Join the Club! How to Start a Social Group

In a fast-paced world that seems to be powered by texting, emojis, and instant messaging, face-to-face social interactions are slowly being limited to the people you live and work with, and a few encounters with stranger while standing in line at the grocery store.

But as humans, we need that social interaction. Being around others and having meaningful conversations are essential to our overall health.  It helps to reduce depression, helps to improve brain health, and just lightens our moods and helps us to feel happier. One way to do that is to start a social group.

three women and one man - ecah playing hammered dulcimers and mountain dulcimers

It is all fine and good to have casual conversations with others, but sometimes we just crave interaction with those who have similar interests and passions. It is through these conversations we learn more and can grow stronger in that one area of our life.

You can easily start a social group that consists of just about any area of interest. For crafters, it could mean knitting, weaving, spinning, writing, and more. For outdoor enthusiasts it may include hiking, camping, hunting, or climbing. If your interests lie more within the simple life or self-reliance arena, it could mean gardening, beekeeping, or living off grid.

The biggest problem when you want to start a social group is finding others who have the same interest. In some cases, such as knitting, it wouldn’t be too difficult. But in others, such as history and rocks and minerals, it may not be quite as easy.

If you live in a large city, you may be able to find and join clubs that are already established. In more rural areas, those clubs may not exist. If this is the case, then maybe it’s time to start a social group.

five women that learned to start a social group

What Is a Social Group?

Like Shakespeare’s rose, social groups have many different names. Some are guilds, some associations, and others are just simply a group or a club. Regardless of the name, these are all still basically the same thing – a social group.

A social group is two or more people with a similar interest who meet on a regular basis.  The singular purpose could be for most any reason – crafting, sports, games, writing, reading, and others.

The Benefits

When you start a social group, it not only helps you to be healthier physically and emotionally, but it also benefits you in other ways.

In most cases, these groups are designed to broaden your knowledge of your passion, help you to learn other and different ways to approach it, and allows you the opportunity to improve your skill level.

You also have the opportunity to introduce your interests to others who have either never tried it, or have made unsuccessful attempts to learn.

My interest in weaving comes to mind when I write this. When I first started, the only experience I had with it was as a child when I received a potholder loom for Christmas one year. The next encounter came during a visit to an historical museum just south of us. During a tour of Melrose Plantation, my mom and I entered what I call the ‘Magic Room’ – but in reality, it was where the spinning and weaving was done.

In that room was a massive shaft loom and spinning wheel. I will never be able to tell you exactly what it was that caught my attention, but from the moment I first stepped across the threshold, I had fallen in love.

a 4-shaft loom with a red and white checked dishtowel being woven

I finally found a loom I could afford, but when it came to warping and weaving, even the best of the books and research were still lacking. After almost a year, I finally found a weaving shop in Lindale, Texas, which was a four-hour drive away.

As I walked in the door for the first time, I’m not sure if it was the anticipation of taking my first lesson or the warm and welcoming encouragement I received from the ladies in the shop – but weaving became one of my greatest passions.

All it took was being a member of the ‘club’ – even if it wasn’t a formal, established organization. Instead, it was talking with like-minded crafters who were willing to impart their wisdom.  

At one time, there was a weaving guild in Shreveport, but has long since dissolved. Unfortunately, this type of craft is a bit more difficult, as shaft style looms aren’t portable. However, pin looms, some tapestry looms, and frame looms are – so a Weaving Guild isn’t completely out of the question.

hands holding books at a book club

Considerations

If you are wanting to start a social group, there are a few considerations you will need to make:

The Focus

This would also be considered the purpose of the social club. To find your focus, determine what one thing that is a passion or interest to you and others, and build the club within those parameters.

Try to choose one focus. This prevents any confusion or having members who are only interested in one thing and not the other. For instance, instead of a crafting club (general), consider knitting, crochet, pin loom weaving, or yarn hooking (focused). Multiple focuses can also create confusion, and in the case of crafting, may become too expensive to purchase the supplies for all the different mediums.

