In most churches we say, “Weekend/Midweek services are the main attraction to new believers, and small groups is where they go to grow more spiritually.” I believe this. In the ministry I am involved in does this. Our weekends are to EXPOSE the Gospel to students and small groups are to have them EXPERIENCE Jesus. I am all for the weekend/midweek services, I LOVE them. I love the crowds because almost all of the time, there are new students there. But there is something that I think we need to be aware of.
This past year, in my group, I have experienced at least 30% growth. Incredible right? Oh, by group I mean my small group. It’s growing. Fast. Why? Because my guys are bringing in friends. Friends who do not know Jesus, and those friends are hanging around every week.
All the groups who are growing have something in common, and as someone who loves the weekend services, has challenged me personally to see what are we doing in small groups that is attracting non-believers almost more than weekend programs, and how can we transfer that into our weekends.
All of the small groups that are growing have this in common from what I see:
- There is good food– Notice how I didn’t just say “food”, I said good food. Free food is great, free GOOD food is unreal. Students love to hang out and eat. It is a community building time. It’s laughing, talking, hanging out. Students come to where the food is. In my small group, all of the moms take turns cooking for us. We eat and hang for an hour before we study. Obviously during the weekends it could be hard to have free food every week. Chances are there is a fast food (we have Chick-fil-a and In-N-Out) near you. After service announce you are going there to eat as a group and I guarantee you will have students who you never have met before there hanging out.
- The group is real– Groups that are growing are the ones in which people talk about real things and real relationship forms. I’m not talking about shallow teaching, the Gospel is the Gospel and when the Gospel is preached, God moves. I’m talking about shallow relationships among the leaders and the students. In small groups, the leaders are authentic, they open up. Students tend to do that too when their leader does. I just had a leader talk to me about how he felt he was not making a connection with the students on the weekends. I told him to talk to only a few students how you would in the small group instead of trying to say hi to all of them who walk in. It changed everything. Be real, students will be also.
- Students know they can ask ANY question– One of the new guys in our group asked, “How does someone worship and show love to God.” For a group mostly of Christian kids everyone was sort of taken back by the “simple” question but they looked at me to answer. I asked them to share how they do it, and it was awesome to see them minister to their friend. The point? Are we making it known to our student they can/there is someone to ask a real, honest question they have in our weekend/midweek services. Chances are if they really know there are people to talk to, they would find them and seek them out.
- They know and are prayed for immediately– In our growing small groups, prayer is a huge deal. They know if something is going on in their life that they share, the entire group will stop and pray for them right then and there. That’s so encouraging. I am bad sometimes at saying on the weekends, “I’ll pray for you” and then don’t. This is something at Saddleback this last year we have been focusing on, praying right then and there for our students, letting them know they can be prayed for NOW. And I believe it has transformed our ministry to a level in which it was not before. Students are coming out of the woodwork for prayer. It’s awesome.
There is a reason why these small groups are growing and students want their friends to come to it. We need to try to tap into why that is. I’m sure there are more reasons, and I might even post them as a continuation. Do you have any thoughts? Let me know.