Our Groups are Too Small?
A few years ago I was at conference talking about groups and the lead church proposed that larger groups, made up of 30-50 people, on mission together, could be more effective than smaller groups of 10-15. As they explained this idea, I agreed with a lot of the things they were saying but I knew we had a huge problem! The host church was situated in a more affluent part of the state with bigger houses that could fit 30-50 people. I live in an older area with a little smaller, post World War 2 houses. Typically the houses in our area could fit 15-20 adults (max) and 8-15 kids. It made me think a lot about how we thought about healthy group size.
The Goal is Alignment
I realized, that before I pushed any specific size group as the end-all, be-all ideal group size, I needed to make sure we were in alignment with in 3 different areas.
1. What our church valued in group size
2. Typical House Size in our area
3. Types of people in our church
1. Church values in group size
The typical small group size is 8-15. The idea is to have enough people where a person could blend in if they want to, but few enough where everyone has a chance to be heard during discussion. But, there’s no rule that says that’s those are the only good numbers. What about a more committed group of 4 people? Or a larger group of 25-30? I’ve decided to focus more on the results of group than focusing on their size. But, some churches may firmly decide that a “typical” number works best.
2. Housing Stock
Does your church’s value for group size mesh well with the housing stock in your area? Here are a few examples of how your church’s group values and the housing stock in your area can misaligned:
- If you want every group to have childcare, but very few houses have basements or finished basements
- If you want groups to be made up of 20-30 people, but most living rooms can only fit 10-15
- If you value groups sharing a meal together, but few houses have a formal dining room
- If you value any size group, but most houses are situated on a busy road with little or no parking
- If you value meeting in homes, but most people live in apartments
3. What About People?
The type of people who attend your church will affect where you hold groups and how big they can be. Here’s a few examples of how your groups can be misaligned in this area:
- Your church values offering childcare in every group, but only 30% of your people have small children
- You don’t offer easy childcare solutions but 90% of your people have small children
- You want people to meet in each other’s homes, but the people n your city, typically don’t visit each other’s homes
- You offer groups that take more time (offering a lot of get togethers and trips together). These are great for younger individuals/couples looking for community or adults without young children at home. But, your church is primarily made up of couples with young children at home.
- Your church has a large group of any group, not accounted for (moms who stay at home, single parents, a lot of shift workers who work 2nd or 3rd shift, parents very involved in their children’s sports, etc.)
These three areas often pull on each other, creating a delicate balance. We have a lot of young families with 2-3 kids in smaller-medium sized homes. This means most of our groups will offer childcare. I also have to make sure to value smaller groups because many houses only have room for 7-10 kids. If 2 couples each have 3 kids, you’re basically out of kid room right there. I’m always assessing and reassessing the balance between our housing stock, group values, and people we have in group, to try to maintain a healthy balance.
How would you assess your church’s alignment in these 3 areas when it comes to groups? Is there one area you’re out of alignment?