The Four Biggest Obstacles Standing in the Way of Starting New Groups*


Recently I was in a room full of some very experienced, very sharp minds when it comes to starting new groups*.  Admittedly, they were attempting to use the word groups to characterize both on-campus Sunday school classes and off-campus small groups.

At one point, a panel of four experts talked about their own personal experiences in starting groups.  Imagine my consternation as I listened to their stories of starting one new group last year.  One.  Another expert talked about starting a new group every year for the last several.  I’m not making this up.

It was a very frustrating  experience.  Honestly, it was fascinating and frustrating at the same time.  I found myself equally fascinated by some of their conclusions and frustrated by some of those same conclusions.

At one point, the moderator asked everyone to take a few minutes and share with those around you “what you think are the biggest obstacles in the way of starting groups.”  Again, it was frustrating and fascinating.

The Biggest Obstacles:

Keeping in mind that my answers describe the biggest obstacles standing in the way of both on-campus and off-campus efforts, here’s what I’ve got:

  • The misplaced priority given to on-campus strategies.  The most influential people need to become location agnostic.  Why?  I’ve long believed that adults not currently in an on-campus experience are unlikely to add another 60 to 75 minutes and unchurched adults are extremely unlikely to embrace a three hour Sunday morning.  I often note how common it is for most of us to watch a 60 minute program in 42 minutes (DVR).
  • The insistence that the best leaders have résumés.  As long as we pursue the notion that leading a group has anything to do with experience…we’re going to have a hard time overcoming this obstacle.
  • The illusion of knowledge.  The sense that we’ve figured out how to do it, that we know best, is a massive obstacle.  The only way to break through is to admit that the very best ways to launch new groups hasn’t yet been discovered.
  • The lure of the status quo.  This is the way we do it here.  This is how groups happen here.  We are a Sunday school church.  We are a small group church.  Unless we can break free from the shackles of the status quo…we will not be able to beat this one.

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Image by SteFou

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  • Suzy

    The church we attend has small groups that rehash the Sunday sermon. I asked the pastor about doing as another church in the area does and having different subjects, which people can choose from, for two or three months. We went to those groups and they were very interesting/informative; plus, we built relationships. He said no. I said I couldn’t go anymore; too boring and I was already in two prayer groups with the same 7 people; could we at least move to another group – he said no. I told him we would just drop the group then and he said fine – so we did. How does this seem to you?

  • markchowell

    Thanks for jumping in here, Suzy. Many churches are big fans of the sermon-based semester model. In many cases it is very successful and has been effective at connecting 80 to 85% of the weekend adult attendance. What can I tell you about your situation? You’ll have to make that decision for yourself. Choosing a church is a very personal decision and depends on many variables.