Covenanting has gotten a bad rep in small group circles as of late. Some believe if you covenant you’re revealing a lack of trust between group members. Others seem to be concerned that someone in the group may be hesitant to join the group if they have to agree to ANYTHING. And some just don’t want to have to discuss it with their group because it may cause friction early in group life.
Covenanting in small groups is essential as it gets everyone to commit to equal levels of responsibility and activity. Some of the benefits of covenanting as described by Serendipity House are:
A. It will give the group an agreed upon purpose/vision
B. It is a road map to get to destination
C. It is a framework for managing potential conflict
D. It creates healthy boundaries to function in
E. It eliminates unspoken expectations
You can relieve some tension if the group in involved agreeing to it. This should be a process that follows a step by step procedure that goes something like this:
Step 1: Share a completed covenant like the one above with the group. Toward the end of a group meeting give each member of the group a copy. Tell them why a covenant is necessary. Some of the important reasons for covenanting are, the group has an agreed upon purpose/vision, it is a road map to get to the destination, Christian community, it is a framework for managing potential conflict, it outlines healthy boundaries to function in, and it eliminates unspoken expectations. Ask them to look over the covenant in the upcoming week and that the entire group will agree to the covenant before it is finalized.
Step 2: Discuss each aspect of the covenant. When the group members come back the next week, spend this session discussing each aspect of the covenant. Reach each point of the covenant. When someone is hesitant about a point noted in the covenant ask them what concerns them about that. Ask the group what they believe will be lost if that aspect of the group covenant is dismissed.
Step 3: Work toward consensus. You may need to discuss the covenant agreement for three or four weeks before finalizing it. It may be necessary to rewrite some aspects of the covenant. That’s okay. But you don’t want to lose the parts of the covenant that will keep the group from accomplishing authentic redemptive community. These would include, Participation, Confidentiality, Support, and the Mission of the group.
Step 4: All group members agree to live out the expectations of the group covenant.