Lifeway Research recently surveyed churchgoing people and discovered several compelling truths about group life. If you are a group leader, you’ll be interested in the results of the survey because they give some important realities about why people join a group, and why they choose to leave a group. The results might surprise you.
Top Reasons People Join Groups
It should come as no surprise that the research shows personal invitation as the #1 reason people join a Bible study group. Almost 50% of people who join a group do so because either the group leader or a member of the group invited them. When you consider the other reasons people said they joined a group, they pale in comparison to the power of the personal invitation. This doesn’t mean we should stop advertising groups through the church, or that we should stop having open houses or ministry fairs. It does mean that those of us who lead groups should be on the lookout for people we can invite to our group. It also means that we must encourage our group members to think of friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances they could also invite to the group.
Top Reasons People Leave Groups
None of us like to see people leave our groups, especially if we can do something to prevent it. But research has shown that we have no control over the number one reason people choose to check out.
Forty percent of non-attendees stopped attending Bible study because of changes in their life situation. What were those changes? It may have been a schedule change that prevented them from attending when the group was scheduled to meet. In other situations, a person may have simply moved away. The good news, if there is any, is that group leaders have no control over these factors. As a group leader, I’ve had people leave for some of the reasons above. Did I like it? No. We celebrated the people’s time in our group, grieved the loss of their presence, and kept moving forward.
However, The research revealed that the number two reason people leave groups is something we do have control over. Thirty-six percent of people leave groups because the class ended. This is one of the strongest arguments I’ve heard for groups to be “ongoing” groups—those that meet weekly with little or no interruption to their schedules. I know of churches that have a tradition of their groups meeting by semesters, and it is not uncommon to see those groups take the summer off. According to the research, this is not a wise group strategy since interruptions to the regular meetings of the group encourage people to take the “off ramp” and exit the group.
The research also revealed some comforting data about the other reasons people leave groups: the other factors really aren’t factors at all. Consider that the research demonstrated that changes in group leadership only caused 4% of people to leave the group. Only 2% left the group because of the content of the studies, and a meager 3% left because other friends in the group left. To say it another way, group life tends to be very stable once people become connected to groups. Few people leave groups, and we have control over one of the most prominent reasons they do. That’s good news for all who lead groups.
Ken Braddy is Lifeway’s Director of Sunday School, an author, blogger, and someone who has led group ministry in churches for 30 years.