I’ve noticed an epidemic recently… leaders and church members who are realizing that their church is not growing, spiritually or numerically! People are mentioning to me almost everywhere I go that they are struggling to either keep their church from dying, or they are plateaued and can not seem to get their church growing. They often ask for ideas…
In every circumstance that I have encountered I have asked the same question: “Have you started any new groups lately?” So far, in every occasion their head goes down and they mumble something I can’t quite hear… in other words – No.
New groups are absolutely essential to growing a church spiritually and numerically. There are both organizational and spiritual reasons why this is true. Let’s look at the organization side first.
Although many group leaders or Sunday School teachers may not understand it, most of your church’s groups are already full, and it has more to do with the ability of the group leaders and simple human nature than it does the size of the room or home. Most leaders can only adequately handle a certain amount of people. Jesus had a small group of 12. Most of our leaders have more people to care for and lead than 12 people (you can read whatever you want to here, but yeah… that’s what I’m saying).
But basically, a group grows to a certain size and stops growing. You just can’t have deep interpersonal connections with 50 people at a time. Plus, the leader can only minister to a small group of people. My experience has been that once a group grows to the size of the leader’s abilities, the group stops growing.
The Rule of 10
Another issue regarding organization is that most churches will average about 10 people per group. Simply divide your church’s average Sunday School or small group attendance by the total number of groups to get your average. Okay, it may be 9.2 or 10.6, but work with me here, it’s going to be close to 10 people. So if your church wants to grow in attendance by 100 people next year, you’re talking 10 new groups.
On the spiritual side, starting new groups actually makes the church do some things that it has not been doing beforehand. For example:
- A new group requires the church to enlist and equip a new leader to lead the group.
- It requires some group members to leave the comfort of their current relationships and step out in faith to join the new group and make new friends.
- People who are not attending a group and receiving discipleship become involved in the group.
- Smaller groups almost always have better personal discipleship occurring.
- The entire church benefits when more people are involved in leadership and more people are reached for the Gospel.
I have visited recently with several small groups directors and education ministers of growing churches. They have all agreed wholeheartedly that in their church, the following two statements are true:
- Most of the church’s small groups or Sunday School classes are NOT growing;
- Virtually all of their church’s growth is happening in NEW groups.
20 years ago, programs and events took over many of our churches. Although I believe that churches need to offer these ministries, they are not the best way to reach and keep new believers. New groups are still the key to a consistently growing, evangelistic church.
Personal Exercise – Dream how many new people you would like to see in your church next year (how many people do you want to grow in attendance). Divide that number by 10… That’s how many new groups you need…
So how about let’s start some new groups…!