Can I show you what I think ought to be your first clue when designing the right small group system or strategy for your church?
This might surprise you, but I really do believe there is a best system for you. How can you figure out what is best? I have three clues. Here's the first one.
If you want to build a thriving small group ministry, the first thing you need is an accurate understanding of how many adults are already connected and how many are unconnected.
The first thing you need is an accurate understanding
Some will argue that before you need that info you need to clarify what a win is for your small group ministry. They have an argument. They may be right. But I think this comes first.
Here's how I go about it:
Step One: Figure out the adult attendance at your last Easter or Christmas Eve service(s). We're not looking for your average weekend adult attendance. We're looking intentionally at your holiday attendance because it is almost always a better indication of your crowd number. The crowd indicates the number of people who consider your church to be their church.
This is a really big understanding. While there are some churches that have almost zero appreciable difference in their Easter and regular attendance...they're not the norm. There is normally a bump of 15 to 25% in adult attendance. The size of your crowd is what makes that happen. Some churches can have a bump as high as 30 to 50% on Easter. The higher your outreach element, the higher the bump.
Important: I draw a circle and write down the Easter number (see the diagram above).
Step Two: The second thing I do is draw a square to represent the number of people at your church who are truly connected. For me, that is determined by a couple factors and neither of them are easily measured (read: you'll have to guesstimate this number). They are truly connected when the meet these two factors:
- First, if something happens to them (or a member of their family), someone else hears about it within 24-48 hours without anyone calling the church (in other words, they lose their job, their marriage falls apart, a child is sick, etc.). We're not talking gossip. We're talking connection. Obviously, they'd need to pretty connected to have this happen. Groups that meet twice a month rarely have this level of connection. Groups that meet weekly but don't connect offline rarely have this level of connection. How many of your adults do you think fit inside the square?
- Second, there is someone regularly building into them from a spiritual standpoint and it's not the pastor. Could be a group leader or member. Might be a ministry team leader or member. But there is someone involved enough in their life to catch them when they're growing (I saw the way you encouraged Johnny today) or challenge them when they're slipping (I overheard you talking with your wife and I know you're working on being kind). How many of your adults have that second factor going for them?
Important: Write that number inside the square.
Step Three: There are a number of questions that must be asked once you see these numbers for yourself.
- When you subtract the number in the square from the number in the circle...what do you come up with? That's the real unconnected number. Some churches want to take their average adult weekend attendance and subtract the number of adults in groups to come up with the percentage connected. Don't fall for that. That's a fake number.
- If you divide that number by 10, what do you come up with? That's the number of groups you need to create to connect the unconnected today.
- Where will you find enough leaders to care for the number of unconnected people you've got? This tells you whether your current system of leader identification and qualification is viable.
What do you think? Make sense? Want to argue? Got a question? You can click here to jump into the conversation.