Note: this article is one of six articles that eventually grew into a book: Make Your Group Grow. Available here: www.youcandouble.com
Four things made it into the “this really matters” list. What does it take to make it into the “this really matters” list? I set the criteria at 100% difference between the bottom group and the top. The teachers who practice these practices were twice as likely (or more) to be doubling as the ones who were not practicing these things.
#1: Fellowship matters
I asked teachers how many fellowships they have. Now, if you have ever heard me speak or read anything I have written, you know the drill: Invite every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month. I didn’t actually ask about that. I didn’t ask if the groups invited every member and every prospect; I just asked if they had a party. More specifically, I asked how many parties they have:
4. How many fellowships do you have a year?
0 – 4
5 – 8
9 or more
The group that has 9 or more fellowships a year is twice as likely (104%) to be growing compared with the group that has one fellowship a quarter or less. Double the number of parties; double the chance of growing. (Note: this is not a scientifically randomized survey, but rather a survey of group leaders that I filled out surveys online and at conferences.)
Don’t you love it when you are right? I have not been right on every one of these things. I have already reported on things that I thought would really matter that do not matter hardly at all, or do not matter very much. In this case, the data supports what I have been saying for years: groups that party together grow together.
How much better if groups follow the formula: invite every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month. But, the sheer practice of parties, whether or not we invite outsiders doubles our chances of doubling.
Truth is, this plan is as old as the Bible. Consider these verses:
- Get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner. Romans 12:13 (TLB)
- Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9 (NIV)
- Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)
- Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends. Luke 14:12a (NIV)
I had someone say to me after a conference recently, “What you are talking about is just doing what the Bible says.”
Romans 12.13 says to form a habit. (This is Kenneth Taylor’s way of communicating what we might miss in an English translation. This is that tense in Greek that suggests continual, ongoing action, thus, habit.) The habit is to invite. We cannot determine whether or not they will come. We just are to form a habit of inviting.
Notice this is a command. As surely as God has commanded us to pray or give or serve or do anything else, God has said to form a habit and the habit is inviting guests home for dinner.
We are to offer hospitality without grumbling. There are at least two reasons for this. All idea degenerate into work. It is work having people over. Someone has to vacuum the floor. Someone has to prepare the snacks. Someone has to pick up the phone and invite.
We are to offer hospitality without grumbling for a second reason. Some people are hard to love. We say we want to win our world for God, but what we mean is, we want to reach nice people, funny people, interesting people. God has called us to reach out to all kinds of people and sometimes they are kind of hard to love.
What are we to expect when we invite? Sometimes they will come. Sometimes they won’t. No matter. Form a habit. Do it over and over again. Keep inviting. Sometimes they will come. Sometimes they won’t. Sometimes they will be late. Sometimes they will be boring. Sometimes they will be rude. Sometimes they will be obnoxious. Sometimes they will come and they won’t leave.
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Who are we to offer hospitality to? Jesus told us, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends.” Or, as one translation has it, “Don’t invite only your friends.” I think that captures the spirit of it. You can invite your friends, but don’t restrict the invitation list to only your friends.
True confession time: Have you ever had a luncheon or dinner and invited only your friends? Jesus says to stop it. In love, He says, “Stop inviting just your friends.”
If you will do what the Bible says you can double your class. You are twice as likely to be growing if you have twice as many parties!
#2 Big Team
Groups that have lots of people involved in ministry are more than twice as likely to grow as those with small teams. Here is the way I put it on they survey:
8. How many class officers (i.e. inreach leaders, outreach leaders, fellowship leaders, etc.) do you have for your class?
None — only me
More than three
In this case I grouped the top two and the bottom two together, ignoring the middle group. People who have a large team–three or more are 115% more likely to report that they are growing than those with only the teacher or only teacher and one other person.
Jesus taught us this would be true. The harvest is plentiful; the workers are few. One of the most predictable ways of increasing the harvest is increasing the number of workers in the harvest.
If you want to grow your group, get lots of people involved. These people might include:
- Inreach leaders (invite every member)
- Outreach leaders (invite every prospect)
- Fellowship leaders
- Teacher in training
- Prayer leaders
- Class leader/ administrator
- Care group leaders
In order to get these leaders, I recommend you have a vision day once a quarter. The vision day is where you re-cast the vision for the group. What is the vision for the group? The same vision Jesus gave His group: make disciples of all nations, starting with this small group. As Henry Blackaby put it, anything less is planned disobedience.
How can you reach the whole world starting with your small group? Doubling every two years or less is a good start. A group of ten that doubles every eighteen months can reach a thousand people in ten years. The second and third ten years get really interesting.
How are we going to double every two years or less? By having lots of parties and lots of people helping with the parties we are almost certain to double. (By the way, if we combine these two attributes the results are really impressive: The high fellowship/ high team group is 256% more likely to be growing than is the low fellowship/ low team group.
- Ok, who wants to invite every member?
- Who wants to invite every prospect?
- Who wants to help plan three fellowships in the next three months?
- Who could the group identify who has strong administrative gifts and would keep us on on task?
- Who would like to be on the prayer team?
The idea is not to get so many slots filled; the idea is to get everyone with a job. We want everyone to be involved in the work of the ministry, according to their giftedness. There are many places to serve outside of the small group. But within the group, helping the group to double every two years or less is a great way to get started.