Downsizing is a scary word when it means losing jobs. It's scary in the church, too, if it means losing members. On the other hand, it's a good thing to break large groups into smaller groups. People are more likely to freely express themselves to a few people than to a large number of people.
The magic number for most effective small groups seems to be twelve. Perhaps that is why Jesus chose twelve disciples. Nevertheless, the goal can be difficult to achieve.
No one wants to leave. One of our Sunday morning groups in North Hills Church in Phoenix has grown from thirty to sixty-five in the last few years. Another group has grown from about twenty to more than thirty. New groups are formed all the time in hopes of downsizing the groups. People from those groups do join special interest groups that meet through the week, but they seldom leave the large groups.
Since we want to keep legalism out of the church, it seems best to allow the large groups to remain. No one would want to be told, "You will now need to attend such-and-such group."
A dynamic leader who can bring small-group techniques into a large group can be the key to success. Larry Kelchner is a master of injecting humor into the session with sixty-five people. As people join in the fun, they are more likely to continue to be open during a serious discussion.
If people have the option of joining a small group but choose to remain in the large group, they need to be free to exercise their freedom.
Offer creative curriculum. A subject designed to spark interest may induce members to switch to a life group. Issues that get right down to where people live may appeal to the need for practical help.
Those who battle addictions are looking for help through the church. A leader ...