QUESTION: How do you get busy people to show up at small group meetings?
ANSWER: This is one of the most frequently asked questions I hear from small group leaders and ministers. People are busy, so what can leaders do to make their small groups a priority?
What value does the meeting have for group members?
“None of us has time for another meeting,” says Eric Bingaman, minister of discipleship at Batesville (Indiana) Christian Church. “However, I’ll make all the time in the world [for] a group of people who are helping me grow in my faith and offering me an opportunity to use my gifts and passions to make an impact in their lives.”
The fellowship of the early church was extremely valuable to them. Their times together were awe-inspiring (Acts 2:43). Lives were being changed as God worked in their midst, adding “to their number daily those who were being saved” (v. 47). Who wouldn’t want to be part of a group like that?
Be sure to make your time together something people will not want to miss. Pray for your group members between meetings. Ask God to lead you as you lead the meeting. Prepare in advance.
Closely related to value is the importance of meeting group members’ needs. Margaret Mitchell, founder of God’s Love at Work, said, “Stick to delivering—with excellence—what’s genuinely needed. Go the extra mile. Ask the Holy Spirit to help.”
At the same time, however, don’t give in to consumerism in your group. Remember that your group does not exist primarily for its members, but for those not yet in the group. Keep a healthy balance between serving one another and serving others.
The early church “devoted themselves” to the teaching of the apostles, to one another, to sharing the Lord’s Supper together, and to praying with one another. I believe we can take a clue from these early believers. Although busy people sometimes try to avoid additional commitments, don’t forget that we commit to things that are important to us. A small group community where people are being transformed spiritually is about as important as it gets, so don’t be afraid to use a group covenant to help build commitment to one another.
While consistent attendance has value in helping people grow spiritually, remember that your goal is not simply to get people to show up every week. In the past, churches and classes rewarded attendance with pins and other prizes, as if showing up was equal to discipleship. Make spiritual growth and ministering to others your main aim, and people will show up for that.
If only a few people are showing up each week, ask God what he is doing in your group. Perhaps these are the three or four people God has given you to shepherd, love, invest in, and disciple right now. Success does not necessarily equal larger numbers.
Seek to get better as a group before getting bigger. In the parable of the talents, the master told the two wise servants, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Matthew 25:21, 23). Be a good steward of the people God has entrusted to you.
Perhaps people aren’t showing up because they don’t feel needed. If you are a leader who is doing everything for the group, begin to share leadership with a few others and share ownership with everyone! See the sidebar for some possible roles in your group.
Your group is the body of Christ. When some members of the group are not using their gifts, the body cannot function as it should. Tell group members how much each person is needed in order for the group to be a healthy, transformational community.
Over the long term, people don’t continue going to meetings, even good ones. People want and need real friends who are there for them. Call or text one another throughout the week. Form a Facebook group for your small group. Have breakfast together. Visit and pray for members. Go bowling or to a movie. What happens between meetings may be more important than the meeting itself.
Michael Mack is the author of 14 small group books and discussion guides, including I’m a Leader . . . Now What? How to Guide an Effective Small Group (Standard Publishing). E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Role for Every Member
Study Champion: Facilitates study time; helps group decide what to study.
Serve Champion: Helps plan serving opportunities with group.
Outreach Champion: Helps group reach out to and pray for friends who do not have a relationship with Christ
Worship Champion: May lead worship in group, whether it involves singing or some other forms of worship.
Social Champion: Helps plan group social activities.
Prayer Champion: Leads prayer times, may keep prayer journal.
Host(ess)/Hospitality Champion: Hosts group or helps plan who hosts.
Food Champion: Helps plan anything dealing with food for the group.
Timekeeper: Helps group stay on track with time.
Information Champion: Keeps group information up-to-date. Communicates with the small groups ministry office about the group. (This person is probably administrative and enjoys using the Internet; i.e., Facebook.)
Group Communication Champion: Communicates with the group about meetings, etc. (This person may enjoy using e-mail, texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)