Several years ago, I had my own wake-up call about the power of groups when I was leading a research project. I would report the research in my book, High Expectations. I asked my research team to review the records of hundreds of church members who had joined their churches five years earlier. We then asked the staff of these churches to identify those members who attended worship services only, and those who were also in a group.

The results were staggering.

Those church members who became involved in some type of group in the churches were five times more likely to be active in the church five years later compared to the worship-only attenders. (We did not include those who moved to another community, became incapacitated, or died in the dropout category.)

I had to check the results a second time. They were astounding. More than 83 percent of those who joined and were involved in a small group were still active in the churches. But only 16 percent of those who attended worship services only remained in the churches five years later.

I have led a lot of research projects, and I have read even more. But these results were some of the most surprising and most amazing I have ever seen.

And it brings us back to the main theme of this chapter. We cannot grow effectively as a believer in isolation. While we certainly need to be in larger worship settings, we also need to be connected in groups in the church: small groups, Sunday school classes, life groups, home groups, or others.

Thom S. Rainer, I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian (Nashville: B&H, 2015).

I have just completed a series of lessons based on Thom Rainer’s book, I Will. They are available as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year. Lessons correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines as well as the International Standard Series.