Thanks to 65 new followers of the blog this past week – welcome aboard! I’m glad you chose to be a part of this online learning community.
On Fridays I list links to blog posts and podcasts by other trusted sources. I hope you enjoy reading and/or listening to some of these resources that are sure to help you as you lead your group, or as you lead your church’s groups ministry.
It was announced yesterday in the media that NASA has discovered 7 new earth-sized planets orbiting a star that is about 40 light years from Earth. That sounds pretty close to me – just a quick run around the block, so to speak! At least it would be if we had warp drive or something else to get us there quickly. NASA has done some great work analyzing space. But that’s not the kind of space analysis I’m going to talk about today.
I’m currently working with a church in my area to do a detailed space analysis for them. The pastor is brand new to the church, and he’s trying to get a handle on where to lead the church’s groups ministry to go in the next six to twelve months. He invited me to partner with him and his church, and to help them understand their current and future options.
5 Reasons why a space analysis is a very good idea
A space analysis gives you a current snapshot of the church. Conducting a detailed space
analysis is like taking a family photo. You get a picture of the current state, and have something to look back at and reference as you grow and get older. A space analysis is good for a certain length of time, then it’s necessary to do it again and “take another picture.” Something I was able to quickly discern from the snapshot of the church’s Sunday School is that the adult groups have too large an age span. Some groups are for adults “age 30-90” – and that’s just too large a span! If you have groups with people more than 10 years apart in age, it’s time to start other groups.
A space analysis shows you where your growth potential is. As you conduct your space analysis, you will easily determine which classrooms have the most room for new members and guests. I always color code these rooms in green on my Excel chart. Green = “go.”
A space analysis shows you where you are out of space. A space analysis will help you see which groups need to be “split” or “franchised.” If a group is averaging close to 80% of the room’s capacity, or if the group is averaging over 80% of the room’s capacity, it’s in danger. I always color code these groups in red. Red = “urgent to address.”
A space analysis shows you where potential problems are. When a group has some room to grow, but not a lot of room, I color code that group orange. It’s a group that probably doesn’t need immediate action taken, but one that should be watched for another 30-90 days. It may go red or it may go green. Time will tell.
A space analysis helps you make informed decisions. A detailed space analysis can give you the ammunition you need to take to your deacons, elders, teachers, and anyone else who has a stake or a say in your church’s groups ministry. Numbers don’t lie. A good space analysis will give you the credibility to stand before the church and recommend different courses of action. The members will quickly see that you’ve done your homework, considered options, and are making a logical recommendation based on the best available data possible.
What to include in a space analysis
Create an Excel document
List all classes
Identify the occupants (preschoolers, children, students, adults)
Measure the room and calculate the square footage of each room
Divide #3 by the following: 15 square feet per teenager or adult; 25 square feet per child (these are per person square footage amounts that provide adequate space). This determines the maximum number of people each room should hold
Multiply #5 by 80%…this is when the room begins to feel like it’s out of space (growth tends to slow and cool down when groups are more than 80% full)
List the average attendance from every group in another column. Compare this to the number of people from your calculations in #5. If the two numbers are very close, color code the group “red.” If there is a large difference, color code the group “green.” If there seems to be a reasonable gap, color code the group “orange.”
If you’re handy with Excel like I am, you can enter formulas into a cell, then “paste special” and copy the formulas into other cells so that the entire Excel spreadsheet auto-fills the data. If you change one number, the rest of the cells are updated. It’s a handy way to always have the best data.
I hope this helps you think about how to perform a space analysis – and why you should do this at least annually.
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“Healthy things grow. Growing things change.” I heard a pastor I served with say that in a sermon once. The phrase stuck with me over the years. Now that I lead a Bible study group weekly, I want it to grow and attract new people. I want it to be a healthy group. But what would you do if your group actually declined this past year? What if you’ve done all you know to do, and growth still isn’t happening? Here are seven responses you might have when your group is shrinking:
Work harder – some group leaders would roll up their sleeves and go to work. They’d lead their group to contact potential new group members. They’d have a “can do” attitude. They’d be proactive. “Quit” is not in their vocabulary.
Give up – some group leaders allow discouragement to set in. They’d blame themselves for the decline (when in reality there may be many other factors besides their leadership that has caused the drop in numbers). Perhaps this is you right now.
Evaluateeverything– introspective group leaders are going to ask themselves the hard questions. They are going to evaluate their teaching style, the activities for fellowship that are offered each month, their group’s target demographic, and other things that may have contributed to the decline.
