Leading a support group can seem like an overwhelming task, but follow along with this simple checklist to cover all of the administrative tasks, and it will run much smoother down the road.
 Purpose of your group. Sit down and work on a mission statement of 1-2 sentences so you understand what your actual goal is for the group.
 Group description. What exactly is the problem people are dealing with and how do you intend to try to help fix it through your support group?
 Personal motives. Take some time to ask yourself “Why do I feel I am the one to lead this group?” Make sure you really want to do it, and are not just saying yes to someone because you’ll feel guilty saying now, nor because you are seeking personal glory.
 Approval requirements. Do you need to get formal approval from a higher source before starting your group, such as a health organization? If so, have you received it?
 Group’s life expectancy. What do you see as the life of your group? Do you hope it will meet indefinitely until the need fades away, growing and changing as members define it? Or would you rather ask that people commit to the group for a certain amount of time, like four months, and then recommit if they still want to attend?
 Meeting frequency. How often do you plan to meet; weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly? Take into consider the schedules and lifestyles of your members. Would you prefer to have seventy percent attend one time a month or thirty percent of the member attend twice a month?
 Group outline. How will the time at your meeting be filled? Do you wish to have time allotted for people to share, pray, or network? Do you plan to go through a study or will you have speakers from your community come to share their expertise? What is your preference and your attendees?
 Location. Where will your group meet? Will it be a short driving distance for most people? Is it accessible for people with disabilities? Is the atmosphere comfortable or will members feel intimidated? It the lighting good? If it’s in a large building, like a hospital, will there be signs to make sure people don’t get lost? Will a receptionist know when and where your group meets? Do they know where to park and will there be a fee for parking?
 Attendance. Is it open or closed? Is anyone welcome at any time? Are new members welcome during a certain time period? Is membership from another organization required to qualify? For example, if it’s an illness support group in a church do participants have to attend the church?
 Activities. Will the group be having parties, picnics, or time with family members? About how frequently?
 Guests. Can family members or friends come to the meetings? If the answer is yes, is this okay with other members? Is all right on occasion only, or on a regular basis?
 Projects. Do the attendees of you group want to be involved in activities outside of the support group meeting that help others? For example, would your group be open to delivering care packages for people who are home-bound, or would they want to have a Christmas party for children who have chronically ill parents?
 Policies. Have you written up some basic guidelines for the group? They should contain: a privacy statement, the expectation that everyone will be treated respect, how to handle conflicts, that the group is not for commercial use, etc. If you are an illness support group, you may want to be specific about how you will handle alternative treatment discussions and people’s desire to share their most recent “cure.”
 Handouts. What brochures or other educational pieces will you have available? Can anyone bring handouts? Do they need approved in advance?
 Exchange of personal information. Do group members want their address, phone and/or emails distributed to other members as a directory to do they want it to remain private and give it out to people on a need to know basis?
 Promotion. What are your plans for letting people know about your group? If your group is formed under an organization, what forms of advertising are acceptable? For example, a classified in the local paper? An announcement in the calendar section of the paper? Flyers? Is there anything not allowed that you should be aware of and do the promotional pieces need approval?
 Media exposure. Can you write a press release? If not, ask around to find someone qualified. Tell them about your meetings and purpose. Many people have past journalism, writing, or public relations experience that can help.
 Videotaping or photos. Will your group allow you to videotape the sessions so people who cannot attend can enjoy hearing special speakers, etc. When should the camera be on? Off? Do they need to sign a release? Will any of it be posted online? Will they allow photos for the media?
 What promotional pieces do you need and who will design them? Posters, flyers, business cards, and stickers, can all be helpful.
 Online communication. Does your group wish to have a “hub” online to exchange information or encourage one another? Do they want something simple, like just email exchanges, or a social network setting available through a source like Ning?
 Online web site. It’s easy to set up a simple web site using free blog software online. This can be a great place to post your groups’ calendar of events, links of resources, announcements, etc. You can also share online information with your group from other organizations and web sites as well. Use RSS feeds, links to online radio programs, and more. This can quickly give your group the support that they may need that you may not be able to provide on our own.
About the Author:
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visit Lisa Copen’s chronic illness and pain support social network for leaders of support groups. Be prepared for the hurdles. Read Lisa’s book, ‘So You Want to Start a Chronic Illness Pain Ministry: 10 Essentials to Make it Work” at Comfort Zone Books