What People Want From Your Groups

Ed Stetzer, Micah Fries, and I are currently working on a new book, Transformational Groups, based on insights gleaned from a massive research project conducted on small groups (including classes, Bible fellowships, etc). In one phase of the research, the research team at LifeWay Research surveyed and interviewed people who were once in a group but are not currently involved in a group. The good news is that the majority of people said that they would return to being in a group if they were invited.

They also offered insights as to what they’re longing for in a small group.

Relationships

Most likely those who joined a group were told, “the way to really get connected and be known in our church is to join a group.” They likely joined a group with the expectation and desire for relationships, but it doesn’t seem the group experience delivered on that promise. In our interviews, they indicated that they wanted more involvement with the people outside of the Bible study time. When asked what makes a great group leader, a “strong Bible teacher” was ranked very low and “someone who connects people” was ranked the highest. These responses indicated a deep desire for community within a small group.

Obviously we’re not articulating, nor do we believe the respondents were articulating, that Bible teaching isn’t important. Community is only as strong as what it’s built upon; therefore, for community to be strong it must be grounded in the Word. However, one of the advantages of a small group is that the people can discuss truth together, and they can wrestle with passages together. The small group doesn’t need to be a monologue. People who move from a worship gathering to a small group are likely not thinking they’re going to receive a lecture.

Application:

Respondents indicated that they want Bible study that applies to them right now. They want to understand how the timeless truth they’re discussing impacts their lives today. Groups should be able to deliver on both relationships and application. And the two are related. Application always increases in the context of relationships. As the group discusses Scripture, individuals are able to ask questions, encourage one another, and challenge one another to apply the truth.

Are the groups at your church structured to facilitate relationships? Are the leaders trained to connect people together? Is time given for discussion so that the group members may apply biblical truths in their own and one another’s lives?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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Yea! You fixed it!
 
— Mr. Troy Reynolds
 
I just discovered this today and am looking forward to exploring the content on here. It looks like it could be very helpful. Just an FYI - in your paragraph on not putting out B+ material you have a typo. A little ironic. :-) The third sentence begins with "You time" not "Your time."
 
— Troy Reynolds
 
I'm lost, to say the least! As a new pastor, taking over a newly started church I have read just about everything there is to learn what I can do to grow the church. I truly beleive that those attending our church are friendly and sincere. So that can't be the issue. I have read all the comments to this article and I feel that most churches will never have a fair chance! We are a VERY small church, so we don't have a children's church (yet). So if a family comes and gets upset that we don't have a children's church for them to put their children into, we lose! We do provide things for their kids to do during the service and even have an option for their kids to be in a different room, if they don't want their kids to sit with them. We are also such a small church that we don't have a worship team/band/etc. Our worship music comes from music videos. The congregation we do have likes it this way, but of course we would love to have a worhsip team. So, if someone comes to our church and is upset that we don't have live music, we lose! The point I am trying to make is that when people come in with preconceived ideas of what a church should be like, they will never find a church home, unless they find a church who's goal is to entertain! Every Sunday our message comes from the Bible, so that can't be a complaint for someone, so instead, people leave the church and never come back because they want more from a church: they don't want friendly people who are following the Word of God; they want a church that give them something (a babysitter for their kid, entertainment, free gifts, etc.) I'm sorry if sound cynical, I truly want everyone to hear the Good News and learn about Christ's love, but if they come in looking for something else, then the church will always lose!
 
— JAG
 

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