I never thought I’d be writing a post about this topic. Through the years I’ve experienced success in launching new Bible study groups and seeing the churches I served grow (and in one church grow exponentially), but my wife and I recently launched a new Sunday School group (LIFE Group, at our current church) and the group hasn’t grown quite as much as I’d like.
I’ve realized that starting new groups isn’t easy. I haven’t experienced the Kevin Costner “field of dreams” scenario of “If you build it, they will come.” We’ve been working faithfully since last October to add new members to the group, and we’ve hit a wall in the 8-10 person range. I study and prepare every week, vary my teaching style, and we’ve had regular group fellowships. So far, we’ve plateaued. We’d like to move forward and grow. We want more people.
Here are several things to do when the group you lead isn’t growing:
- Consider the size of the place you meet. Growth of groups can be limited by the space itself. Are there people in more than 80% of the chairs? If yes, then that could be limiting your group’s growth.
- Evaluate the place where your group meets. Is there clear signage? Is there adequate lighting? Are the hallways and classroom walls in good shape? Do you have the equipment and supplies you need to lead an effective Bible study? Is there anything to keep a guest from wanting to come to your location?
- Look at the Bible study materials you have chosen. Is there something that your group members just don’t like about your current study materials? Are you studying a topic that just isn’t meeting their needs? Perhaps they’ve bailed until the study is over. Only you will know how to answer this for your group. If the answer is yes, the materials might be the problem, then change!
- Evaluate yourself. Ouch. This is a hard one! It could be your teaching style or your leadership of the group that just isn’t hitting on all cylinders. If it is, then make adjustments. If you are unable or unwilling, step aside and let another person teach and lead the group. Perhaps you could assume a different role in the group.
- Ask your group members. They may have their own ideas and could give you good input as to what they see as the main challenges facing your lack of growth. Just ask.
- Press on. No one said this was going to be easy. If it was, everyone could start a new group. Truth is, most churches are not starting near enough new groups to keep up with the people they lose every year. Guests will tend to “stick” better in a newer group that isn’t as old and established as other classes. The answer to your dilemma may be to reinvest your time and energy into the group and simply keep plowing. Go back to your original prospects, be aggressive in looking for new group members in your church’s worship services, and ask your church staff for a list of people who’ve dropped off the radar of other groups and go reclaim them (if the other groups aren’t actively pursuing them!).
- Pray. You know that God wants your group to reach new people, especially the unconnected people who live in your community. Ask God to give you energy, encouragement, and new group members.