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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.