As we begin to regather, creating more Bible study groups will be essential if our churches are to impact our culture. Here are a few things we as leaders can look for so we know when it is time to give birth to a new group.
Discussion is a challenge
Discussion can be a challenge no matter what size of group we lead, but this is especially true of larger groups. God created us as relational beings. Not being able to interact with others creates short-circuits our minds were not made to handle. We want to interact with others. Some of us have found ourselves talking to neighbors we would have avoided prior to March of 2020 simply for face-to-face interaction during the pandemic. Here is the issue when it comes to groups: the larger the group, the less likely substantive discussion will occur during group time. We will know it is time to start a new group when people hesitate or measure their words during discussion in a way they did not before.
There are no open chairs
Most leaders love a full house. We feel successful in our roles when all the spots are filled. But a full room works against involving more people in the Bible study. A full room may make a leader feel satisfied with less urgency to reach out to potential new members. No empty chairs may lead a first-time attender to feel they were not expected and give the impression they are an intruder. On the other side, the group itself may stop inviting newcomers for fear of losing their spot or feeling crowded. Open spots remind us to keep inviting people to join in Bible study. Creating a new group leads to room for more to be involved.
The group has been together for more than 18 months
Staying together for too long is not exclusive to ongoing groups. Groups that are reshuffled every year or six months will often have people who work around the system and find a way to stay together. Leaders may accommodate these arrangements since we would rather people be in a group than be working against us from the outside. Yet, the longer a group is together, the more difficult it is for an outsider to break into the group. A person in the group loses his job and the others rally around him during the transition. Another person has a medical crisis and the group walks beside that person through some deep valleys. These types of experiences create connections and identity within the group but people who join the group after that experience may have a hard time catching up. In this way, the group becomes functionally closed. While we strive for these types of connections, it is important that they do not become so ingrained that no one else is welcome.
We have reviewed only three signs that it may be time to start a new group. What other signs do you look for that tell you it may be time to start a new group?
Dwayne McCrary is a team leader at Lifeway, adjunct professor at Midwestern BTS, and a BIble study leader in the church he attends.