It was almost 5 years ago that my wife and I launched a new LIFE Group (Sunday School class) at our church. At one point, we weren’t sure that our fledgling group was going to make it (we had anywhere between 3 to 5 people who attended it regularly). There was a time that our group “flatlined.” It needed to be shocked back to life.
Thankfully, things have changed (more on that later) but there are plenty of small groups and Sunday School classes that are in a similar situation to where we were a few years ago. Groups that once had a pulse have lost their way. Decline has set it. What do you do if your group isn’t growing? Having lived through it, I’ve realized there are at least 6 things you can do:
- Consider the size of the place you meet. The growth of groups can be limited by the space itself. The 80/20 Rule states that groups have difficulty growing when the place they meet is over 80% full. There may be a few empty seats, but the crowded nature of the room gives the impression that there isn’t room for anyone else. If your group has stopped growing, could it be because you need a larger place to meet? My group has changed meeting locations three times, and we’ve continued to grow each time we made a change. I don’t want to move the group any more, though. Our next move is going to be to “split the class” or “franchise” the group and start another one. The answer isn’t to always move to bigger quarters indefinitely.
- Evaluate the place where your group meets. If your group meets on a church campus, can people find your classroom? Is the signage clearly visible? Is there adequate lighting? Do you have the equipment and supplies you need to lead an effective Bible study? Is it in a good location (for instance, young adult groups should meet close to their kids’ classes). If your group meets off campus, is the location difficult to find, is there excellent childcare, and is there adequate parking? Is there something limiting your growth because of the place where your group meets?
- Examine yourself. This is a hard one. It could be your style of leading the Bible study, or your leadership of the group that isn’t effective. If this is the case, then make adjustments. It could be time to step aside and let another person lead the group Bible study. Perhaps you should assume a different leadership role in the group and continue to help it grow. Talk with your pastor or staff leader and ask for their help in evaluating your leadership.
- Ask your group members. They will have their own ideas and could give you valuable insights as to what they see as the main reasons for the lack of growth. Ask them to share openly and honestly. Sometimes others see things we do not.
- Don’t give up. No one said leading a group was going to be easy. If it was, everyone could do it. The answer to your dilemma may be to reinvest your time and energy into the group. Be aggressive in looking for new group members in your church’s worship services, and ask your church staff for a list of people who’ve visited the church recently. Have your group members brainstorm people they know who would fit your group, but are not attending church anywhere. Reclaim absent members. There’s a lot you can do!
- Pray. You know that God wants your group to reach new people. When Jesus looked out onto a field that was white for harvest, He told his disciples to pray that His Father would send out more workers into the field. Prayer was Jesus’ answer for reaching people with the gospel. Prayer should still be our first response to the great need to reach people for Christ, Bible study, and church membership. If your group isn’t growing, take the situation to God in prayer and ask Him to help you continue to reach new people through your Bible study group.
I am thankful to be able to report that our Bible study group is averaging 18 people each week. There were times when attendance was very anemic, and Tammy and I were concerned that it wasn’t going to make it. But the Lord provided new people, we remained faithful to prepare well each week, expected new group members, had regular fellowships, and the hard work has paid off.
If your group isn’t growing, hang in there and see if one of these 6 things might be the key to turning things around.
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