Breaking through Small Group Plateaus: The 50 Percent Plateau

How church structure can limit the success of your small group ministry.

Growth Barriers and Small Group Plateaus

In part one of this series we discussed the groundbreaking research of Karen Hurston demonstrating how church structure can limit the success of your small group ministry. Similar to the growth barriers identified by the Church Growth movement, small group plateaus are places where the growth of small group ministry tends to get "stuck."

When small group ministries reach one of these plateaus, further growth often requires changes in leadership selection, the role of paid staff, management style, and curricula. Making such changes can lead to the further penetration of small groups in your congregation.

This month we'll look at the characteristics of churches at the 50% plateau.

Characteristics of Churches: The 50% Plateau

Churches with between 40-60% of adult worshipers enrolled in small groups are the most common type of North American small group church. Karen Hurston estimates they comprise 80-90% of churches with small groups. The fundamental characteristic of these churches is that a single staff member is responsible for the small group ministry of the church. Besides being responsible for small groups, this staff member typically has additional ministry responsibilities. Carl George writes, "If a church assigns a staff person to facilitate small groups, the involvement-level numbers will double. In most cases, a staff person will get twice the participation that a lay person will, simply because of the time and energy he or she has to put into it." This is the single biggest difference between churches at the 20% plateau and churches at the 50% plateau.

Hurston calls this system the Incorporated System. She writes: "Although the senior pastor considers the groups important, ...

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