Small Group Leadership: How to help Faithfulness in Attendance
We live in a culture that has a multitude of options. People can watch hundreds of shows if they have cable, and they can call or text with another any time they want and very inexpensively. There used to be party lines when I was a boy. A party line is where several families in different homes used the same phone line and you had to wait until another family was off the line before you could make a call. Of course, you also could listen in on conversations, if you were very quiet. That is not an issue today as almost every person in every family has their own personalized cell phone number. We have developed a technological society in which we can do what we want almost when we want it.
We live in a time when people are not faithful in church attendance. Church is important to many Christians, however, for many others, it is one of those things to add to the schedule and then when it is convenient, “You can count on me!” I was speaking to a pastor-friend who lives out west and he mentioned that if a person comes to church twice a month, they are considered committed – and that’s for an elder or deacon!
We live in a hedonistic society that can enjoy almost anything it wants and that’s just the acceptable opportunities. A person can watch just about anything he wants on television, he can travel just about anywhere he wants to enjoy incredible beautiful scenery, he can attend a multitude of sporting events, or a whole host of other options. How do you suppose that affects attendance in a small group? How does that affect things, especially, when there are very few who are starving or going without, because of all the government programs? Who really needs God?
Everyone needs God, but only those who choose to seek first the kingdom will be faithful in attendance and use every opportunity to grow and encourage others to be faithful in connecting, becoming equipped and multiplying for the sake of the kingdom. How can you encourage others to be faithful in attendance? This is not an area that I have mastered. I’d like to say I have the magic formula, but these are only a few suggestions.
First, pray for your group (Jam. 5:16). All the suggestions in the world will be fruitless unless God is working in their lives, unless people are responding to the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, unless people are motivated by a love for Jesus Christ and love for others, and unless people make the choice themselves. You can manipulate people to come, but if it is not by their own free will, they will become unfaithful in attendance again, once your prodding dissipates.
Secondly, tell people you are glad they came (Rom. 16:16). People appreciate the connection and affirmation. The technology boom is actually hurting real relationships and people thrive to know they belong and can have fellowship. Texting, etc., is helpful to communicate data, but social relationships and the emotional sense of belonging lack satisfaction in our culture. I encourage you to tell people you are glad they came rather than thanking them, because thanking them may make them think they have done something great, when they should be thanking you for having a home group. If you thank someone for not doing anything, their pride can easily set in.
Thirdly, call people who were missing (1 Cor. 12:25) . This lets people know you care and are interested in them. It also prevents time from passing and finding out several weeks after the fact that they had a major struggle in their life, like the death of a parent, trouble with a child, or a divorce. Don’t hesitate to call and just say, “We missed you last night, is everything going well for you? Is there anything we can do for you?” That keeps the questions from being judgmental or critical and allows the person an easy choice not to return.
Fourthly, spend time with them outside of the meeting (1 Jn. 1:7). There are times when a strong relationship can be built outside of a meeting for connection. The outside time shows the person that they matter and it is an opportunity to ask questions that you may not want to ask in the group. People are becoming more and more “shy.” That seems like an acceptable reason why people don’t get involved or become committed. It is really just a form of self-centeredness, because the person is not concerned about others as Scripture commands. The outside meeting with someone may be an opportunity to exhort and admonish what you wouldn’t do in front of others.
Fifthly, give them opportunities to serve within the gathering (Gal. 5:13). These are opportunities for ownership in the group and a reason for consistent attendance. You must give opportunities to serve within the group any way, because that is part of discipleship. People need to participate in the small group if they are going to be trained and prepared to multiply for the sake of other home groups.
Sixthly, exhort them to do the homework (Phil. 4:9). Show them how much better the discussion goes when they prepare prior to the meeting by looking over the passage, their own sermon notes and preparing answers for the Message Based Discussion Questions (MBDQ).
These are just a few tips and suggestions for how to develop greater commitment and faithfulness in attendance. Ultimately, they have to make the choice. If they are not pursuing the Lord Jesus Christ and the upward call of God in their lives (Phil. 3:12-14), they will spiritually wilt when the sun gets hot or their circumstances become difficult. Your role is to be faithful and keep training your people and meeting them where they are. Don’t let go. Don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged. Your faithfulness will inspire faithfulness in them.
You may have other suggestions. You can freely make them in response to this article. May the Lord multiply our ministries!