of children on your child’s sports team.
- Invite people you volunteer with at church or in the community.
Reporting isn’t numbers; it’s stewardship. It helps us track the engagement level of each person in your group. If someone misses a few group meetings, a need may have arisen in their life. Gateway’s Care ministry team takes note of that. Community is the first step toward healing and growth, and we want everyone to feel connected and supported.How do I choose a curriculum?
Any small group study in the Gateway Bookstore or class in the Equip Library would be a good option. Remember, the goal for your group is to create a safe, welcoming place for people to grow together, no matter the curriculum or activity.