When you hear the words, “growing your group,” what comes to your mind? Do you think numerical increase? Or do you think maturational growth, growth as disciples? Can you have one without the other?
Growing Your Group Numerically
We should not shy away from adding more people to our groups. Making disciples of all nations gives the mandate to every Christian, group, and church (Great Commission, in Matthew 28:19-20). And what we have to offer new people is a relationship with God and a group of Christian encouragers built around helping one another meet God in Bible study and living changed, caring lives. We want numbers to increase so there is a chance for even more to become disciples.
Here are four key principles to grow a group numerically:
- pray and plan expectantly;
- add more group caregivers who will challenge and lead group members to reach out with care and invitations to members AND to FRANs (friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors) who are not members;
- add more groups who will naturally add add more caregivers to your Sunday School or small group ministry; and
- pray for, care for, fellowship with, invite, and enroll new people.
The measure of numerical success is enrolling new people. In the right caring environment, this mobilizes even more members to pray for, care for, fellowship with, invite, and enroll other new people. This is a measure and expression of maturation and growth as disciples.
We cannot assume maturational growth is happening simply because a person is attending a group. Instead, we need to look for evidence of growth. Is the focus of conversation on self, others, or God? Are they having Gospel conversations with others? Do they love God and desire to serve out of their giftedness? Is there evidence they are spending time with God in Bible study and prayer between group sessions? Do their lives exhibit a Christian worldview–is thinking and action influenced by Jesus?
What can we do to foster this kind of environment with our groups (in or outside of group sessions)? Here is a starter list of ideas:
- seek participation by everyone in group sessions and activities (this requires more preparation, but it increases interest, retention, and ownership)
- in groups larger than 7 people, break group session into smaller conversational groups for a portion of the time (see the previous one)
- expect group members to prepare (ask questions, give assignments, help them understand why lessons/topics are important)
- ask every individual to serve (find a place that is fulfilling for them and for the class)
- follow up every Bible study session by asking what last lesson was about, what was its point, what they were supposed to do about it, and did they do it?
- set aside extra time occasionally to study topics of relevance and need for the group, such as parenting or finances or spiritual disciplines, etc. (this might be on Saturday morning or a series of week nights for four weeks)
- remember that leaders and caregivers appear more real and approachable when they are honest and transparent (even leaders are human and have struggles).
Evaluate Your Growth
Is your group growing? Is your growth more numerical, more maturational, neither, or both? What can you do to multiply the work by tying the two together? Lead your group to grow this year!
Darryl Wilson serves as the Sunday School & Discipleship Consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention. He is the author of Disciple-Making Encounters and two blogs: Sunday School Revolutionary and 28Nineteen.