I recently consulted with a mid-sized church. The new pastor needed a space survey conducted (which I did) and I noted 10 things the church needs to do in order to “right the ship.” Among those 10 items is the need to reduce the age range of the adult groups.
In almost every case, each adult group has a 3+ decade age range of the people the group is supposed to reach. One group is designated “Adults 30-90” (that’s an incredible 6 decade swing!). Others have an age range of 30-40 years, and that’s just too much to be effective, too.
In the book Missionary Sunday School, the author, David Francis, argues that groups must narrowly define who they are supposed to reach – the narrower the better! A group designated to reach “preschoolers” isn’t nearly as effective as one designed to reach “4 year olds.” A student group designed for “junior high students” isn’t nearly as good as one designed to reach “8th grade boys.” The name on the door of the classroom determines the kind of people the group is supposed to reach. The more narrowly you can focus a group’s energy, the better. “The key is being able to describe your class in a distinctive way so that you clearly know what people group you are responsible to reach. It defines your mission.”
Take a look at the people in your group. If you have more than 10 years of difference between the oldest and youngest members, it’s time to “franchise” the group and start another one in order for both groups to more narrowly define who they are to reach.
Think like a missionary! Narrow your focus. Have laser-like intensity. Missionaries know who they are called to reach. Missionary Sunday Schools have groups that are just as focused on the people they are supposed to reach, too. The more narrowly a group can focus, the more homogeneous the people are. “Like attracts like.” The group I teach is supposed to reach empty nest adults. Our focus is very defined. I know my target. When an empty nest adult visits my group, he/she/they find themselves in a group of other empty nest adults, and they fit right in. Our group is “sticky” because of that. That’s just one of the benefits of narrowing the age gap in groups!