Why I Haven’t Given Up on Small Groups

If you’ve been following the blog for very long, you’ve probably noticed I have a love/hate relationship with small groups. For the ninety minutes or so I’m attending a group, I love it. Outside of those ninety minutes, I’ve tended to hate it more than anything. But over the past few months, I’m starting to have a Julia Stiles, Ten Things I Hate About You moment with it.

I hate the way you take up a free night

I hate it when the kids get in a fistfight

I hate it when no one wants to lead

Probably because they have an entire group to feed

I hate that I can’t find anyone to lead the ministry

And the fact that no one attends because of ball

But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you

Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.

Before I wrote blogs, I wrote poetry. My mom said I had a gift.

Regardless, the truth is, as much as I want to hate groups, I have to admit I need them.

And so do you.

Here’s why:

  1. Groups are a great way to evangelize.

Your neighbors may not be ready to come to church just yet, but they would attend a group focused around how to make their marriage better. Once they’re a part of your group, they make friendships, their marriage gets better, and they realize maybe they need Jesus.

  1. Groups can be great for discipleship.

I’ve discovered most people aren’t thinking about how to grow closer to God. They have too much going on already, and it gets pushed to the background, unless they’re part of a group that talks about it.

  1. Groups can be a great way to identify and train new leaders.

If someone can lead a successful group, there’s a good chance they can lead a ministry. If they can’t lead a successful group, then you know they probably shouldn’t be leading a ministry. Either way, you’ve discovered something very important without much risk.

The benefits of a healthy group ministry are tremendous. I hesitate to say it because of my past frustrations, but I almost think it’s vital to the health of your church.

And so, I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of work to do in this area because it may be the difference between a stagnant and a growing church.

On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate the small group ministry at your church? Do you have any frustrations? I’d love to hear about it, so leave a comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Is Your Church Average?

I’m a big fan of Tony Morgan. If you’re not familiar with him, Tony is a church consultant and blogger who started a company called The Unstuck Group that is dedicated to helping churches get healthy. Several years ago, we brought Tony into our church and his insight was incredible. I highly recommend it. This week I got an email from him with some interesting statistics.

averagechurch

Did you know the average church has…

  • 59% of people in small groups or studies?
  • 45% of people on volunteer teams?
  • 7% of people baptized each year?
  • $43 given by the average person each week?
  • 1 staff member for every 77 attendees?

It didn’t take long for me to realize that my church isn’t average. Here’s what our numbers look like this year.

  • 30% of people in small groups or studies.

It’s no secret that we’re not great at small groups. We’re working to get better, but the struggle is real.

  • 40% of people on volunteer teams.

We have some incredible volunteers, but it seems to be getting a little harder to get people to start serving. We are putting some plans in place to grow this number going into next year.

  • 10% of people baptized this year.

The number I’m most proud of. We continue to see above average numbers in baptisms each year. A big part of this was offering a creek baptism during the summer. Many people want to be baptized the same way their parents or grandparents were, and that means going down to the creek.

  • $17 given by the average person each week.

Giving has to be the struggle of every small town church. At least I hope it is, or we’re doing something wrong. We continue to look for ways to teach people about finances, budgeting, and the importance of supporting the local church.

  • 1 staff member for every 110 attendees.

When giving is lower, staffing ratios are bound to be higher. We would love to hire another two to three people right now, but the budget just won’t allow it. We need to look for ways to get creative with volunteer staff or unpaid interns.

Tony’s research was based on a survey with over 200 churches. That may seem like a large sample, but when you consider that there are more than 300,000 churches in America that hardly scratches the surface.

Either way my church isn’t average, and I bet yours isn’t either.

How does your church compare? Post your numbers in the comments below, and if you haven’t already make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on leadership, church growth, and more sent to your inbox each week.

Timing is Everything in Small Groups

I have a love/hate relationship with small groups. I love the community that comes from them, but I’m constantly frustrated on how hard it is to get people to show up. You can read more about my frustrations here, here, and here. But today’s post isn’t about venting my frustrations. It’s about timing, and when it comes to small groups, timing is everything.

all-by-myself

Last Fall I did a small group based around Andy Stanley’s sermon series “Staying in Love.” My wife and I love talking about marriage with other couples, and we’ve always had success getting people to show up. This group was no different. In fact, this group had so many couples sign up that we had to divide it into two different groups. It was a huge success.

Now, fast-forward a few months to this Spring, the month of May to be exact. My church launched a church-wide campaign around a series titled “From This Day Forward.” It was a five-week marriage series very similar to the group we had done in the Fall. My wife and I once again decided to host a group, only this time the results were much different. In fact no one showed up. Ok, one couple showed up one week, but that was it.

What happened? Did we suddenly lose all of our friends? Had people grown tired of talking about marriage? Were the snacks we offered not up to par with other groups? Possibly…but I think the more likely answer was bad timing.

Certain times are better for small groups than others. So, here are a few things you need to think about before scheduling your group.

  1. Time of the Year

Certain times of the year are busier than others. Plan on doing a group in December? Forget about it. Trying one over the summer? Good luck. I’ve found the best time of year for most people happens January to March and September to November. That just seems to be the sweet spot for small groups.

  1. Day of the Week

Weekends are generally off limits when it comes to group participation. People like their days off and try to keep them. The exception may be Sunday evenings. Some people who may have a history of going to church on Sunday evenings will be more likely to attend a group at that time, unless it’s football season, of course. Wednesday night is another good option. The other days of the week seem to be hit and miss depending on people’s schedules.

  1. Time of the Day

The biggest mistake I made with my group in May is scheduling it for Sunday afternoons right after service. I thought it made perfect sense. Why not eat lunch and talk about the message right after you’ve heard it? The problem is families do not like giving up their Sunday afternoons. When it comes to the time of day, evenings almost always work best.

When it comes to small groups, I’m not going to pretend I have all the answers. In fact I have very few answers. These are a few suggestions I would give to those starting out, but remember results may vary.

When have you found is the best time to launch groups? Let us know in the comments below, and if you haven’t already make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered straight to your inbox.