As I recently led a workshop for a group of pastors and Bible study group leaders, the topic of optimal group size came up. One pastor asked, “What is the best size for a group?” My answer was “It depends.” It depends on a few factors, but generally, bigger groups aren’t better groups. While teaching a large group of adults (35, 50, 65+ people) can be a fun experience, it’s probably not the best option. Here are 3 reasons why bigger groups may not be better groups.
- Bigger groups provide camouflage. Large groups give people a place to hide out and remain on the fringe. People can attend and maintain anonymity, while the best thing that can happen is for them to get involved and build relationships.
- Bigger groups make it harder to find new leaders. One of the greatest fears people have is a fear of public speaking – that’s a fact. It takes a special Bible study leader to stand in front of a group of 50+ adults and teach the group. Many group members will say to themselves, “I could never do that.” But if the group was smaller in size, say 15-20 people, that feels like something that is doable. One way that churches grow is to start new groups, and a culture of very big groups can actually work against this important goal because you can’t start new groups without new leaders.
- Bigger groups must be highly organized. If a big group is going to be effective (and it can be – but those are rare) it must be highly organized to care for people. There must be a strong care group system in which people are placed into smaller groups for ongoing care and ministry. Care group leaders must be trained on how to properly care for people and how to follow up with absentees each week. Let’s face it – that doesn’t happen in most larger groups; the “goal” is mistakenly assumed to be “providing a place for everyone” or “being big.” A group with an average attendance of 50 people will have that many or more people who are absent (attendance is almost always 40-50% of enrollment). That’s a lot of people who need ongoing follow-up each week.