Now, which groups do you think grow the fastest: those with short meetings of 90 minutes or less (a. and b.), those meeting a medium length (c. 90-120 minutes), or those with long meetings of over 2two hours (d. and e.)?
I wasn’t sure what I would find out, but I expected it to be groups with short or medium length meetings. I personally have been biased toward medium length meetings. As a small group leader I have aimed for years for a 90-minute small group meeting, so often I’ve led meetings that went just over 90 minutes. That seemed like the sweet spot to me; perhaps the research would validate my bias. Or maybe, I thought, short meetings are better, like the one-hour small group meetings of some famous churches like Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea, the world’s largest church, which has tens of thousands of groups.
I was wrong. The fastest growing small groups are those that meet for over two hours! My hunches and biases have again been obliterated by solid research!
Why do groups meeting longer have more people join them? I think I know. The research clearly shows that a primary driver of people joining groups is the level of community or caring relationships that the members experience. In longer meetings people have more opportunity to deepen relationships.
Let me quickly add that meeting length is not a primary driver of growth. It’s much more important that your group has an outward focus and that you as a leader are involving other members in ministry and leadership. (You can read more about those things in another recent post.) Both of those factors—an outreach focus and empowering others—drive all four measures of small group growth.
But how long you meet does have some impact, particularly on whether people decide to keep coming back. I’m not proposing that we all have super-long meetings. But this is what I think this says to all of us:
1. Don’t aim for less than 90 minutes.
2. Allow ample time, particularly for the parts of the meeting that deepen relationship: the opening icebreaker question, interactive Bible study, prayer for one another and food.
3. Don’t be in too big of a hurry to rush people out the door.
This is how my wife Vicki and I schedule our current small group that meets each Thursday:
6:00 p.m. Meal together (yep, we eat together ever week)
7:00 p.m. Meeting
– Small Group Icebreaker
– Bible Study
– Ministry Time
8:15 p.m. Dismissed
We have a group that includes families with preschool children so we start and end earlier than most groups.
Did it surprise you, like it did me, that groups that meet longer grow faster? What insights or questions do you have about small group meetings and their length?
This article about small group meeting length originally appeared here.