In recent weeks, we’ve looked at three critical questions for small group ministry planning:
1. Why are we doing small groups?
2. What will our small groups do?
3. Who will we involve in small groups?
4. Will we keep an open chair?
5. What will our groups not do?
6. Who must we find?
Next on our list is another important decision for leaders:
7. Commitment – Do we anticipate low requirement?
What does low requirement mean? The question relates to how frequently we expect people to attend the group meetings. Will they be involved in a study that demands consistent attendance, like a finance training or some type of course completion? These type of groups are considered high requirement.
A monthly fellowship group is usually a low commitment situation. We want folks to attend regularly, but they won’t be missing critical content if they’re absent a week or two. Given the crowded schedules lived by most families, it’s almost impossible to plan on perfect attendance.
Open groups—those that want to welcome new friends—are typically lower commitment groups. You can’t plan a study that demands high levels of attendance and still be open to new friends joining after a few weeks. So to make this work, each week’s content needs to stand alone. In other words, your material can’t require that everyone has attended each week, because your new friends haven’t. For this reason, open groups need to generally be low requirement groups.
Content can determine requirement level but it’s not the only factor. Remember the purpose of your small groups. If you’re goal is connecting and relationship building, keep the requirement low and let the quality of those relationships begin to drive more regular attendance. If the demand is high and the friendship-building gets off to a slow start, the group won’t likely succeed.
So consider your content and consider your purpose, and don’t forget to consider your people. Be certain that your level of requirement isn’t unrealistic. If you’re planning a six-month group that meets every week and aims for high requirement, don’t be surprised that the group struggles.
Make this decision carefully and with the greatest wisdom. If the group needs high requirement, like Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program, don’t apologize for the need to be consistent. The program won’t work if not engaged fully. But if high requirement isn’t critical, lower requirement will give more people the opportunity to successfully participate.