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.

3 Obstacles to Growing Groups in a Small Town

Few things frustrate me as much as trying to grow a groups’ ministry in a small town. What makes it worse is all the experts who seem to have groups’ ministry figured out. Somehow, they never seem to have to deal with the same obstacles that I have to deal with.

SmallGroupSmallTown

That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy groups. Quite the contrary, I’ve loved every group I’ve ever been a part of. But I’ve come to realize recruiting group leaders and group attenders comes with a lot of obstacles–obstacles that most books and blog posts aren’t going to talk about.

Obstacles like…

  • What do we do with the kids? That’s easy, right? Hire a babysitter because everyone in a small town has plenty of money to pay another ten to twenty dollars a week to attend a gathering that they’re already unsure about. I have a hard enough time trying to find a babysitter to watch my kids when I want to take my wife on a date. Now, I have to find one during the week.

Simple fix, bring the kids to group with you. What group leader wouldn’t want an extra ten to twelve kids tearing down their house? Overly dramatic? Maybe…maybe not. We’ve seen and heard about multiple things broke in homes, including a kid’s arm.

  • How do we find the time? For most people, living in a small town means a longer commute to work for both husband and wife. My wife drives 45 minutes each way. On the days she works, it’s not uncommon for her to arrive home after 6pm. That gives us about two hours to eat dinner, give the kids a bath, and do any homework before their bedtime. Good luck trying to fit a group into that window.

That scenario is not taking into consideration the times during the year when the kids are involved in extracurricular activities. And let’s be honest, if you don’t have your kids in at least one extracurricular activity, you’re the exception not the norm. In the spring, our six year old will be playing tee ball. That means two practices a week, and a game or two every Saturday for roughly three months. Which means I’m unavailable March, April, May, and part of June for All Stars.

  • What if someone weird shows up? I’m sure it doesn’t happen at your church, but weird people show up to my church. It’s kind of a side effect of being really nice to everyone and offering free doughnuts. If you need help identifying them, they’re usually the people who hang around after service to talk to the pastor. All the normal people tend to go home.

You may know them by different names such as: the really smelly guy, the woman who disguises gossip for prayer requests, the guy who looks like an 80’s porn star, and the kid who just devoured a dozen doughnuts.

Now you may be so holy that you can’t wait to wash Weirdo’s feet, but for the rest of us, we’re scared to death that they’re going to sign up for our group. By week two, it’s going to be just us and Smelly there because everyone else abandoned ship.

These are just a few of the obstacles I’ve been thinking through, but I’m sure there’s more. This has led me to ask myself, how much community do we really need? I mean we’re already more connected than ever before because of social media. Our families are involved in so many things. At what point are we asking too much of our people? How can we make sure groups are a blessing, and not a burden? That’s the question I’m trying to figure out.

Do you offer groups at your church? Do you think it’s working? I’d love to hear from some small town pastors who have figured this out.