5 Keys to Sustaining New Groups

“We’ve launched 25 new groups. How can we help them continue to meet?”

It is not hard to launch a wave of new small groups. Very easy to do. But like I always say, “There’s an upside and a downside to everything.”  What’s the upside? They’re easy to start. The downside is that they come with a life expectancy of about six weeks.

Six weeks? That’s all? Isn’t there anything that can be done? I’m glad you asked! And the answer is “Yes!”  Here are the five keys to sustaining new groups:

  1. Give them a coach on the front end, before they even begin, who will connect on a weekly basis, walk alongside them and help them get started. This is important. New hosts are usually more receptive to this idea in the beginning than they ever will be again. Caution: It is important to recruit coaches based on who’s right for the job, not on who’s available. The best candidates are almost always already serving. Freeing them up to move to the right seat on the bus separates fruitfulness from “in-name-only.” Don’t give in to the temptation to fill an org chart with available bodies. If you want to sustain groups, you’ll need the right people.
  2. Give your new groups material that is easy to use. There is a growing number of great studies to choose from. Caution: The study you choose will determine how easy it is for hosts to invite friends. I’ve written about what I call the Easy/Hard Continuum. If you want your hosts to fill their own group, you’ll need to find a topic that is very invitation-friendly.
  3. Encourage your new groups to take turns facilitating.  Session 1 ought to end with a brief look at the calendar and the invitation for group members to share responsibility for the group by taking a turn bringing refreshments, coordinating the prayer list, or even facilitating a session! Recruiting one member in advance to take a turn is often all you need to prime the pump. Groups that rotate facilitators are much more likely to continue meeting. Caution: Do this in a way that is not forced. “Everybody needs to take a turn” is not the idea.
  4. Encourage your new hosts to find at least one other member who is willing to open their home for a meeting. Groups that can meet even when the host is out of town are much more likely to continue. Caution: It should be nearby. Moving Week 4’s meeting to a home 15 miles away is not a good idea.
  5. Give your new groups a study to do next that is similar in kind and do it by Week 4 or 5.  There are two important parts to this key. First, what you give them to do next must be similar to the study they start with. DVD driven? Give them a DVD study to do next. Six weeks? Give them another six-week study to do next. Easy to prepare? You get the idea. Keeping them in a similar format ensures that your new hosts will not be intimidated. Second, telling them what’s next by Week 4 or 5 catches them while they’re beginning to develop a rhythm of getting together. Caution: Allowing each group to come up with their own follow-up study almost always leads to the selection of a study that is too hard or too long.  


Previous articleWhy Driscoll Thinks Missionary Dating Is a Terrible Idea
Next articleFree Graphics Package: "Do Not Fear"
Mark Howell serves as Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV. He founded SmallGroupResources.net, offering consulting and coaching services to help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries. He spent four years on the consulting staff at Lifetogether and often contributes to ministry periodicals such as the Pastor's Ministry Toolbox and ChurchCentral.com.