7 responses when your group is shrinking

“Healthy things grow. Growing things change.” I heard a pastor I served with say that in a sermon declineonce. The phrase stuck with me over the years. Now that I lead a Bible study group weekly, I want it to grow and attract new people. I want it to be a healthy group. But what would you do if your group actually declined this past year? What if you’ve done all you know to do, and growth still isn’t happening? Here are seven responses you might have when your group is shrinking:

  1. Work harder – some group leaders would roll up their sleeves and go to work. They’d lead their group to contact potential new group members. They’d have a “can do” attitude. They’d be proactive. “Quit” is not in their vocabulary.
  2. Give up – some group leaders allow discouragement to set in. They’d blame themselves for the decline (when in reality there may be many other factors besides their leadership that has caused the drop in numbers). Perhaps this is you right now.
  3. Evaluate  everything– introspective group leaders are going to ask themselves the hard questions. They are going to evaluate their teaching style, the activities for fellowship that are offered each month, their group’s target demographic, and other things that may have contributed to the decline.
  4. Pray more – in reality, all the work we do as group leaders is for the Lord. We work for Him. It’s his church, not ours. It makes sense to increase our prayer life when we face difficult times in ministry. Group leaders
  5. Recognize God’s sovereignty – these group leaders do not have a fatalistic outlook, but do strongly believe that everything happens for a reason that is ordained by God. They trust that God is taking them through a downturn, but preparing the group for future expansion and growth. In other words, they don’t worry about it much.
  6. Adjust where you can adjust – as you think through items 1-5 above, adjust your thinking, teaching, ministry, and more wherever it’s needed. Don’t be stiff necked and inflexible. Instead, maintain a teachable spirit.
  7. Give people permission to leave – this is a hard one, but one that a mature group leader will do.


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  1. Do you ever think that a group is plateaued because it has gotten too large? I think larger groups sometimes have difficulty assimilating new people or even feeling the need to invite new people to come in the first place.

    • Ben, you are absolutely right. Large groups are the most difficult place in which we try to assimilate people. Large groups make it too easy for people to get truly involved and know people at a heart level. Do a search on the blog for “bigger” and you’ll discover a few older posts where I give reasons why smaller groups are better for churches.

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