FAQ: How Can We Help Groups that Are Struggling to Add Members?

Share via:

I had a series of great questions yesterday from a new reader. Not only were all three questions very good but I could sense the genuine desire to get the answers that would free up his small group ministry from a troubling logjam.

The last question he asked was, "How can you grow groups in an open, free market system where most of the groups aren't filling up?"

Great question. As you can see from the title of this article, I've reframed his question slightly to answer the root question, "How can we help groups that are struggling to add members?"

Important Note: Many churches have adopted some version of a semester system (either sermon-based or free market). When you look closely at semester systems you will probably see that there are some groups (and group leaders) that don't naturally attract sign-ups (despite the assist they receive from the two or three on-ramps a year where everyone either recommits to their previous group or chooses a new group).

How to Help Groups Struggling to Add Members:

First, keep in mind that as groups form and move through the first several months they begin to develop an almost impenetrable membrane. Once a group has been together longer than 3 or 4 months, it becomes increasingly difficult for a new member to truly connect. It's not impossible, but generally speaking only the most aggressively extroverted newcomers can find their way in. The exception might be new members that are sponsored in a sense by trusted original members of the group.

That's an important understanding; don't you think? See also, Great Question: How Do I Train Leaders to Add New Members?

Second, it's important to acknowledge that new groups offer the best opportunity for new members to truly connect. This is really not even open for debate. Counter examples are only exceptions to the rule. It's easiest to connect when everyone is new and on equal footing.

Can you see where this is going? See also, Top 5 Advantages of New Small Groups.

Third, if it is true that new groups offer the best opportunities for new members to connect, we should focus on starting new groups.

Granted, the conclusion that we should focus on starting new groups raises a whole new set of questions.

In my opinion, none of these questions negate the reality that the best way to connect the largest number of unconnected people is to start new groups.   Remember, there is no problem-free solution. Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they'd rather have. See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs. Start New Groups.


The reader is asking a very important and very frequently asked question.

"How can we help groups that are struggling to add members?"

In order to build a thriving small group ministry, I believe you must do two things.

  • First, you must prioritize identifying new leaders and launching new groups.
  • Second, you must train leaders of existing groups to "fish for themselves (that is, learn to invite unconnected friends and acquaintances to join the group)."

If you've established a pattern of providing additional members to existing groups, it will be a small challenge to help leaders of existing groups to accept your new priority. However, they will accept it if you train them to do what they need to do.

Once you've established the practice of prioritizing identifying new leaders and launching new groups, and once you've trained your existing leaders to "fish for themselves," it will seem normal.

Not sure how to train leaders to "fish for themselves"? These two articles will help:

When leaders of existing groups learn this important skill, their dependency on your or the system to provide will end and you will be free to focus on identifying new leaders and launching new groups.

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

Image by photosteve101

Print Friendly, PDF & Email