Do you love or hate the space in which your group meets? The best space is nearly invisible. It fits. There are no distractions like noise, glare, smell, etc. The temperature is just right. The encounter with God in His Word is fresh, fun, and life-changing with never a thought about the room.
But space is also a function of group size. A small group in a large space can feel depressed. A large group in a small space can feel excited while at the same time feeling crowded, dangerous, and uncomfortable.
Going a bit farther, space and group size impacts social dynamics within the teaching and learning environment. Let me share about the three most relevant group sizes from Joseph Myers’ The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups. Think about them this way:
- INTIMATE. You tend to know a lot about these people. How you teach one or two persons is a lot different. You share more honestly. This might include subgroups during group time or even prayer partners. Teaching and learning is more conversational.
- PERSONAL. These groups might include a dozen. You tend to know names and stories. As group size increases past six, watch the teaching-learning expectation shift toward the teacher talking more. Home groups and smaller classes, especially in smaller churches, often have groups this size.
- SOCIAL. You know many names and some stories. There is not time for everyone to talk. Lecture is common. Involvement demands subgrouping, which is facilitated best in open space. These are often larger classes, often in larger churches.
Make the most of your space and group size. In order to make disciples (as Jesus commanded in the Great Commission), don’t allow your room size (space) to dictate your methods. Personal and social size groups can change up teaching-learning dynamics simply by breaking the group into subgroups for part of group time. Spend time with individuals away from group time. Your investment in these ways can change you, them, and the group.
Also, expect your group to grow maturationally and numerically. But with growth comes change in group dynamics. Lead the way with care and sensitivity. Make the most of your space!
Darryl Wilson serves as Sunday School & Discipleship Consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention. He served as Minister of Education in five churches in Kentucky and South Carolina and is the author of The Sunday School Revolutionary!, a blog about life-changing Sunday School and small groups.