Fall is the time of year when families begin establishing new routines and schedules. As a new school year gets underway, many churches like to highlight the scriptural call to community through the introduction of small groups. Discipleship and meeting together for fellowship are so vital for spiritual wellness and growth. The practice of accountability and the concept of “iron sharpening iron” can be preached from the pulpit often but until someone puts that into practice in their own life, the benefit is lost.
People in our congregations recognize the need for community, but are full of valid excuses as to why it cannot work for their schedules or in their own lives. These create obstacles to becoming involved in a small group.
“I can’t make a long-term commitment to a group right now.”
“I can’t find a group that fits my schedule.”
“I don’t have any friends that want to be part of a small group.”
“ I need childcare in order to meet with a small group.”
Part of the challenge to making small groups work is providing solutions to these obstacles so people can experience the benefits of being part of a thriving small group.
Here are 4 ways to overcome small group roadblocks:
1) Establish 6 week or 12 week commitments. Instead of asking members to commit to a group without a defined time limit, offer some boundaries. People that are hesitant to commit will usually be willing to try something new when they can have a specific time line. This allows them the flexibility to change groups after the 6 or 12 week and not feel obligated to stick with something that they are afraid they may not enjoy. They don’t want to feel trapped from the very beginning.
2) Offer a variety of times when groups will meet. Have an early morning group, a late evening group and possibly even a group that meets right after church or during the Wednesday evening service. You can’t meet everyone’s needs but if you try to establish groups and find leaders that can meet at a variety of times, then you are more likely to draw a larger base of members initially.
3) Offer groups based on interests, not solely topical studies or scriptural studies. Strong groups can form very organically. You may find a group of men that play basketball together one evening a week. That is a natural fit for a group. Maybe there is already a group of ladies that meets to exercise together. They can form a group and add another element of accountability and transparency to their friendship that is already established. Groups can look as different as the people that make them up. If you are flexible with the makeup of your groups, while emphasizing community and transparent accountability, you can draw the interest of more people.
4) Offer childcare through the church during common small group times. This requires a larger commitment from the church, but especially if you are trying to introduce your members to the concept of small groups, this will help tremendously. Some churches launch their small group/discipleship program on a Sunday morning during the Sunday School hour or on Sunday nights. They are used to having a church nursery then anyways, so it is an easy transition. This definitely helps out young families and single parents that desperately need the support and community small groups bring, but find it very difficult to make it work with their schedules.
Creativity is key when introducing something new. While it can be challenging, small groups create a strong foundation for a healthy church. Taking the time and effort to launch a new season of small groups with the needs of your members in mind will pay off in the end. Community takes work, but the Kingdom gains make it worth the effort!
What are some creative ways you can help make small group attendance more achievable for your members?