In my last blog post, I began a conversation about how important some numbers can be to Bible study groups. Today we continue that conversation by looking at a few more numbers that can impact a group’s ability to grow and reach new people.
As a quick refresher, the three numbers I mentioned in the last post are:
24 – once groups have been together for 24 months or more, they tend to be hard to break into by newer group members; that’s why it’s always good to be proactive in starting new groups – they tend to be places where people can connect with each other much faster than in a group that’s been together for a long time.
15 – adults require about 15 square feet of space per person. If your classroom or meeting place is too small, it will inhibit your ability to grow.
1 – groups need a prospect list – you must have new people to approach about becoming members of the group. This is where the number 1 comes into play. It’s recommended that you have a 1:1 ratio – one prospect for every member of the group. Invite them to the group’s study, invite them to fellowships, and be sure to send them regular communications that go out to your group members.
EVEN MORE NUMBERS THAT NEED YOUR ATTENTION
48 – studies have proven that the faster a group reaches out to guests, a higher percentage of them return the following week; groups should have a goal of contacting all guests within the first 48 hours of the visit. As time lapses after the initial visit, the likelihood the person will return for a second visit decreases. This should be a wake-up call to groups and group leaders – and something they can work diligently to improve upon. A good goal to shoot for would be to contact every guest within the first 24 hours, but certainly no later than 48 hours after their visit.
10 – every new group that is properly started reaches 10 people on average. When I launched my new group at my church, it started out by reaching 6-8 people. Over the past two years, attendance has grown to an average of 15. I’ve experienced the truism that new groups reach 10 people on average. If a church desired to grow its Bible study ministry by 50 people in one year, it would start by launching at least 5 new groups. To make certain that it had a net growth of 50 people, it would probably need to start an additional group or two for a total of 7 new groups to account for the natural “churn,” the decrease that takes place as people leave the church over the course of the year.
18 – according to the book Membership Matters, people are taking on average 18 months to join a church. I had a hard time believing this number – until I moved to a new city and experienced firsthand the challenges of finding a new church and a new Bible study group to call home. My family took 12 months to find the church we believed God was leading us to join (which was a lot longer than I thought it would take). Diligence and consistent follow-up are key to helping guests connect with your church and Bible study group. You must remember to continue to reach out to guests who once visited your group – don’t give up on them – because they are taking their time in making a decision about which church to join.
1 – every member of the Bible study group needs a copy of their own PSG (personal study guide) – 1 PSG per person. Some churches, in an attempt to save money, have either eliminated them altogether, or have cut back their orders, giving couples only one PSG to share. In my 20 years of education ministry leadership in the local church, I always provided one PSG per person. By providing one PSG per person, a church sends a signal that personal Bible study is important, and group leaders can use the PSGs in class to engage their members in active study. It also communicates to the church and its guests that the church staff has a plan for wisely discipling its people – no haram-scaram schizophrenic approach to selecting topics and Scripture passages to study – no “just pick and study whatever you want, Mr. group leader”; instead, a wisely chosen scope and sequence (the topics covered, and in what order) is communicated and followed, giving balance over time to people’s study of the Bible.
20 – churches should order extra PSGs (personal study guides) for the guests who will come to Bible study groups over the course of several months. Additional PSGs (20% beyond the group’s average attendance) are needed. This makes sure that guests can fully participate in the group experience, and it helps all group members and guests study and prepare to participate in upcoming studies. By keeping the number 20 in mind, a church that orders 20% more PSGs is well-prepared to help guests feel like they were expected and wanted. My wife and I have visited groups where additional PSGs were not available, and we felt left like outsiders who temporarily listened in on the regular attenders’ conversations about things in their PSGs. It’s not a good feeling!
In part 3 of this series, I’ll share a few final numbers that you should pay close attention to if you want to grow your group!