How to Start a Support Group

Suppose that some women from your local church Women’s Ministries group came to you as the Women’s Ministries director and asked for help in starting a support group for them. They may be divorced women, overweight women, grieving women, women whose adult children have left the church, parenting women—there are many possibilities. What do you do?

Some suggestions:

  • Pray for guidance.
  • Ask other interested persons to help you in framing up the plan.
  • Involve the pastor. Be sure he/she knows of your plans and ask for his/her advice or support.
  • Choose a leader.
  • If necessary, obtain permission from the Church Board.
  • Set the time and place for your first meeting.
  • Study the needs of the group. What type of support do they need?

Plan the content of your program:

  • Arrange for a speaker, facilitator, or activity.
  • Include a devotional thought and prayer.
  • Arrange for someone to open the room and take care of lights, room temperature, seating, etc.
  • Arrange for equipment such as projectors, public address systems, overhead projectors, paper, and pencils needed during the meeting.
  • Provide refreshments if desired.
  • If the meeting will involve parents with children, arrange for childcare.
  • Remember to clean up after the meeting.
  • Advertise your first meeting. Use every means you can over and over—telling people something just once does not work any more.

Evaluate. After the meeting, meet with the leaders and discuss what went well. What needs to be planned before the next meeting? What needs to be changed? Make notes and discuss with your committee or assistants so you don’t forget.

How to Start a Divorce Recovery Group

The purpose of divorce recovery groups is to provide information, support, and friends who will listen without criticizing. This suggested format is one that provides an opportunity to grow, share, and heal in an informative and supportive environment.

  • Form a group of 10-11 people (maximum) who are seeking support through/after divorce.
  • The first hour of the meeting is informative.
  • The second hour is spent with an experienced facilitator (leader). This is support, not therapy.
  • Topics for discussions that have been the most helpful in these groups are:
    1. Accepting the reality of divorce and discussing the grief process
    2. Coping with loss and coping mechanisms available.
    3. A new sense of family, helping the children cope.
    4. Forgiveness—the importance of being honest in the relationship.
    5. Loneliness, dating, and intimacy in new relationships.


  • Provide opportunities for fellowship
  • Provide communication opportunities
  • Maintain a biblical perspective
  • Have an accepting attitude toward all
  • Speak in a basic language so that all can understand
  • Maintain confidentiality


  • Allow gossiping or complaining
  • Promote or allow prejudice
  • Be cliquish
  • Waste time
  • Stray from the planned subject
  • Label people
  • Be judgmental

Source: Pastors' and Elders' Handbook for Women's Ministries, p. 62.



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