Pray more – in reality, all the work we do as group leaders is for the Lord. We work for Him. It’s his church, not ours. It makes sense to increase our prayer life when we face difficult times in ministry. Group leaders
Recognize God’s sovereignty – these group leaders do not have a fatalistic outlook, but do strongly believe that everything happens for a reason that is ordained by God. They trust that God is taking them through a downturn, but preparing the group for future expansion and growth. In other words, they don’t worry about it much.
Adjust where you can adjust – as you think through items 1-5 above, adjust your thinking, teaching, ministry, and more wherever it’s needed. Don’t be stiff necked and inflexible. Instead, maintain a teachable spirit.
Give people permission to leave – this is a hard one, but one that a mature group leader will do.
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Today’s teaching tip is called “Lights, Camera, Action!” When you hear those words, you probably think of the movies. And you’d be right.
After you have guided your group to study a section of Scripture, use the Lights, Camera, Action! activity to help them connect the main ideas and/or story to a movie they’ve seen. Tell your group members to identify one way the movie accurately portrayed the story or concept you’re studying; then identify one way the movie actually got it wrong.
You can turn this into a group activity if you wish, allowing people to pair up or form groups of 3-4 persons.
My friend and colleague Wayne Poling wrote a book many years ago titled Conducting Potential Sunday School Leader Training. The book is now out of print, but I managed to find a copy through Amazon. I was thrilled when the book arrived last week (it was in good shape).
Mondays on the blog are all about sharing a paragraph or two from a book on Christian education. Even though Wayne’s book is out of print, it contains great ideas for conducting ongoing potential worker training – something many churches have forgotten to do regularly.
Here is what Wayne has to say about the importance of engaging potential workers and turning them into regular ongoing volunteer leaders:
Invariably churches that consistently do effective Sunday School work train and equip their Sunday School leaders. No better place to begin can be found than with persons who have not yet determined where they would like to work in Sunday School. No better training can be offered than to help persons select an area in which they would most enjoy serving in Sunday School and then to equip them for service…Recall a trip during which you stayed in an unfamiliar house. Do you remember feeling insecure as you walked across a dark room in the middle of the night? You did not know what was ahead of you or what you might run into. Many new Sunday School workers feel that way. They suddenly find themselves tossed into a new place of service. Like waking up in the middle of the night, they do not know what to expect or where they are going. Prior to beginning their service, potential Sunday School workers need to be enlightened on what to expect in each area of Sunday School work. Instead of walking in fear, potential workers can walk in confidence, because they know what is expected of them.
Potential worker training gives people a chance to be trained from 4 weeks up to as many as one quarter. The potential worker gets to observe a real classroom and work with a designated leader/mentor. The result of potential worker training is normally a reduction in turnover and a more satisfied and prepared group leader.
Ask yourself some important questions:
Does my church have potential worker training?
Could I be the one to lead this kind of training for my church?
Am I willing to serve as a mentor/leader to someone who is considering becoming a group leader?
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Assimilating people into your Bible study group is one of the most important functions a group has. Dr. Thom Rainer’s research has demonstrated that people who only attend worship have a dropout rate of 83% in five years. However, if they get plugged into a Bible study group, make friends, and use their gifts in ministering to others, the converse is true.
To get us thinking about how to do a better job at assimilating people into our Bible study groups, use the ABC acronym to remember three important tasks:
Ask – Stop asking people to fill out information cards when they visit your group. Instead, fill out the information for them. Change your ask! Instead of asking the guest to fill out an information card, ask if you can enroll them on your group’s ministry roll. Explain they are not joining the church or committing any other way. Your goal is to get their key information recorded so that ministry to the person(s) can begin.
Bond – I like to do my own golf club repair. I frequently change out grips, and just last year I added extensions to each club in my bag. I select a bonding agent, attach the extension, and wha-la…when the bonding agent dries the new piece cannot be removed from the club – it’s on tight. Take that illustration and apply it to the guests who attend your Bible study. How can you help them bond to people in your group? Do you have assigned greeters whose job it is to make new people feel welcome? Do they sit with the guest? Do your greeters introduce guests to others in your group? Are your people wearing inexpensive stick-on nametags? All these things strengthen the bonding process.
Cultivate – This is an agrarian term, and it makes me think of a garden. The soil must be cultivated; the produce must be cultivated. That requires a level of ongoing energy and attention. To fail to cultivate invites disaster. If I fail to cultivate relationships with potential new members of my group, I invite disaster of a different type. The average guest is taking up to 18 months to join a church (that’s according to the book Membership Matters)! That means as a group leader, I must take a long-term approach and be sure to cultivate a relationship with each guest, even when I don’t see them for a while. They may be visiting other churches, and that’s OK. I just need to remind myself and my group members to reach out again and again and cultivate a relationship with the potential group member.
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