Continuing our look at ministry “rules of thumb,” let’s look at a few that relate to small groups. These are taken from Gary McIntosh’s book, Church That Work. This is an excellent book for providing insight into virtually every area of church and ministry management. The book is published by Baker Books, and is well worth adding to your library.
1. a Minimum of 20% of your small groups should be less than two years old.
Most small groups become closed after awhile. In spite of their best efforts to remain open and welcoming to new friends, a group takes shape and its list of insiders solidifies in the first two years. If you’re going to keep the doors open to new friends, new groups are usually the best way to do so.
2. a Minimum of 50% of the congregation should be in small groups.
This is generally achievable if you’ve taken a good approach and are offering a positive group experience. Congregations that greatly emphasize small groups can see their participation rate increase, but if you don’t have at least half of the adults in your church in small groups, there’s probably some work to do in making your current efforts more effective.
3. 90% of participants remain connected to your church.
We’ve frequently said that assimilation is about friends, involvement, and contribution. If you get new people involved in a small group, you can expect 90% of them to remain connected to your church. The new folks you don’t keep are those who never were connected to a small group, so…here’s a key “secret” to effective assimilation.
4. 75% of those we’ll assimilate do so quickly
Seventy-five percent of those who become active in a church do so within 6-12 months of first attending. This indicates that if you don’t get people involved quickly, you likely never will. Some pastors have the idea that we’ll let people get to know us before we ask them to become involved. But getting involved in a small group is one of the best ways for them to get to know you. So this “rule of thumb” says we should lead with small groups.
In addition to their potential for assimilation, small groups are often our most effective discipleship strategy. They are something that every individual needs to be a part of, so don’t apologize for making them important. Most churches find that those who are in small groups are easiest to minister to effectively and can more quickly become the “backbone” of the local congregation. Excel in small groups and you’ll find it much easier to excel in every thing else.