I get a lot of questions. I love getting them and when possible, I love answering them individually. And sometimes they’re so representative of the questions many people have…I just have to answer them here.
Here’s one that I think will hit the needs of a lot of people. It came in last week.
In the last two years our 8 year old church has doubled in size and we average about 300 in weekly attendance, with about 170 adults and about half of those adults regularly attending a small group. Over the last two years our small group participation hasn’t grown at nearly the same rate as our Sunday morning attendance.
We want to do a better job of creating simpler steps for people to go from Sunday morning attendance to group participation. We’ve tried a few things that haven’t worked so well, and we’ve had little success integrating people into existing groups. Our greatest success has come from starting new groups in conjunction with a church-wide campaign.
Have you seen churches our size that have successfully led the overwhelming majority of their people into group life? If so, what about their system is working so well?
Great questions! Don’t you think? Here are a few observations:
- Keep in mind that as difficult as it is to come to church for the first time, it is often even scarier for a new person to go from the relative safety of the auditorium to a stranger’s living room. Be sure you’re building in on-campus connecting opportunities where new groups are formed (see Top 5 Advantages of New Groups and A Bias Toward New Groups).
- Easter adult attendance is a much better estimate of the total number of adults who consider your church to be their church. Although you might be averaging 170 adults on Sunday, it is a different 170 each week (see Clue #1 When Designing Your Small Group System for more).
- We say we need to create next steps for every attendee and first steps for their friends. The best way to create simpler steps for people to go from Sunday morning attendance to group participation is to understand who your customer is, know which customer your ministry is designed to connect and then make sure that your topic and strategy connect with that customer.
- What enables some churches to connect the “overwhelming majority” of their people to groups? There are a number of important factors. Without question, the senior pastor plays a critical role (see 5 Things Senior Pastors Need to Know about Small Group Ministry). Stay the course over the long run. Narrow your focus to avoid sideways energy. Steadfastly avoid the Top 10 Fantasies of Churches WITH Groups, which are all major stumbling blocks.
I can tell you that churches of all sizes are beginning to push beyond 100% connection. Is it easy? No. It takes commitment to the objective on the part of the whole team. It takes an unwavering laser focus. It is happening…but only in those churches that lock onto the target and never let up.