Cures for a Shrinking Group

When your group number goes down, should you disband or revamp?

The following article is excerpted from
Discipleship Journal, "DJ Plus," Issue 88, 1995.

In Issue 86 we introduced Jeff, whose small group had shrunk from 12 members to four. This left him wondering whether to disband the group or keep going with the faithful few.

David Colburn of Lexington, Massachusetts, believes there are options other than just disbanding the group. First, Jeff and the others need to assess why people have left the group. Was it scheduling? Unmet expectation? An over ambitious agenda? Before moving on, the group needs to know what pitfalls to avoid in the future.

Next, Colburn recommends that each remaining group member invite one other person to join their small group.

In inviting new people, make clear how the group operates. What are the logistics (how often, how long, where)? What is the group's emphasis (i.e., building relationships, studying and applying Scripture, praying for unsaved friends)? What are the expectations of each group member (e.g., sharing leadership, spending one hour minimum on preparation, praying for each other daily)? If these questions are not answered clearly and honestly, Jeff will just witness more attrition.

Perhaps Jeff's group will decide to stay small. If so, they'd be wise to brainstorm how to revamp their time together to make the most of their smaller size. For example, a group of four could tackle a more in-depth Bible study than a group that needs to allow time for 12 members to participate. A smaller group could also give more attention to helping one another develop other spiritual disciplines, such as Scripture memory or daily devotions. They could spend time reviewing verses or sharing insights from the previous week's quiet times—activities that are difficult ...

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