I haven’t met a group leader yet who wants to shrink his group. Group leaders almost always want their groups to grow numerically, but there are 10 things that can inadvertently shrink a group and cause you to miss out on reaching new people:
#10 – Prepare at the last minute – If you wait until the day before your group meets to study and prepare, you’re waiting much too late! When is a good time to begin prepping for your group’s next study? Probably the day after you meet together. If your group meets weekly, that gives you almost a full week to read, study, find extra lesson helps, tie to current events, discover an object lesson, and more session-enhancing things like these.
#9 – Don’t be in a rush to follow up with guests – In the not too distant past, my wife and I searched for a new church after a job relocation. Almost no group leaders reached out to us (we visited a half-dozen churches). We received no email follow-ups, no notes of encouragement to visit the group again, and almost no “thank you for visiting our group” letters. It made us feel unimportant, unwanted, and not a priority to the groups we visited.
#8 – Ask guests to pray or respond to questions – There’s nothing quite like putting a guest on the spot and calling on that person to pray or answer questions. Even a simple, “Tell us about yourself” can be intimidating (remember: the fear of public speaking is consistently people’s #1 fear). Although you may think you’re doing the guest a favor, don’t ask them to speak up. Let them decide when and how much they want to say.
#7 – Don’t provide group members with a PSG – If you want to set the bar low, just teach whatever you want in whatever order you want. If you decide, though, to provide a PSG (personal study guide) you can promote the next week’s study, ask group members to read ahead in advance, and greatly enhance the group’s experience. PSGs are based on a Christian publisher’s scopes and sequences (the topics being studied and the order in which they are studied), which leads to balanced studies over time, variety, and more healthy Bible study experiences for group members.
#6 – Forget about having a greeter – A group’s greeter can serve as a vital link to a guest. The greeter can initially welcome the guest, collect information, and introduce the guest to group members to help jump-start the formation of relationships.
#5 – Keep cramming people into your “cozy” meeting place – Adults need about 12-15 square feet of space each. If your meeting place is over 80% full, it’s too full to maintain growth over the long haul. It’s time to move to bigger quarters, or start a new group. If people feel like there’s no room for them, or if they can’t sit where they’d like, they’ll eventually quit coming.
#4 – Do the majority of the speaking – Guess what? People don’t love the sound of your voice as much as you do! One way to run people off is to do all the talking if you are the group leader. The best group leaders have discovered that learning takes place when people talk to each other. Try moving beyond a monologue and try using what Dr. Ed Stetzer called a “groupalogue,” which means that every member talks and shares at some point during the Bible study.
#3 – Don’t worry about ministering to people – If you think that your role as group leader revolves around your teaching ministry, think again. Teaching is important, but groups need shepherds, too, not just a teacher. When you invest your time and energy into the lives of people, you end up making a great investment. When people believe you genuinely care for them, they’ll be more likely to stay with your group over time, and to invite other people they know to do the same. How many disenfranchised people do you know who have claimed, “I left that church because I went through a crisis and no one cared”?
#2 – Have sporadic fellowships, or none at all – Group members need time together outside of the normal Bible study time. If you think that your Bible study group should be all about the teaching, you’re half right. Fellowship time outside of the group’s normal meeting helps deepen bonds of friendship, and it gives prospective new group members a chance to try out the group before they commit to join it. A monthly lunch excursion after church, a quarterly service project, or an ongoing game night or short day trip on a weekend can help people grow together.
#1 – Fail to give people jobs to do – If people have no real stake in the leadership of the group, it’s easier for them to unplug and leave the group. If, however, they are responsible for things like greeting, fellowships, prayer, and ministry projects, you’ll probably see a higher level of attendance and commitment over time. To the best of your ability, give people jobs to do and let them do them!
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