Here’s a growth axiom you can take to the bank. Whether you are pastoring a (large, medium, or small) church…leading a youth group…overseeing a music ministry…or involved with any other aspect of a church in which you believe God desires growth, it is just about guaranteed. Here it is:
New Units = New Growth
It’s a proven principle. New Sunday school classes attract new people. New small groups involve new people. New worship services connect with new people. New churches reach new people.
Why It Works
The most common application of this principle is in starting new groups. Here is why the strategy of starting new groups is so predictably successful:
- New groups respond to human need. In long-established groups, members just like to be together. Relationships have become the primary value. And that’s good. But, often such groups lose their outward-focus and no longer contribute to the growth of the church. Starting a new group focuses on a specific human need(s) and how the new group will meet that need. Starting new groups directs a church’s focus outward.
- New groups involve new people. Because new groups focus on meeting needs, those who were not previously involved in a group are much more likely to sign up if the new group addresses their need. And, the more important the need of the prospective attendee, the more likely he/she will take the risk of joining the new group.
- New groups assimilate people. The research is clear: The #1 reason people drop out of church is a lack of friendships—the average active member has seven, the average drop-out has two. Friendship is the “glue” that keeps people involved. The best way to make new friends in church is to be involved in a small group. And people with friends…stay.
- New groups solve the “saturation” problem. Here’s another fascinating insight from research: Every small group has a “saturation point.” Just like a saturated sponge that can no longer hold any more water, groups become saturated to where they can no longer hold any more members. Approximately 90% of all groups saturate after two years together. So, if all or most of the groups in your church have been together for over two years, you urgently need to start new groups!
Below is a “template”—in the form of ten questions—that will help you successfully start new groups. When you can answer these questions, you will be well on your way toward new growth through new groups. And, by the way, when your new groups are focused on connecting with UNCHURCHED people, you will have taken a giant step toward greater outreach, as well. (See my article on “side doors” for more on this topic.)
How to Start a New Group
1. Who is our target audience?
2. What kind of group would best meet their needs?
3. How will potential group members be identified?
4. What are the specific goals of the group?
5. Who will lead the group?
6. Will training be necessary for the leader? If so, how will it occur?
7. How will we publicize the group and attract visitors?
8. When and where will the group meet?
9. What support will the group and leader need to assure success?
10. How will this group contribute to the purpose of our church?
New What Else?
The principle of starting new units is like pixie-dust. New groups? It works! New classes? It works! New services? It works! New churches? It works!
Here’s one more mind-stretcher. If you are in a church of 50-75+ average worship attendance, consider the possibility of starting a new site! “Multi-site” is a rather new idea on the American church landscape, but simply refers to one church meeting in multiple locations. It’s another application of our “new units = new growth” principle.
The multi-site idea has traditionally been a strategy of larger churches (1000+). But I would urge readers to consider the idea of adding a new site … even if you have just 50 people in your present worship service. I was recently invited by Warren Bird of Leadership Network, to chat on this topic. Here’s a link to their 8-minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FL7zqOOsN8A&feature=youtu.be
(For more helpful tips on effective small groups, see Chapter 5 in the new book, What Every Pastor Should Know.)
photo credit: Dendroica cerulea