By Chris Surratt
You’ve been excited for weeks (or even months) about the new group you’re launching or planning to lead. You’ve identified a strong core of people to recruit for attendance. You’ve already spoken to some of them, and they seem enthusiastic. It’s been consistently promoted, and you have everything in place.
Then, the first meeting rolls around and very few—maybe even zero—show up.
It can be very disheartening to prepare for your small group and then have no one show up. It’s sometimes worse if only one person comes! Here are a few factors to think about if no one signs up or shows up for the group:
1. Is the group being hosted in too remote of an area from the church?
It will be more difficult to ask church members to attend a group that is over fifteen to twenty minutes from their house. If this is the case, you will need to work harder at building your group from your immediate social and neighborhood circles.
2. Is the group’s focus too narrow?
Targeting a specific cause for a group to form around can be beneficial, but it will take longer to gain traction. A specific support-type group will need more time before critical mass in the group is achieved.
3. Are you meeting on an unpopular night?
Trying to host a group on Friday nights in a community where high school football shuts the town down every week will probably be a tough go.
4. Are the meetings consistent enough?
Groups that only meet once a month will never gain the relational equity it takes to build loyalty. Even groups that meet every other week will struggle with consistency.
If a member misses one or two meetings in a row, they will get disconnected from the life of the group and will drop out. Groups that meet every week have a much higher rate of success.
Avoid cancelling a meeting if only a few members cannot make it.
5. Is the group shrinking?
It is always good to add new people during the life of the small group. Groups will inevitably shrink if new people aren’t being added. Eventually, you will end up with a good solid core that attends weekly.
Not every group my wife and I have led has been a great success.
When we moved to a new city a few years ago, we purposefully picked our new home based on how easy it would be to host a large number of people. The kitchen was spacious for pre-discussion time, and the living room had plenty of room to arrange chairs around the outside. We had as many as 44 people crammed into our house one time.
Our first couple of groups in that home averaged 10 to 15 couples, so we felt confident that the system was working and we knew what would attract people to our group. That was true—right up until we opened the sign-up sheet for the third semester and only one couple committed to our group.
Even though we continued to invite (or beg) other people to join, our small group stayed truly small the entire semester. It was never a difficult decision to cancel a group meeting; when the other couple couldn’t make it, it was cancelled.
Not every group you start will take off immediately. But you have a better chance of a successful launch if you keep the above factors in mind as you strategize about engaging people through your groups ministry.
CHRIS SURRATT (@ChrisSurratt) is a ministry consultant and coach with more than twenty years of experience. He served on church staffs prior to becoming the discipleship and small groups specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources. He is the author of Leading Small Groups: How to Gather, Launch, Lead, and Multiply Your Small Group, from which this is excerpted and adapted with permission from B&H Publishing Group. You can follow his blog at ChrisSurratt.com.