I served with a pastor who once said, “Healthy things grow.” I believe he was right in what he said. If something is healthy, it’s going to grow. Jesus said that He would grow His church (Matthew 16:18), and in Genesis 2 we learn that plants and animals were to grow and reproduce themselves. Healthy things grow.
But what do you do if your Bible study group isn’t growing? Don’t feel bad, because many groups struggle to grow and reach new people. The last group I started almost didn’t make it – we struggled to attract a handful of people. Then, one day, we turned a corner and achieved “critical mass.” We grew to have 16 to 18 people in class each week If your group isn’t growing as you’d like, here are several things you can do:
- Consider the size of the place you meet. Growth of groups can be limited by the space itself. Are there people in more than 80% of the chairs? If yes, that could be limiting your group’s growth potential.
- Evaluate the place where your group meets. Is there clear signage? Is there adequate lighting? Are the hallways and classroom walls in good shape? Do you have the equipment and supplies you need to lead an effective Bible study? Is there anything to keep a guest from wanting to come to your location? Sometimes a fresh coat of paint, freshly cleaned carpet, and reduced clutter can make a world of difference.
- Look at the Bible study materials you have chosen. Is there something that your group members just don’t like about your current study materials? Are you studying a topic that just isn’t meeting their needs? Perhaps they’ve bailed until the study is over. Only you will know how to answer this for your group. If the answer is yes, the materials might be part of the problem.
- Evaluate yourself. Ouch. This is a hard one. It could be your teaching style or your leadership of the group that isn’t hitting on all cylinders. If it is, make adjustments. If you are unable or unwilling, step aside and let another person teach and lead the group. Perhaps you could assume a different role in the group.
- Ask your group members. They may have their own ideas and could give you good input as to what they see as the main challenges facing your lack of growth. Just ask.
- Press on. No one said this was going to be easy. If it was, everyone could start a new group. Truth is, most churches are not starting near enough new groups to keep up with the people they lose every year. Guests will tend to “stick” better in a newer group that isn’t as old and established as other classes. The answer to your dilemma may be to reinvest your time and energy into the group and simply keep plowing.
- Pray. You know that God wants your group to reach new people, especially the unconnected people who live in your community. Ask God to give you energy, encouragement, and new group members.
- Read a book. Dr. Thom Rainer’s book, Becoming a Welcoming Church, has practical insights about what guests really think and feel about their visits to our churches. Read the book with members from your group, and evaluate just how friendly and effective your group is wen it comes to welcoming guests.
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