Last fall my friend Laura’s small group was dead in the water. There was no momentum, little excitement, and attendance was sporadic. As a result Laura was a frustrated, perplexed, and discouraged small group leader.
After Christmas Laura changed one thing, and now everything is different. Attendance has doubled, new people are coming, the group is fun, relationships are deeper, and God is making cool changes in people’s lives.
What change did Laura make in her small group? She changed the group from meeting every other week to meeting weekly. When she first brought up this option, her group members resisted the change. Most of them wanted to keep things as they were. But as my wife and I prayed for Laura’s group and talked with her, she realized that her group would probably never lift off without this change. She took a risk, demonstrated leadership and did what she felt needed to be done. It has paid off in her members’ lives and in the lives of the new people who are coming. The very people who wanted the group to meet every other week now enjoy coming weekly.
Laura’s Discovery & My Own Research Results
Laura’s small group demonstrates what my extensive research involving over 3,000 small group leaders also revealed. The research clearly shows that groups that meet every other week experience considerably less health, community, and growth.
Frankly, I think every-other-week groups would work just fine if people actually came every other week, but people simply don’t come to a group every time it meets. They get sick, and they have schedule conflicts at school, overwhelming projects at work, and occasional crises at home that throw off their routines.
People miss small group about once a month. (My analysis of the small groups in our church showed that the average group member misses 38% percent of the time. Your mileage may vary.) The problem in an every-other-week group is that if you and I are in the same group, and you miss this week and I miss two weeks from now, you and I are not meeting every other week. We are meeting more like every six weeks or so.
Right now I can hear some of you objecting, ”But people where I live are crazy busy and we need to accommodate this with low-commitment groups that meet less often. There ain’t no way they’ll meet weekly.” First I’d say, don’t use the word ”ain’t,” it makes it hard to take you seriously. Secondly, I’d say, think about this. Crazy busy people are going to miss group more often and that makes it even more pivotal that your group meets frequently and regularly.
One thing I concede is that an every-other-week group is better than no group at all. What I want you to recognize, however, is that it is considerably harder to get traction meeting with that frequency.
If you are leading an every-other-week group that isn’t jelling or gaining momentum, I suggest you move to meeting weekly. Another alternative is to keep your regular every-other-week meetings in place and add an additional party or service event into the mix each month. In essence that moves a twice-a-month group into meeting three times a month, and for many groups this can be a tipping point that accelerates the group into deeper relationship and growth.
To Learn More
If you are interested in learning the other surprising and practical things that differentiate stagnant groups from vibrant groups, I recommend that you pick up the book that Dwight Marable and I wrote Small Groups, Big Impact: Connecting People to God and One Another in Thriving Groups. I’ve also released engaging training built on our discoveries on DVD’s entitled How to Lead a High Impact Small Group available from ChurchSmart for just $50.
Your Experience, Questions and Suggestions
What have you learned from your own experience about the frequency of group meetings? What questions do you have on this topic? What suggestions would you have for other leaders who have groups that seem to be stuck?