launching-new-groups

Most church leaders want their churches to grow, and for the right reasons. They want new people to encounter God, grow in their faith, and join God on His mission of serving others. But there is often a wide gap between a church leader desiring to grow and the church possessing a mentality of multiplication.

During my church consulting days, I could quickly assess a church’s multiplication mentality by asking just one question: How often do you start new groups (or classes)? I would ask the question because I’d seen over and over again a close relationship between the churches that were growing and those who constantly launched new groups. The churches working hard to launch new small groups and Sunday School classes on a regular basis were continually connecting new people and building believers who were passionate about what the Lord was doing through His Church. Thus, they were growing.

The principle is obvious: If you want to connect new people in church, you must launch new groups.

Of course, that raises another question: What’s stopping churches from regularly starting new classes and groups? While a plethora of reasons may exist, here are the three that stand out in my mind:

  1. A lack of vision. It’s easy for church leaders to become trapped in the present. If a church has a handful of Sunday School classes meeting on Sunday mornings and another handful of small groups meeting on Wednesday nights, that may seem good enough. People are gathering in community. Members are being fed spiritually. The system is working. But failing to launch new groups today means there won’t be a community experience available for the guests and new members coming tomorrow. Wise leaders have a continual vision to launch new groups.
  2. A lack of leaders. Launching a new group or class without a capable, competent leader is like launching a cruise ship without a reliable captain—bad things can happen. Therefore, churches are right to be hesitant about starting new groups when they lack the leaders to support those groups. Thus churches must continually identify new leaders, invest in them, and challenge them to help launch new groups for the sake of connecting God’s people in community.
  3. A lack of systems. If launching new groups is important, necessary systems must be developed. I am not talking about complex databases or lengthy procedure manuals, but simple systems that will help the church launch and communicate new groups. Church leaders must be able to answer these few questions and have simple systems in place:
    • How does a new person get connected to a group/class?
    • How are leaders recruited and trained?
    • How are new groups launched and announced to the church?

One of the reasons I’m so excited about the upcoming launch of the new Bible Studies for Life series is that I know it will help churches consistently launch new groups.

The Bible Studies for Life material focuses on compelling themes designed to help churches connect the unconnected, strengthen families, and disciple people with wisdom. And because each study is intuitive and easy to lead, churches will have better success asking volunteers to take the plunge as group leaders.

If you want your church to grow, you need to launch new groups. And Bible Studies for Life can help. Last week we hosted a short, 30-minute webcast for the launch of Bible Studies for Life. You can watch a replay of that webcast below or at the Bible Studies for Life site.

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Comments

  1. Bruce Raley says

    With 30 plus years of local church and denominational ministry experience, I wholeheartedly agree! Most groups close within 18 to 24 months. The key to reaching more people is the consistent creation of new groups. I have discovered every new student and adult group (properly started) will increase organizational attendance by at least 10. Another important reality is that a catalyst is almost always involved. Very few groups are organic. Most are launched because someone saw the potential and vision. As I consult with churches about the creation of new groups, I suggest a goal of one new group for every hundred in organizational attendance. For example, a church of two hundred should start at least 2 new groups annually. A church of 1000 launches 10 annually.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Adam –

      Any church of any size should ALWAYS be in the process of starting new groups. If it is effectively done, it is a never-ending process.

      • says

        I LOVE your blogs and insights Thom. Interesting #1 reason. I am the only pastor in an average size church (80-100). The church was declining. We have been here for almost 4 yrs. God has allowed us to see some fruit for our labors with Him (disciples made, growth and health in the financial and ministry systems etc). We have 2 adult Bible classes on Sunday: the one I teach (Young adults :20’s-40’s) and the older class (50’s and up). We do lack gifted men to lead new groups but I believe in them. In this rural “insider/outsider” culture how do you know what groups to start and when they should be held; Sunday school vs. home groups? Thanks! (When we got here we had 75% insiders and 25% outsiders. Now it’s about 55% insider 45% outsider. Thanks again!

        • Thom Rainer says

          Thanks Mike. With the blessings God is giving your church, I would likely add groups like those you already have. Though it’s hard to know from a single question, that seems to be the best path to take.

          I love hearing stories like yours — great reminders that God is not done with us yet.

          • says

            You are exactly right! God isn’t even half way done! Thanks for your suggestions and taking the time to help!

  2. Karen Hays says

    Do you see a need for accountability among small group leaders? How have you seen this accomplished?

    • Thom Rainer says

      Karen –

      I do see the need for accountability. But when you are dealing with accountability from volunteers, you must have a mutual covenant. The volunteers can not be forced into accountability; they must covenant to accountability willingly and cheerfully.

  3. Gloria says

    Our church has lost alot of members and I think its because we stopped offering new classes, a way not only for us to learn but to connect with new members. Thom do you think you could provide this in Spanish for our pastor?

  4. Michael Smith says

    Should new groups be created out of groups that are to big and what is the ideal size of a group?

    • Thom Rainer says

      Michael –

      Create groups out of large groups, small groups, any groups! Regarding size of groups, there are many theories out there. Perhaps I’ll address it in a future post.

  5. Mike says

    Dr Rainer,
    What do you see as the top 10 reasons churches fail to see the need to launch new groups regularly? I appreciate the three reasons, however would you mind expanding?
    Thank you,
    Mike

    • Thom Rainer says

      “Top ten reasons” sounds like a post idea rather than a comment Mike. Maybe I can do that later.

  6. Laurence McKeon says

    Thanks for the post. This reminded me of your book I just read this past semester, Simple Church and starting new groups is certainly a great idea but only if you follow the four step process to keeping it simple: Clarity, Movement, Alignment, and Focus. :) They are all equally important when starting new groups but what resonates with me the most is moving the community within those groups so they mature spiritually. Loved the class, the book and your posts. Looking foward to experincing these steps in action, and future posts.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Wow! I’m impressed Laurence. Thank you for your diligence in God’s church. With a heart like yours and laser focus on those things that really matter, the future is bright for your church!

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