Last fall my friend Laura's small group was dead in the water. There was no momentum, little excitement, and sporadic attendance. As a result, Laura was frustrated, perplexed, and discouraged.
So Laura changed one thing. And now everything is different. Attendance has doubled, new people are coming, the group is fun, relationships are deeper, and God is making cool changes in people's lives.
What change did Laura make in her small group? She changed the group from meeting every other week to meeting weekly. When she first brought up this option, her group members resisted the change. Most of them wanted to keep things as they were. But she realized that her group would never experience growth without this change. She took a risk and demonstrated leadership by doing what she felt needed to be done. It has paid off in her group members' lives and in the lives of the new people who are attending. Surprisingly, the very people who wanted the group to meet every other week now enjoy coming weekly.
My Own Research Results
Laura's small group demonstrates what my extensive research involving over 3,000 small-group leaders revealed. It's clear that groups meeting every other week experience considerably less health, community, and growth.
Frankly, I think every-other-week groups would work just fine if people actually came every other week, but people simply don't come to a group every time it meets. The flu visits, schedules conflict, work projects overwhelm, and occasional crises occur.
In our church, people miss small group about once a month, or 38 percent of the time. Of course, your church may be different. But if you're in an every-other-week group and you miss a week, you're really meeting monthly. And if we're in the same group, and I miss this week and you miss the next meeting, the two of us are meeting every six weeks or so. It's difficult to build healthy relationships when we're only together every four to six weeks.
Right now I can hear some of you objecting: "But people at my church are crazy busy. There's no way they'll meet weekly." I've realized, though, that crazy busy people occasionally are going to miss group regardless of how often you meet. So that makes it even more pivotal that your group meets weekly.
One thing I concede is that an every-other-week group is better than no group at all. What I want you to recognize, however, is that it is considerably harder to get traction meeting with that frequency.
If you are leading an every-other-week group that's not gaining excitement and momentum, I suggest you try out weekly meetings. Another alternative is to keep your regular every-other-week meetings in place and add an additional party or service event into the mix each month. In essence that moves a twice-a-month group into meeting three times a month, and for many groups this can be a tipping point that accelerates the group into deeper relationship and growth.
—Jim Egli is co-author of Small Groups, Big Impact. Used with permission from the author.