In my last post, I mentioned a list of questions I sent to a pastor who had inquired about the lessening level of interest in small groups among his church members. If you’re having problems keeping people interested in your groups, there are several factors to consider.
The first of thing I look at is group size. This is Principle #4 in Why Didn’t You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members. It’s rather obvious, but some people do miss the point. A small group needs to be small.
That concept is appalling to us Westerners—even in the church—who often measure success by size. We’re delighted when our churches or groups grow. We like to boast about how many people we’re ministering to. But the fact remains: to be most effective, a group needs to be small. The reason is simple: it’s impossible to be intimate with more than a few people. Be sure that you don’t give in to the desire to have the most popular small group in the church.
I’m always talking to group leaders who feel obligated to invite in everyone they meet. While I’m all for being friendly, once you grow beyond six to ten members, you’ll dilute the effectiveness of your group and compromise the impact the community can have. So don’t think you have to invite everyone who needs to be in a group.
Jesus gave us a perfect example. He chose a group of twelve men to study with Him. Yes, He had thousands who followed Him and loved to hear Him teach. And yes, He gave a significant amount of time to the multitudes. But His closest relationships, His friends, His disciples, numbered only twelve. These men were privy to His innermost thoughts, His struggles, His prayers, and His confidences. He taught them, held them accountable for growth, commissioned them in ministry, and loved them even when they failed.
Using the Biblical model, many leaders suggest twelve is an optimum number. For me, it’s an absolute maximum. I prefer groups of six to eight members. Why?
The main reason is time. If we could spend all day every day together, as Jesus did with His disciples, twelve would be fine. But most of us can’t do that. We simply don’t have that luxury. We have jobs, families, and other responsibilities. If we’re lucky we get a couple of hours on Tuesday evening together as a group. Therefore, we need a number that’s manageable within the context of our lives in order to maximize the community we share.
And of course, that means we need to keep developing leaders and adding groups to accommodate those who want a group. And we need to develop the kinds of groups that will meet the needs of each type of person in the church. We’ll talk about those over the next few days.