Today in my final post on important numbers for Bible study groups to consider, we’ll look at 3 new ones that play a role in helping groups grow and reach new people. For a quick reminder about the numbers I shared in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, come to my blog by clicking here and catch up!
Still More Numbers That Affect Your Bible Study Group
35 – In my leadership role at LifeWay Christian Resources, I once surveyed hundreds of group leaders and church staff leaders regarding how much actual teaching time group leaders really have. I discovered that the average group has 35 minutes in which the members are engaged in a study of the Scripture. That’s not a lot of time, so group leaders must be extremely focused when it comes time for them to guide the group’s study. It also means that savvy group leaders don’t have to study hours and hours a week so they can stand before their groups and speak about a passage of Scripture; that’s a big revelation for some group leaders who believe their role is to be presenters of information. If a group leader spends 5 minutes opening the group’s study time (a time for the group leader to generate interest in the study), and 5-10 minutes closing the study (helping group members connect the study to life today….answering the “so what?” question – so what does the Scripture have to do with me today?, that only leaves 20-25 minutes!! If a group leader has crafted three well-thought-out discussion questions, those will take the group an additional 15 minutes to talk through. And that, folks, only leaves 10 minutes! The trap many group leaders fall into is talking the entire time, monopolizing the time group members could be talking about key points in the Bible study, sharing stories, and working through their understanding of the biblical text. Too many Bible study groups look to the teacher as the expert, and some teachers inadvertently take on that role, believing they must be the ones who study and prepare and then present information to the group. I’d much rather see a group leader use the 35 minutes to guide discovery – helping group members to be actively engaged in the learning process. It’s better for them, and group members will remember more of the biblical text and application points if they are allowed to discuss, struggle with, and seek to apply the Scriptures. And if a teacher is going to really guide discovery, he doesn’t need to be a talking head.
3 – there are three essential stages to any good Bible study. Years ago I learned these as (1) motivation (2) examination (3) application. Each stage of study builds on the one that precedes it. During the motivation stage, group leaders must capture the interest and attention of group members, guiding them to study the Scripture. The examination stage is the time spent examining the Scripture passage(s). It includes the things the group leader says, and the things the group members do. The final stage of study is the application stage – where group leaders help group members think through and commit to a way to apply the lesson to their lives. Group leaders who have a balanced approach to their Bible study time, and who incorporate all 3 of these essential stages, help their groups grow by providing sound, interesting, and balanced studies that fully engage group members and give them practical ways to live out the Bible’s teachings.
50 – 50% of group members are in attendance on almost any given time groups get together for study. A group with an average attendance of 15 most likely has 30 people on the group’s membership list. A group that averages 30 in attendance probably has 60 people on role, maybe a few more. The percentage may vary just a little bit, but it will be very close to 50%. This has two implications: to grow your group, increase your membership. As your membership increases, so will your average attendance – it’s simply a fact of life and the way the “groups universe” works. Second, because 50% of your group members are not present each time you gather together, you’ve got a lot of work to do to reach out to the absentees! That’s a pretty good argument for keeping groups smaller – and not having massive “pastor’s classes” that have 50, 75, or 100 people in attendance – think about the inreach needed to follow up on absentees each week! I prefer to have groups with a maximum attendance of 20 because that means they have 40 people on the class membership role, and plenty of follow-up with absentees that must take place each week.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the last three posts about numbers. They really do matter, and they have an impact on groups. Savvy group leaders and church staff will take advantage of all the numbers I’ve mentioned to maximize their group’s opportunities for growth.