Today we live in a world of constant change with most of the change reflecting a secular worldview, which greatly impacts how people think, act and live their lives. In order for the church to make a positive impact on our culture, we must get back to doing The Great Commission. As we reach and disciple people for Christ, a new Biblical worldview will come into focus and the heart of the United States will change. One of the solutions to carrying out the Great Commission is through a robust and healthy small group strategy. That strategy should include the practice of starting new adult coed on-campus groups.
– by Topper Reid
Creating new adult coed groups, particular on-campus when space is available, on a regular basis will allow the church to continue to have the evangelistic ability to reach new people and disciple them for Christ. It is important for a church to have a plan to create new groups and an expectation that the plan will be followed and carried out by the staff, the leadership and the membership of the church. There are two key concepts in this taking place, 1) Planning must be a priority; 2) It should be an expectation.
Planning Must Be a Priority
Because The Great Commission instructs us to reach people and to disciple them there needs to be a plan for starting new groups. Creating new groups should have the same priority in planning as does other vital ministry areas such as worship planning. Planning begins with understanding the history of small groups and applying healthy principles. Here are some proven steps that enables a leader to plan for creating new groups:
- Start the process at least three months prior to launching a new group.
- Begin the process with prayer.
- Start conversations with the main group leader (teacher) and the associate teacher or potential teacher for the new group when a group consistently touches on an attendance of 25+.
- Guide the group leader (teacher) to be the one to help his or her group to create the new group. The leader is the key to helping the group view this as a positive and necessary next step for the group.
- The group members should be asked to pray about becoming a member of a potential core group. The core group should be made up of 4 couples who have a strong attendance pattern.
- After spending time in prayer and in conversations with the church staff, the current group leader and the new group leader will work behind the scenes to enlist potential core group members.
- A start date for the new group will be determined and placed on the calendar.
- The group curriculum should be chosen and ordered.
- A room should be designated for the new group.
- Once the core group is in place, the group leader (teacher) of the current and new group will share the core group names with the current group.
- Identify potential members of the new group. Look for guests who haven’t plugged in to a group, inactive members from other groups, or people who might match the life-stage or other affinity of the group that is launching.
- Start contacting potential members for the new group two weeks in advance and invite them to attend the new group.
- A special commissioning ceremony should be planned for the core group the Sunday before they begin. At this time, group members lay hands on the core group and send them off with prayer. Like commissioned missionaries, the new core group leaves the current group to reach and disciple new people.
- All potential members for the new group are called and invited to a social event sometime the week before the new group begins on Sunday.
- Continue to pray.
- Begin the new group and celebrate!
What About Space and Group Size?
For many churches, architecture is the key factor in keeping them from easily creating new groups on a regular basis. The size of the class-room will affect the ease and efficiency in starting new adult groups. In the past, many churches built smaller classrooms that would seat 12-15 people and followed a formula to create the new group that was very difficult to implement. Consequently, over the years the process for creating new groups was so difficult and painful that we have developed a negative attitude regarding anything to do with creating new groups. Furthermore, this prevalent negative attitude has affected the growth of the majority of our churches nation wide to the extent that most evangelical churches are plateaued or declining. The old formula called for a group enrollment ceiling of 25 which would bring an attendance of 12-15 people present.
Consider the following formula for creating new adult groups. In my 30+ years of experience in creating over 300 new groups I have found the following to work ideally. The best size room for adults is a 24’x16’ room. There are 384’ square feet in this room. Each adult needs 12’ square feet, which means we can comfortably seat 32 adults at 100% occupancy. Applying the 80% rule to the 32 in attendance lowers the attendance to 25. Any space used at 80% or more will lose its ability to add more people. There are only so many people that will comfortably fit in a room! Therefore, when a group begins to consistently touch on an attendance 25 or more, it is in the “window of opportunity” to create a new group. When a space hits 80% usage on a regular basis, plans should be made to add a new group.
The larger classroom allows us to follow a new formula which is much easier to implement and has a much greater rate of success. Once a group enters the “window (consistently touches on an attendance of 25 plus) to create a new group,” the leaders are given up to three months to facilitate the new group (the plan goes into effect). In most cases, by the time we start the new group, the mother group is averaging 26 to 27 in attendance. Our new formula allows us to take out ten people (4 couples and the associate teacher couple make up the new core group) with a strong attendance pattern to start the new group. This puts 10 strong attending people in the new core group and leaves 16-17 attendees remaining in the mother group. These two strong groups will not only survive but as they continue to follow the plan, will create more new groups in the future. This new formula uses a group ceiling enrollment of 68, which will normally bring an attendance of 25, which is 37% of attendance to enrollment.
For most established churches, where not many new adult small groups have been started, the level of expectation must be raised. The vision should communicated with current leaders and with new leaders when they are enlisted. The expectations should include the following:
- Each adult group will try to create a new group every year.
- Every teacher should enlist an associate teacher who will teach 30-50% of the time.
- When a group touches on 25 or more in attendance, a new group plan should begin.
Communicate this as a part of your overall strategy for starting new adult groups.
Making a Difference
We can make a difference for Christ in our world by carrying out The Great Commission through our small group organization using this strategy. Create an expectation and execute your plan. We must get back to using our small group influence in reaching and discipling new people for Christ. Many of our existing groups have become like “Bible clubs” where the groups have turned inward and no longer reach out to the unchurched. We can change this mindset if we develop a plan and raise the expectation.