Most Bible study groups don’t relish the thought of “splitting” and starting a new group. Over the years people have tried to put a positive spin on it by telling group leaders and members to “start a new unit” or “start a granddaughter class” or even “franchise your group.” Call it what you will, people who are in the group don’t always like the idea of change. In fact, talking group leaders and their group members into starting new groups is one of the hardest things a church will ever do!
There are some things you can do that will help this hurt less when the time comes to birth a new group. Starting a new group is often painful, but here are some ways to birth one without using drugs:
- Establish this as an expectation when the group forms. When a Bible study group first comes together, make certain that the group leader and the group members understand that a goal for the group is to get to the point it can start another one. If you do this, there are no surprises when the conversations begin about starting a new group. If your church utilizes a leader covenant, consider writing this into it. New leaders will come on board only if they agree to use their influence to start a new group at some time in the future.
- Make sure the group has an apprentice leader. One of the indicators that a group is going to ultimately “split” and start another one is the presence of an apprentice leader who regularly leads the Bible study. If there is just one regular teacher/leader, this will send a subtle signal that the group is supposed to relate to him as their leader. Having a teaching team allows people to experience different teaching styles, and people begin to gravitate to one of the multiple leaders. When that person leaves the group to start another one, he will naturally pull people with him to help launch the new group.
- Regularly showcase groups that start new ones. A wise church leadership team will regularly put group leaders and their groups in front of the church when they birth a new one. It is the perfect time to celebrate the start of a new group, and it sends a powerful message to the church family that this is something very important to the pastor, staff, and church at large.
- Let proximity help reduce anxiety. If your church’s facility allows for it, let a “parent” class be in close proximity to its “daughter” class. When people are able to still see one another and visit before and after the two group’s Bible studies, anxiety is often reduced because they still see one another. People may feel out of sorts because they feel the loss of relationships that are dear to them, so keeping them in close proximity can really help.