Do Numbers Matter?
Typically we say an ideal small group consists of 10-15 people. Less than that can sometimes feel awkward and more can feel overwhelming. But, what if the number doesn’t matter at all? I believe there are two things that affect group health more than how many people attend on a weekly basis.
I’ve had groups in the past where only a few people signed up and so had to help the group navigate through what to do. I realized what mattered most was people’s expectations of how many people “should” be in the group in order for it to feel “full.” I think people feel awkward when there’s less than 10 people in a group only because we tell people to expect a group of 10 people. Our #1 goal should never be developing groups of 10-15 people, but to develop growing disciples of Jesus. That can effectively happen with 2, 6, 10, or however many people. In fact, it can probably happen more effectively with smaller groups. I wonder what would happen if we stopped putting artificial numbers on our groups, but encouraged them, whatever size they may be, to grow as disciples of Jesus.
Commitment level matters when it comes to group size. The smaller the group, the more important group commitment is. A group of 3 very committed families will be better off and grow closer than a group of 4-5 semi-committed families. The bigger the group, the easier it is to have room for non-committed people. If you are going to have a smaller group, you need to assess the commitment level of those involved. If you don’t have around 3 committed families, then you’re going to struggle. As people sign up for groups, I try to assess how many committed/non-committed people are signed up to get an idea of how many people will really attend each week.
We need to focus more on the kind disciples we’re becoming as a group, than we do the number of people in our group. Regardless of your group’s size, talk about group commitment at the beginning of each semester. The more committed the group, the easier it is to grow and share. If a group is small, the leader can consider casting the vision, “Hey guys, what if we few decided to grow in our faith together this year?” If you change people’s expectation and work on their commitment, even smaller groups to be effective. We know that healthy things grow, so it is important to add new people to group, but we need to make sure we don’t lose sight of our ultimate goal for meeting together in the first place.