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.

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5 Comments so far

  1. Chaos-Jamie on December 7, 2007 3:10 pm

    Curious: how do you count “people” in a couples group? Six would be way too small, because if one couple misses, you’ve lost a third of the group. But we currently have better than 10 couples (and IMO that is TOOOOOOOO many). And people are always inviting MORE. I feel like we’ve gotten out of hand (and can’t talk anyone into splitting/birthing/multiplying whatever).

  2. More on Adding Members : Why Didn’t You Warn Me? on January 20, 2008 9:50 pm

    […] written in previous posts that group size can impact the effectiveness of a group and the desire of people to be involved. […]

  3. E. I. Sanchez on February 4, 2008 6:26 pm

    I totally agree with you.

    Having more than 8 people in a small group hurts the group. For one, if everybody wants to participate, there isn’t enough time. Two, there are always people that tend to talk more than others.

    A group of 6 or 8 people forces everybody to talk because you can go around the room and ask – What do you think Suzie? And Michael, did you have any comments on that?

    In a large group, you lose some of that. Not only that, in a large group you may start getting ‘sub-groups’ of people that start talking among themselves while the facilitator is talking to one person.

    p.s. I really like the blog layout, design and theme. Good colors and font.

    I’ll be coming by…


  4. patsikora on February 4, 2008 11:21 pm

    Well said, Edgar, and of course, I totally agree with your observations. Thanks for dropping by, and for your kind comments. Come back often. And now you’re entered in the drawing for a copy of my book!

  5. Happy Birthday to Us! : Why Didn’t You Warn Me? on February 12, 2008 4:46 pm

    […] Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members. Edgar won simply by commenting on my post, “A Small Group Must Be SMALL!”  Check out Edgar’s website, The Christian […]

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