What is a support group?
Look at Webster's definitions for the word SUPPORT:
- to hold up or serve as a foundation or prop for
- to keep from fainting, yielding, or losing courage
- to keep (something) going
Incorporating these definitions, we can say that a support group is
a meeting of people coming alongside of each other to help keep each other going .... to help each other maintain a healthy ability to function ... so as not to cave in to or lose courage in the face of their suffering
Certainly this would include elements of encouraging, admonishing, comforting, and assisting one another. All believers are called upon to come alongside of each other in this way. A support group is a small group of people who intentionally gather on a regular basis to ensure this happens in their lives in ways and doses that might not naturally occur.
Usually the participants are going through similar difficulties. They may all be grieving due to a loss they have suffered. They may have experienced abuse or gone through divorce. They may be struggling with addictive behavior. Support groups should target in on a specific need so people can find points of identification with one another.
What makes a support group different from other small groups?
A support group, like any small group, should number no more than 12 people in size for optimal effectiveness, but has a distinctive purpose that sets it apart --that of bolstering those who are suffering or struggling, with compassion and unconditional acceptance.
While Bible study may be a part of the program, it is not primarily a Bible study group. While prayer should be a part of the process, it is not primarily a prayer group. While a witness of Christ should be maintained, it is not primarily an evangelistic event.
Who will tend to go to a support group?
- those who feel isolated in their suffering and need to know they are not alone in their struggles
- those who feel lonely and need someone to talk with who will understand
Where should the support group meet?
Meeting in a home will provide the most relaxed and non-threatening atmosphere.
Meeting in a church could be threatening to unbelievers and will give a more formal feeling to the meeting.
Meeting in a community building would be less threatening to unbelievers but will still give a more formal feeling to the meeting.
The content on this page is included in the People Helping Ministry Manual along with encouragement to develop a referral list to give to group members should they need help outside of the support group.
- What should happen during a support group?
- What are essential elements in a good support group?
- Who can facilitate a support group & what should the facilitator do?
- Support Groups as a Shepherding Venue
- Support Groups Resources