Assimilation is five times more effective if a person is involved in a group versus attending worship only.
Read that first statement carefully. It is huge! Church leaders should be spending significant amounts of time focusing on groups. They are too important to ignore.
But there are so many different names for groups in churches. I am not smart enough to know what the best label is for a church. So I asked many different people, both in church and out of church, what came to mind when I mentioned a group name. Here are the results of my informal survey:
- Small groups. This name had the most ambiguous perceptions of those I surveyed. That most common response they had to this label was, “What kind of small group?”
- Sunday school. This label is one of the longest standing names of church groups. All respondents had their own clear perceptions about this name. For the majority, the name connotes a traditional on-campus, content-driven group for all ages. For a minority of the respondents, it referred to classes for children only.
- Life groups. There was hardly any mention of content connected to life groups. The general perception was these groups are more about developing relationships, sharing feelings, and dealing with life issues. Some of the respondents were surprised when I told them many life groups study the Bible as well.
- Community groups. This name evoked two distinct and different responses. One group immediately connected community groups as an outwardly-focused group. In other words, the groups’ purpose was to connect with the community around them. But another group saw community groups as inwardly-focused. Their primary purpose for existence was to build community within the group.
- Home groups. I confess that these responses surprised me. Home groups were perceived to be loosely connected to the church, if connected at all. There was a sense that these groups had the lowest level of accountability to the church of which it was a part.
- Bible study groups. There were no surprises here. This name meant content-driven groups. Some of the respondents even thought there was no intentionality of community in these groups. Even other respondents perceived these groups to be large, much like a master class.
- Fellowship groups. If Bible study groups communicated content, fellowship groups communicated little to no content. This group was perceived to be about bringing people together for conversation and relationship building.
Again, let me remind you that these seven categories represent perceptions of group names, even though the perceptions might not align with reality. The takeaway I got from this exercise is that churches should both name and describe their groups in all of their promotional resources. The danger of misperception is present and real.
What is the name or names of groups in your church? What do you think of these perceptions? Let me hear from you.
Posted on October 7, 2015
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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