There may be some exceptions to this rule. For instance, if gardening is your passion, some garden clubs design their monthly meetings around a single focus – flowers, vegetables, herbs, etc. However, it still has a main focus, which is gardening. IN some communities, some people narrow it down further and create social clubs which focus on only one aspect, such as herbs.

pink roses that signify how to start a social group as a garden club

Type (Formal vs Informal)

Type (Formal / Informal) – When you first start a social group, you need to determine what type it will be. There are two different types – formal, and informal. An informal social group is one where a circle of friends gather together on a regular basis to visit and focus on a craft. Other informal groups may not meet regularly, but still gather on occasion for a single purpose, such as canning and preserving foods

A formal social group is a bit more organized. Many formal clubs adopt Robert’s Rules of Order for their parliamentary procedures. In many cases, these clubs have elected officers and their meetings are a bit more controlled. They also have a list of rules and regulations that should be followed, and many charge a nominal membership fee.

Some formal social groups can take it to the next level and be locally, state and federally recognized. In this case, you will be required to have a tax identification number, elected officers, and follow the laws, rules and regulations of the governing board.

Garden clubs are a great example. At one point, I was a member of the Fleur di Lis Garden Club. As a group, we were also members of the Louisiana Garden Club Federation, which in turn was a member of the National Garden Clubs, Inc.  With each membership came more requirements to stay active. It also meant having more paperwork and accountability on the part of our group.

Understandably, an informal social group would be easier to create. However, if the group gets too large, shifting it to a more formal organization may help to control chaos, and improve the expectations of the members.

A Simple Life eWorkbook

Size

This is the number of people who will make up the social group, also called the Membership, and will be based on how many are interested in the group’s focus as well as the meeting location (more on this below).

Meeting Location

For a small group, you may consider hosting your social group ‘in house’. This may mean the club will always meet in your home, or rotate throughout the club’s membership, where each member will have an opportunity to host the group.

For larger groups, you may need to find a central meeting place. This can be a Community Center, Library, church, or other municipal, private, or public building that allows groups to meet in their location. Some places will offer their meeting rooms free of charge, but in some cases, there is a nominal rental fee. If so, this is when you may want to start considering membership dues to cover the cost.

a group of women sitting at tales at a group meeting

Membership Dues

If you do have expenses that are incurred, you will probably need to form a formal group. This allows you to elect officers – especially a trusted treasurer – to not only collect the money, but also be responsible for paying the bills. If your social group decides that you will be creating items for charities, such as knitting caps for a local NICU, or quilting or making throws for a nursing home, then there will be other expenses over and above dues. Although you can solicit donations from individuals for yarn, fabric scraps, and other supplies, at some point other items may need to be purchased.

a Join Us flyer for a new book club

Getting Started

To start a social group, you need to reach out to others with like-minded passions and interests. To begin with, this may just be one or two friends who love to socialize while working on a project.

If you are looking for more people to join, you may consider these options:

  • Word of Mouth
  • Flyers posted on public bulletin boards (churches, stores, etc.)
  • Advertisements placed in newspapers
  • Contact a newspaper editor to see if a PSA (Public Service Announcement) is an option, or if they are interested in doing an article on the newly formed group

Organization

A small, informal group of no more than 3 or 4 people need nothing more than a date, time and location. If you want to take it a bit further, such as offering snacks or a meal, consider asking each member to contribute.

If your group expands to more than five people, you may want to consider moving to a larger meeting place and adding more structure to the group. Discuss with the other members where the best location would be and ask for ideas on where you can meet.

a small gavel surrounded by a stack of books

As far as structure is concerned for medium-sized groups (6 to 12 people), you don’t necessarily need to draw up paperwork and follow Robert’s Rules of Order, but you do need to discuss and adopt certain rules and regulations. These could be simple, as in mind your manners, watch your language, no intimidation tactics or put downs, and being highly considerate of everyone, their personalities, and their knowledge (or lack thereof) of the focus on the group.

If your group expands even larger (15+ members), then you may want to consider electing officers, charging membership fees, and applying Robert’s Rules of Order, if for nothing else but to keep the group organized and efficient.

One benefit of having at the very least a designated leader of the group, and at best, a set of elected officers, is to keep dissention from ensuing.  If you have advertised the group in any way, you may have some who come to the meetings just for the social outlet, and not due to the club’s focus.

