What makes small groups grow? I’ve surveyed over 4000 small group leaders in more than 300 churches to discover the answer.
The most surprising discovery so far is that there is zero correlation between how much time leaders spend preparing their lesson or discussion questions and whether their group is growing or not. In other words, comparing hundreds of group leaders who spend hours preparing their Bible discussion to hundreds of leaders who spend several minutes or no time at all, there is no difference at all zero, nada, zip.
On the other hand, there is a VERY high correlation with whether they are praying for their group meeting and members and whether their group is vibrant and growing.
Consistently, however, leaders report that they spend more time preparing their study than they do praying for their group.
What does this say to you if you are a small group leader?
Prepare your heart, not your notes. Realize that the vibrancy and growth of your group depends on God, not on you. Start studying less and praying more. Get before God. Enjoy his presence, pray for your group and listen to him. Invite God to work in power in your meeting and in your members’ lives. Invite his presence. Ask for his power to be released. Pray for miracles. Ask him to work in such big ways that people will realize just how amazing and great and compassionate he is. He will answer your prayers.
I invite you to do one thing this week: Spend the same amount of time you usually spend preparing for your small group meeting, but shift the bulk of your time from preparing your notes to praying and preparing your heart. I think you’ll see an immediate difference. I’ve made this shift as a small group leader myself and I’m never going back.
What does this say to you if you are a small group pastor or group ministry director?
When I first made this discovery it radically changed how I was doing small group leader training. The facts slapped me in the face! Here I was teaching people how to prepare their lesson, and it made no difference. And I was taking no time working with them on their prayer life and how to pray for their members and meetings—things that made all the difference! Our church immediately shifted the focus and content of our training.
The fact that time spent preparing for the Bible discussion does not correlate to group health or group growth also means that you should provide excellent Bible discussion helps for your leaders so that they don’t have to focus on creating their own questions or lessons. This will free them up to spend time with God and their members.
What is your very next step? Change the way you prepare for your own small group. Then look at how you do your training. Then spend more time praying for your training events and trainees than you do going over your notes!