Admittedly, I have not done a scientific study on how many churches in America intentionally start new groups. But my anecdotal observations are that only about one in 20 churches, or about 5 percent, have a semblance of new groups strategy in place. Those numbers are sad, because such a strategy can be used of God to revolutionize churches.
I don’t plan on this article being one and done on the subject. It’s too important. You will hear more in the near future.
What Is a Group?
Different groups serve different purposes. Some exist for fellowship. Others have an intense discipleship motive. Still others are designed to reach beyond themselves with an evangelistic intent.
They also go by a myriad of names. They are called Sunday school classes, small groups, home groups, cell groups, Bible study classes, and more.
My point in this article is not to differentiate the groups; that exercise can come later. My point is to show the incredible value of groups in general to a church, especially when there is an intentional strategy to reproduce them.
What Can New Groups Do for a Church?
It almost seems like starting new groups is some type of secret strategy. You rarely hear church leaders speak about it. But those who have implemented such a strategy wondered what took them so long to do so. The value of starting new groups is enormous.
- New groups create new fellowship patterns and can thus move a church from an inward focus to an outward focus.
- Those who are in these groups regularly are more likely to share the gospel with someone than other church members. Group members share with people how to become a Christian 2.30 times in a six-month period, versus 0.98 times for other church members.
- Those who are in groups are similarly more likely to invite an unchurched person to church than other church members (3.18 times in the last six months versus 1.24 times).
- People who spend time in the Bible are most likely to show a number of signs of spiritual growth. Groups add at least a third opportunity to study the Bible, in addition to personal study and hearing the preaching of the Word.
- Members who are active in starting new groups are less likely to be a divisive force in the church. They are too busy doing good things with their groups.
Can We Have a Resurgence of Groups?
For almost 100 years, 1860 to 1960, churches in America were highly intentional about starting new groups called Sunday school classes. Perhaps, because in many churches Sunday school became an end instead of a means, it faded in popularity and use.
There have been other resurgences of groups, but none to the extent of the Sunday school movement. Not coincidently, churches across America began declining after Sunday school waned and no other major groups movement replaced it.
I pray that every leader of a church will see the inestimable value of starting new groups. I pray that those leaders will be highly intentional and accountable for starting those groups, regardless of how you design them and regardless of what you call them.
We are beginning to see small signs of a resurgence of groups in churches in America. If this trend continues and grows, I would not be surprised to see a new level of growth and evangelism in our churches.
How do you develop a strategy for starting new groups? We will delve into that issue later. For now, please understand that every new group started in your church will have a multiplier impact on evangelism, discipleship, and fellowship.
Are you intentionally starting new groups in your church? If yes, what are your experiences? If not, why not?