Most leaders believe they have a great small group, and a few of them wonder why people won’t come back after the first visit. There are a million scenarios for why some people try out a group and it doesn’t work, but here are five possible reasons they may be fleeing for their lives:
1. The group has been together for awhile and it’s hard to see a place to fit in.
This is why it is so important to start new groups instead of trying to shoehorn new people into existing groups. It’s kind of like when your parents moved when you were in the 10th grade and you had to show up to a new school to try to fit in. Unless you’re Ferris Bueller, it’s going to be a rough year.
2. There’s no time invested in community.
I know you have the group that loves to “go deep.” Last week’s two-hour discussion about whether regeneration begins before salvation was probably riveting conversation, but if you’re not committing group time to developing lasting relationships, you’re missing a key piece to discipleship.
3. There’s no time invested in study.
Community is important, but when the study is an afterthought (or non-existent), you basically have a social club. Lasting discipleship needs community and foundation.
4. The leader dominates the discussion.
I know a small group where the “study” consisted of the leader acting out a scene from The Matrix each week. That may be a bit extreme, but a lot of leaders feel like they need to be the center of the show and have all of the answers. If leaders are talking more than 30% of the time, there is a problem. Awkward silence can be your friend.
5. The leader is unprepared.
I once asked a group member to lead the discussion at our small group, and he started the study with asking his wife to print out the questions because he hadn’t seen them yet. A leader who is not prepared is not really leading. It doesn’t have to be two hours of prep, but you should always be at least one step ahead of the group.
Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with over 22 years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Team at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, and was on staff at Seacoast Church in Charleston, SC, for 15 years. He also manages SmallGroup.com for Lifeway Christian Resources. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, was just released by Thomas Nelson. You can follow his blog at chrissurratt.com or follow him on Twitter @chrissurratt.
You have captured some great reasons why our small groups may not grow (or worse). I don’t believe your first reason has to be an obstacle (but frequently is). I have experienced small groups that have been very welcoming and accomodating to newcomers. The entire group benefited. But instead of being a clique, they need to be a community. They need to demonstrate love to one another, not just to current members. It might not be convenient, but it is worth it.
I’ve been involved in small groups since the 70’s. These are valid observations especially #2 & #4. I sense people looking for friendships/relationships along with right doctrine. Listening to the even the best teacher/leader gets old especially if #2 is missing.
Apparently, the leader who makes these mistakes has not had training for Small Group Ministry. Prayer and the love of Christ must be the main focus in small groups.