When McDonald’s built its first restaurant, it didn’t tear it down and build a bigger one on the same spot in order to reach more customers. Instead, it built a second one some distance from the first one. Wal-Mart did the same thing, as did Jiffy Lube, Burger King, JC Penney, and any other company you can think of. Exponential growth took place in all of these companies because they established new buildings, trained new teams, and opened their doors to the public.
We haven’t learned this lesson in the church – let’s face it, we’re kind of slow about such things. Oh, some churches get it, to be sure. They have learned the value of starting new groups, and it’s become part of their DNA. Other churches, however, have adopted the “let’s tear it down and build a bigger one” mentality when it comes to class growth. Rather than starting new groups, people lobby for the pastor to “move our group to a bigger room.” The lack of “franchising” Bible study groups has cost the church much needed growth today.
Here are three reasons why it’s a good idea to develop a culture in your church that responds positively to the starting of new groups:
- New groups can reach underserved people. Every church’s Bible teaching ministry (call it Sunday school, LIFE groups, or whatever other term you like) has gaps. There are some people who simply don’t have a great place to attend a Bible study – one doesn’t exist for them. Perhaps they are single women whose husbands won’t attend church. Maybe it’s a career single who is too old for the college group, but isn’t married yet and doesn’t fit the young married’s class you have to offer. Could it be that you’ve forgotten to reach empty nest adults? What about widowers? The list could go on. Just look around your congregation and community to see what kinds of people wouldn’t have a place just for them should they come to your church to study the Bible with others. New groups provide a place for the underserved.
- New groups grow the organization. It’s a fact that new groups will reach, on average, 10 new people. If I wanted to grow my church’s Sunday school by 50 people, I’d need to start 5 new groups, plus maybe one or two more to cover the “churn” that takes place each year (people who move off, leave the church, die, etc).
- New groups help people use their spiritual gifts. New groups provide fresh soil in which leaders can be planted. Given a place to grow their leadership skills and use their spiritual gifts, they blossom. An apprentice teacher who teaches an adult group once or twice every six months will not fully develop as a teacher and group leader until he or she has a group of their own to lead.
As to point 1, Bruce Raley said something like 4 in 10 adults in his community have to work on Sundays, necessitating new groups at different times.
It would be great if small groups will start out seeking underserved people. I also agree small groups are a great place for members to use their spiritual gifts. It is also a great place to learn about and find their spiritual gifts.