Question: How Do I Keep All Of Our Groups Viable?

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A frequent question is, “How do I keep all of our groups viable?”  A little poking around reveals that this usually means one of a several things:

  1. I have some leaders whose groups have dwindled down to only a few people.
  2. I have some groups where the “leader” moved away, quit, or was disqualified and no one else wants to jump in.
  3. I have some groups only exist on paper…they no longer meet.

In response to these underlying situations…I’ve formulated two of my core small group ministry philosophical axioms.  “Groups have a life span” and “providing life support for dying groups is counter-productive.”  Why?  Follow along and see what you think.

First, if you think about your own group experiences you’ll probably acknowledge that the first 6 to 12 months of any group are the most engaging.  You’re meeting new people.  You’re hearing new stories.  You’re making new friends.  Although there are exceptions, the first 6 to 12 months have the most zip.

This begs the question, “Can groups last beyond 6 to 12 months?”  Absolutely.  But it requires a level of skill on the part of the leader and commitment on the part of the members that is only rarely present.  Can it be developed?  Sometimes.  Should it be the goal?  Absolutely.  Can every group develop it?  Nope.  Conclusion?  Groups have a life span.

Second, although there are times when sending another couple or two to a dwindling group is all they need, it’s only rarely sufficient.  Most of the time there are dynamics that make it tough for new members to fit in.  Can members of existing groups that are dwindling help potential new members fit in?  Sometimes.  Can every group develop this capability?  Nope.  Conclusion?  Providing life support for dwindling (or dying) groups is counter productive.

So what’s the solution?  Two parts:

  1. Focus on launching new groups.  Strategies like the Small Group Connection and HOST make it easy for new people to connect and identify leaders that people will follow.
  2. Periodically use the Small Group Vacation strategy to revitalize existing groups.
  3. Train leaders to help members share their lives in a deeper way, giving existing groups an experience that will take them into year two.  A great way to begin this process for leaders is to equip them in using the Purpose Driven Life Health Assessment (you don’t have to be Purpose Drive to use this tool).

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