The Leadership Network has a very interesting article on how three churches have broken the 50% barrier in small group participation. Differences in culture at these churches have resulted in some differences in approach, but all three had an emphasis on group leadership selection and training, participant recruiting and topic selection. All three were also quick to point out that small group strategies only serve to accomplish a single purpose: changed lives.
Some common themes can be seen in each of the three approaches to exceeding the 50% participation barrier.
For at least part of the year, group discussions are focused on a series of weekly sermons. Church members receive weekly handouts with messages and questions. Group leaders get additional materials and questions to lead the discussion. The churches felt that this approach helped drive interest, enthusiasm and participation.
All three focused on eliminating weeknight training and practice so that people had more time to participate in groups. They also held quarterly participant recruiting sessions to maintain enthusiasm and participation.
Leader coaches don’t exist to control leaders but to support them. The focus is on care for the leaders, not on group administration and statistics. All three churches have formal training for the leaders, although the method of training (sessions vs. self-study) differed. Two of the churches use a referral based process for selecting new leaders. They believe they get higher quality leadership because current leaders can hand pick new leaders.