Imagine I started a small group dedicated to “games.” I saw there were about 7 other people signed up and was excited about the first night of group! Before people arrived our first night, I set up 4 chess boards (in case we had an extra person), and snacks to munch on during our games. The doorbell rang and as I opened the door I was greeted by a man wearing a full wizard costume, ready to play some live-action role playing game. Right behind him was a girl carrying an Xbox controller and video game. Behind her was a person carrying a paintball gun and wearing a mask. Suddenly, I’m not so sure this group is going to work out so well.
People attend small groups for all sorts of reasons, and those reasons matter. If everyone attends a group with a different expectation of what that group should do, then most people will end up being disappointed by the end. So, I’d like to share the top 7 reasons people attend groups and then ideas for how to get a group on the same page.
7 Reasons People Attend Small Group:
1. Because they were told they had to. Some people attend groups simply because that’s what they’re ‘supposed to do’. They may not be interested in groups, or learning, sharing, or growing. But, heaven to betsy- they’re there because the “powers that be” said that’s what they should do.
2. Accountability/ Spiritual Growth. These group attenders are really looking to share their lives and sometimes deepest secrets and struggles with the group. They’re looking for challenge and want the group to “hold them accountable” to that growth.
3. Fun. Some people are just looking to laugh and play games. They’re not looking for anything too deep. They might feel uncomfortable if group discussion gets too deep or personal. They’re not interested in any group homework assignment. They just want to have a good time. (This is what the great prophet Cindy Lauper thinks.)
4. Friendship. Many people are looking to connect with others. They “put up” with the Bible study part just so they can make and develop new friendships. They love the dinner time, snack time, game time, or really anytime other than Bible study time. They like any part of group that helps them feel more connected with the others in group.
5. Study the Bible. There’s a larger group of people who want to show up and “get in the word.” They put up with friendships and dinner or snack, but what they’re really interested in is studying the Bible. The ‘deeper’ the better. They’re sometimes looking for a small group leader ready to “teach” them about whatever text they’re reading.
6. To Change the World. Some people want to be a part of groups to change the world. They want to impact their street, city, or…something. They put up with dinner, Bible study, etc., but are chomping at the bit to “get out there” and make a difference through their group.
Now, check out the list above and consider the top thing you’re looking for in a small group. As you sign up for groups, try to find a group or leader that emphasizes the reason that you’re most interested in. If you’re interested in changing the world, try to join or begin a group that does that. If you’re interested in Bible Study, try to find or begin a group that focuses on “going deeper” in the Bible.
We want to work towards an amazing group that loves each other, are on mission, study the Bible, hold each other accountable, and have crazy fun together. But, as a church you’re probably going to emphasize one more than the others, while encouraging them all. I think part of this process is answering the question, “If small groups could only do one thing well, what would you have them do”? Acknowledge that and build the rest of the pieces around that one reason.
How to make sure your groups are all on the same page
Clarify the main reason your groups exist. (friendship, mission, Bible study) Once you figure that out, hammer that bad boy home to your church so everyone will know what to expect before ever attending.
On the first night of group, I might ask the group what they expect from group. It really helps to uncover people’s reasons for joining your group. Then, I’ll try to cast vision for why our group exists and what we’re trying to accomplish.
Here’s a video dedicated to those who continually strive to make the best small groups possible. Let’s realize what we do the best, but always strive to be better.