Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Three More Small Group Friendly Recipes

Due to popular demand, I am posting a few more recipes that are great for small groups and quick to prep.  All of these recipes can be done in a crock pot.  I have personally made each of these for small groups and have found them easy and popular.  What are your favorite recipes for small group gatherings?  

Original Taco Soup
--2 cans of kidney beans
--1 cans of pinto beans
--1 can black beans
--1 can of corn or some frozen corn
--1 large can of diced tomatoes
--1 can tomato sauce
--1 and 1/2 cup water
--1 can tomatoes and chilies (or separate can of chilies)
--1 packet taco seasoning
--1 packet ranch dressing mix
--1 lb browned ground turkey or hamburger
--shredded cheese, tortilla chips and sour cream for embellishment

The Directions:

--brown meat
--drain fat and add to crock pot stoneware insert
--sprinkle seasoning packets on top of meat
--drain and rinse the beans and add
--add the ENTIRE contents of the corn and tomato cans

cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5. I think the longer you cook soup, the better, so if you have the time, opt for cooking on low. Stir well, and serve with a handful of shredded cheese, tortilla chips and a dollop of sour cream.

Cranberry Chicken
1 bottle french dressing (8oz)
1 can whole cranberries
1 package onion soup mix (Lipton makes this in soup aisle)
6 or so chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)

Stir it all together in crock pot and cook on low for about 3 hours or until chicken is cooked through. Serve over rice.

(I doubled this recipe and cooked it for 5 hours to serve 15)

Soy Sauce and Beer Chicken Drumsticks

1 can of beer
1/2 c of soy sauce
3 tbsp of vinegar
2 tbsp of sugar
A few thick slices of ginger
Half a chopped yellow onion (cubes)
Chicken drumsticks or better yet Chicken wings

Dump into a large pot. Boil for 1-2 hours until the sauce thickens. OR cook on high for 4 hours in a crock pot. 

Beer tenderizes the chicken and helps flavors to sink in. Serve over rice.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How to Have an Excellent First Five Minutes of a Small Group Meeting

You may have read various studies or reports which find that people often make their first impressions of other people within the first 7 seconds to two minutes.  A whole industry has risen up around that concept coaching people how to do "power poses" and "strategic small talk".  All that is well and good if you want to "win friends and influence people" in the business world.

However, there may also be some wisdom in making the best of "the first few minutes" in the realm of small group ministry.  Most small groups are gatherings of people who do not know each other well yet.  Helping people to feel welcome, comfortable and relaxed is a huge goal of small group ministry.  Therefore, it's good to ask "What can we learn from those who have done some thinking about first impressions and strategic use of the first few minutes of a gathering?"  I've done some reading and reflection on just that topic!

The First Five Minutes of Arriving at a Gathering

1.     People need to feel welcome from the moment that they walk in the door.  Being greeted by a host (whether that person lives at the place where you are gathering or is just playing a host role) can be the first step in helping a person to feel at ease in coming to a group meeting.  If I am hosting a small group, I make sure that I am completely finished with any house prep and I avoid getting into any other conversations so that I am free to welcome people at the door.  The host should not be getting people drinks at this point.  You (or some other designated greeter) should be free to focus on welcoming people to the gathering.
       Being welcomed by an actual person who greets you with your name and says something along the lines of "So glad you could make it!" can make a world of difference to a person who might be feeling some nervousness about coming to an event.  If you are a hugger, then hug.  If you are a hand shaker, then shake the person's hand.  Whatever your style, I find that a smile and moment of eye contact are absolutely essential.

2.    Give new people something to do when they arrive.  It's often better to set out drinks or snacks for people to get themselves rather than to have the hosts disappear to the kitchen to get drinks for them, leaving them with nothing to do.  If you are having name tags, that can be a nice thing for people to give themselves to in those first awkward two minutes.  If chatting with people is the thing to do, then make a few quick introductions and make sure that there are people available to chat,  Some people will be served by being invited to help with something practical, like finishing setting up or arranging chairs.

3.     Try to start relatively on time.  It's the leader's job to be aware of the time so that participants don't have to.  Even if everyone is not there, you should honor people's time by getting started right around when you said that you would.  If you have social time built into your time, people should know that and come expecting that.

The First Five Minutes of the Actual Meeting

1.     If people are chatting before your meeting starts, give people a 1-2 minute warning before you actually start.  It will help people to wrap up their conversations and mentally prepare for gathering together as a group.

2.       If you are leading the meeting, once the group is gathered, take a second to look around the room and appreciate who is there before you start talking.  Remind yourself that the meeting is about the people who God has brought more than it is about the things that you want to talk about.  Having an attitude of gratitude for the people in the room will be reflected in your tone as you lead the group.

3.      Any group that does not know each other really well benefits from a brief round of introductions and an ice breaker.  Do not leave the ice breaker activity or question to the last minute.  Ice breakers actually matter a lot.  Think about the balance between light-heartedness and intimacy that you want as people introduce themselves and answer the ice-breaker question.  There is a difference between "What is your favorite ice cream?" and "Who was your hero growing up?" in terms of self-revelation and actually getting to know people.  It takes some thought to not go too inappropriately deep during introductions but also not be wasting everyone's time with random bits of information that don't help to build community.

4.     I find that a quick prayer helps to settle everyone and to make people more aware of God's presence.  It's okay to have a moment of quiet before the prayer.  Center yourself so that you are not just "speaking out a prayer of transition" but actually taking some time to talk to God and tell Him what you are wanting from Him.

I hope this has been helpful.  Please let me know if you have other ideas about how to have a great start to your small group meeting.