If we can agree that new groups are good for the church, then the question becomes, “When do we start these new groups?”
By Ken Braddy
It has been said that timing is everything. I’m not certain that it is everything, but it definitely is important. Over the years, people have considered the importance of timing, and some have even dared to go on record with their thoughts. Consider these famous people and their musings about timing.
You don’t have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got timing, it’ll go.– Yogi Berra
Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.– William Shakespeare
Lost time is never found again.– Benjamin Franklin
I will acquiesce that these well-known people are generally correct in their quotes about timing. I will also say that in the world of group ministry (and more specifically the starting of new groups), timing is everything.
I’ve had the privilege of leading multiple churches to create growing groups ministries. We saw growth in part because those congregations were committed to starting new groups. New groups reach 10 new people on average, tend to be outwardly focused, and increase a church’s total tithes and offerings each year. Because new groups do so many great things, it is imperative that churches start new groups.“New groups reach 10 new people on average, tend to be outwardly focused, and increase a church’s total tithes and offerings each year.” — @KenBraddy Click To Tweet
If we can agree that new groups are good for the church, then the question becomes, “When do we start these new groups?” It’s a question of timing. In my experience, there are key times that churches should begin new groups, and not every one of these is related to a particular time on the calendar.
1. At the beginning of a new year
Many people come back to church after the busy holiday season. They are ready to get back into the swing of things. Others are making resolutions as they start the new year. Among those include getting back to weekend worship services and membership in a Bible study group. New groups started at the beginning of the new year can reach people who are trying to reconnect with the church. Super Bowl Sunday is a good day to target the introduction of new group options (advertise the new groups in January and build excitement).
2. When a group has been together longer than 24 months
It’s really hard for guests to break into classes that have been together for longer than 24 months. Relationships have been formed and life has been shared. When a group approaches its second birthday, it’s time to think: “Start a new group.”
3. When a group’s space is filled to over 80% of capacity
When a group exceeds 80% of its seating capacity, the room is visually full to guests. A group can certainly exceed 80% of its seating, but any group that exceeds 80% of its seating capacity for long will almost always drop to an attendance level less than the 80% it once exceeded. People want and need elbow room, and adults require 15 square feet of space each.
4. When the age span of the people in the group is more than ten years
Although the idea of a “multi-gen” class sounds like a good idea, in reality, it is hard to pull off with excellence. Ken Hemphill, in his book Revitalizing the Sunday Morning Dinosaur, states the homogeneity principle is always in effect. That principle says that people who are similar in age and/or life stage should be placed together in groups. That means that the age range in any group should not be more than 10 years. If it is, then it’s time to start another group (or groups).“Although the idea of a ‘multi-gen’ class sounds like a good idea, in reality, it is hard to pull off with excellence.” — @KenBraddy Click To Tweet
5. As summer ends and fall begins
There’s no doubt your church experiences the “summer slumps” as members take vacations in June and July. But just wait until August—the people return in large numbers, excited about the start of school, football, and autumn. Group ministry often heats up when the weather cools off.
6. When an apprentice group leader is ready to plant a new group
I almost didn’t allow a young couple to start a new group at the beginning of summer one year. I told them that it wasn’t a good idea and that we should wait until August or September. They were persistent in their belief that there were other people in their age group who were not attending Bible study and that they could reach them. I allowed them to start a class in June, and I’m really glad I did. It became one of the fastest-growing groups I’ve ever seen, and it launched at a time that should have been detrimental to its success.
7. A week or two after Easter
We all know how large Easter worship crowds can be. Among the many people who attend a worship service are people who are not connected to any group. Imagine promoting to your Easter guests the establishment of a post-Easter group that will focus on parenting, marriage, finances, or other felt needs. These short-term groups can morph into ongoing ones as they come to an end in four, six, or eight weeks.
8. When your church’s attendance spikes
Most of our churches see spikes in attendance in January and August or September. Keep good records and track your group ministry attendance, and if your church sees a consistent annual spike in other months, consider launching new groups then to give them the maximum opportunity to reach new people.
9. When you discover gaps in your groups ministry
You may become aware there are underserved people groups in your community. Sometimes you uncover needs within your congregation, such as the need for a new young adult group, or the need for a “single on Sunday” group for women whose husbands do not attend. When you become aware of gaps like these, it’s a good time to start a new group for these people.
10. When the span of care exceeds the group’s ability to meet needs
The larger a group grows, the more people it has who need care and ministry. Smaller groups tend to be easier to manage and to mobilize group members to care for one another. The larger the group, the more people fall through the cracks. The solution will be to start a new group, ask group members to move to it, and give each of the two groups a fighting chance to get organized in order to care for members and guests.“Smaller groups tend to be easier to manage and to mobilize group members to care for one another. The larger the group, the more people fall through the cracks.” — @KenBraddy Click To Tweet
In his third book, Why We Can’t Wait, Martin Luther King Jr. made the following statement: “The shape of the world will not permit us the luxury of gradualism and procrastination.” Something similar might be said of the church in America today. The shape of the world will not permit us to carry on as normal; it will not permit us to ignore the starting of new groups. Starting new groups is all about timing. Today is the right time for you to lead your congregation to start a new group (or groups).
For permission to republish this article, contact Marissa Postell Sullivan.