Planning growth group content for the year

  • Richard Sweatman
  • 17 January 2018

Dwight Eisenhower once said that plans are worthless, but planning is everything. As the organiser of D-Day in 1944, he should know. But does this truth apply to the humble ministry of leading a growth group? I think it does. Our week-by-week plan will inevitably have to change on the fly as studies run long or nights get cancelled, but the planning we do at the start of the year is indispensable. Planning gets us thinking about our group members and what material (under God) will best grow them this year.

So how should we approach this planning, and what makes a good study plan? Should we consider a verse-by-verse exploration of Jeremiah over 40 weeks, or a year of studies on all the hot topics in Christianity? Both of those options would make for an interesting experience, but you should consider some of the principles below as you sit down and plan your content for the year.

First of all, it’s worth talking this through with a few key people. Talk to your pastor about what they’d like you to be studying this year. Each church is a bit different in how much material is set by the pastor and how much is decided by the group leaders, but knowing this early can help you plan well. Your pastor can help you choose good books, topics and resources, and be better prepared to help you as needed during the year.

If you have a co-leader you should meet up early to plan together and share ideas about content. As well as ending up with better plans, this means they’ll be more engaged about sharing this ministry with you. If you have the opportunity you can ask group members what they would be interested in, but as the leader you should still be the one making final decisions.

Secondly, make sure the Bible is your main focus for the year. God’s word, along with his people, his Spirit and prayer, is his agent for change, so you want your group members to be studying the Bible regularly. Exploring topics or Christian books can be helpful, but should never be our main diet. In my experience I’ve consistently overestimated the impact of topical studies and underestimated the impact of exegetical studies in ministry.

Thirdly, have a go at writing your own studies at least a few times during the year. Quality pre-written studies are a useful tool and there are many good options on GoThereFor, but you should still consider writing your own. It might seem a daunting task, but the benefits of learning a passage deeply and teaching it to your group are worth it. It will not only be a great experience in itself, it will better equip you to prepare and lead pre-written studies at other times. By the end of the year you may even be able to get someone in your group to have a go at writing studies themselves.

With those big principles in mind, here’s a few practical tips on putting together a plan for the year, remembering that the plan itself might change, but the planning is indispensable.

  1. Include different parts of the Bible. All of God’s word is beneficial for teaching, so try to include both Old and New Testaments and different authors and genres. You will probably find that some people will thrive on particular genres such as poetry, epistles or narratives.
  2. Don’t always follow the preaching program. There are good things that come out of studying a passage before or after the Sunday sermon but it shouldn’t be your group’s only strategy. Studying other parts of the Bible means your group members are reading quantitatively more of the Bible over the year and are being better equipped to read the Bible for themselves.
  3. Consider topical or training studies at some point in the year. As you get to know your group you will likely discover potential growth areas in certain theological or ethical topics or ministry skills. Allow some space later in the year to run a few studies in these areas.
  4. Leave space for things like intro studies, dedicated weeks of prayer, holidays and unexpected cancellations.

Given those principles and tips, here is an example of a plan you might come up with for the year. It’s based around Australian school terms on the assumption that groups take a short break during holidays, but would be easy to adjust to other locations. A rough plan like this would be the basis for a more detailed week-by-week plan.





Intro study

Write my own

NT epistle, e.g. Colossians


Weekend away study on prayer

Write my own


Major OT prophet, e.g. Isaiah


Break for night of prayer halfway


Another intro/review study

Write my own

Infant narrative in Luke 1-2

Write my own

A short topical or skills series

Decide by end of term two; use pre-written or write my own if necessary


Follow the preaching series

Write my own (or see if the preacher can write it)

3-4 Psalms

Ask group members to write and lead

Notice how it is mainly Bible study with a mix of different genres and writing strategies. Some parts would be fairly familiar to your group members (e.g. Colossians) and others potentially new (e.g. Isaiah). What do you think of this example plan? And more importantly, what sort of plan will you come up with for your group this year?

Plans may and will change during the year, so you can’t be too fixated on them, but the process of planning will be of great benefit for your group. Hopefully God will use you and your planning to grow people in knowledge, character and skills over this coming year.