Years ago I led one of the fastest growing Sunday School ministries in Texas. On “launch Sunday” (we were a mission church startup) we had 44 people in Sunday School (and two teachers quit at noon!) – that’s the original church building in the photo to the right. When I transitioned to my second church just over 10 years later, I left behind a Sunday School of over 2,4oo members. During those days of rapid growth, I learned the importance of starting new Bible study groups. If a church is not intentional about starting new groups, it will soon find itself stalled out – and that’s exactly where many churches are today – they are flat or declining and they don’t know why. The lack of starting new groups is one reason for it.
For every new group your church starts, you’ll increase attendance by approximately 10 people. From my experience, you know it’s time to start a new class when…
1) A group has been together for 2 years or more. It’s really hard for guests to build relationships with people who have been together longer than 24 months (some experts would say it’s even less time that that – maybe as little as 12 months). When a group approaches its second birthday, it’s time to think “start a new group.”
2) A group doesn’t see a steady stream of guests. It’s true – classes “cool off” after a time and they will often turn inward. Evangelistic efforts decrease. The focus turns to the group members, not to the lost persons in the community. If you recruit people to leave a group and start a new one, it’s almost a guarantee they will reach more people for Christ and demonstrate excitement for kingdom growth the mother class hasn’t known in years.
3) A group has ceased to grow. When a group no longer adds people, it’s time to start a new group. The group may have done a good job in the past of reaching new people, but over time the growth may have leveled off.
4) A group fills the room to over 80% of capacity. The 80/20 rule is real. When a group exceeds 80% of its seating capacity, the room is visually full to guests. A group can certainly exceed 80% of its seating capacity (it’s actually pretty fun to have a full room with no empty seats) but any group that does exceed 80% of its seating capacity for very long will almost always drop to an attendance level less than the 80% it once exceeded.
5) The age span of the group members becomes too broad. Groups need to be targeted to reach people in a specific age range. One church I’ve worked with recently has several adult groups that have age ranges for group members like 30-70 or 50-80. When you see more than a 10-year swing in the age of group members, it’s time to create another group and keep people together who are closer in age.
6) There’s an apprentice teacher and other group leaders who are ready to launch a group. If a Bible study leader has groomed an apprentice teacher, and there are other adults who will help that person launch a new group by becoming outreach leaders, fellowship leaders, prayer leaders, or other key positions within the group – launch a new one! Don’t wait until Fall or back-to-school. Don’t wait until the first of the year. Select a meeting location, advertise the new group to potential group members, and let ’em fly! A church I know locally in the Nashville area is launching three new groups this coming Sunday. Yes, it’s after Easter and pre-summer. Yes, it’s not at a high-growth time like back-to-school, but three group leaders are ready to go, the church has the space, so it’s time to start some new groups at that location.