You may also have others who are there for the focus but tend to disrupt the meetings or become adversarial. In these cases, you want to have protocols in place to either pull the person aside for a friendly refresher course on the rules or ask them to leave the group.

an open calendar, blue vase with pink flowers

A Set Date, Time, and Place

Again, if there are only two or three of you, a social group can meet whenever and wherever all the members are available. But if your group grows too large, you want to have a set agenda. This allows all members to schedule the meetings.

First, talk with each member and determine the frequency you would like to meet. Find a day and time that works well for each one. You will also need to determine how often you want to meet. Some groups meet weekly, but for the most part a monthly meeting works best. This allows time for other pursuits and activities each member may have, such as work schedules and family time.

Once you have determined the frequency, the next step is to determine the place. If you love having guest over, then by all means offer to be the host. But to make it easier on all the members, you may want to consider allowing each one to host the meetings.

If you have a small group of just 3 or 4, then at the end of each meeting, ask if anyone is interested in hosting the next meeting. When they volunteer, just jot their name down by your calendar entry.

A monthly meeting place can also be determined by a bit of math. Determine the number of members and divide by 12. That will give you the number of meetings you will be expected to host. From there, pull out a yearly calendar, and ask each person to sign up for a specific month. If necessary, you can also write each month down on a separate piece of paper and put them all in a basket. Each member will draw the number of sheets they will be required to host, and those are the months they are assigned.

For instance, if you have 4 members in your group, each person would be required to host 3 different times. However, if you have 5 or 7 members in your group, you may want to consider other options.

Let’s look at 7 people in your group. Each member can host two different times, which leaves one month unaccounted. In this case, another member can volunteer to take the extra month, or you can choose a month for a ‘field trip’.

This can be as simple as meeting at a restaurant, or literally taking a field trip to a related place, such as a festival, museum, presentation, shopping trip, or some other outing.

a pitcher and glass of freshly made lemonade

Holding the First Meeting

This section will apply mostly to larger groups. Smaller groups can just wing it, as it these are considered very informal clubs. However, a larger group will require mores structure. Here are some tips to holding the first meeting:

Prior to the Meeting –

  • Locate and secure a meeting place
  • Determine the duties of each elected officer if these positions will be included
  • Determine any secondary positions and duties (set up and cleanup crew, refreshment provisions, etc.)
  • Set up chairs, tables, etc.
  • Set up a separate table for signup sheets
  • Place a copy of the rules, list of topics, and any other information at each place
  • Arrange for someone to offer a Welcome/Introduction speech
  • Set up a Refreshment Table (if they will be offered)
  • Assign a clean up crew for after the meeting
  • If desired, set up a separate area for hands on training, or a supply swap

During the Meeting –

  • Assign someone to offer a Call to Order/Prayer/Welcome/Introduction speech
  • Review the scope, focus, rules and regulations, membership fees, list of officers and duties, etc.
  • Explain the Order of each Meeting (opening message, topic, Q&A, etc.)
  • Assign a ‘Timer’ (someone who monitors the time for each activity)
  • Introduce potential Officers (to be elected at the 2nd meeting)
  • Form committees and subgroups (with explanations of the expectations and direction for each one)
  • Always allow for the opinions of each member. It may be helpful to have them fill out a Membership Form that provides for all their contact information, with a space to allow for their expectations of the social club

a knittingneedle with a project using green yarn

Keeping Your social Club Active

Regardless of whether you have 3 members or 100, there will be times when some people need to drop out of the group. This could be for financial reasons, lack of time or interest, or other reasons.

To keep the club active, you need to continually recruit members. Again, this can be done by any of the ways listed above.

To retain your membership, it helps to get each member actively involved. You may ask someone who has an extensive knowledge of the groups’ focus to give a talk, assign duties within their abilities, or encourage a socialization time before or after each meeting.

a group of people facing an outside pavillion

Join the Club! (Or at least Get One Started)

Socialization with others is a big part of maintaining our overall health and spreading our wings when it comes to our interests and passions. It also allows for us to have a chance to break away from our routines.

If you feel you are stuck in a rut or are tired of the social restrictions we have been under with the pandemic, now may be the time to escape the loneliness and interact with other like-minded people. One of the best ways to do that is to join a clu or start a social group of your own.

Start small. And as time passes, you may find yourself a part of a larger group who have the same interests and passions as you. And in the process, you may find yourself with a wider circle of friends and becoming a stronger part of your community!

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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