What do you do if your group gets too big?
I get asked that question all the time. How big should my group be? Or, how small should my group be? In the New Testament, we see that people met in the Temple Courts for public worship and instruction, like our modern day church services. Then they also met in houses for smaller gatherings, like small groups, but we don't know if it was 8 or 80 people that met in these groups.
What to do if you have a large group.
Let's imagine your group is on the larger side and say you have 20 people. You will want to consider some things to do that will help make your larger group feel small. With 20 people in a discussion that lasts an hour, each person only gets about three minutes to talk. But there’s always a few people in a group of 20 that will dominate the conversation, and they will take other peoples three minutes. Next thing you know, only a few people talk and a bunch of people don't say anything. That's not great for a group.
Keeping the dynamic small.
Let me suggest some things that you can do with a larger group to help keep the dynamic small. After you've gathered together at the very beginning of your group, consider sub-grouping. Maybe you have opening, social time together, but then when it comes to the discussion, you break into three smaller groups and each go to a different part of the house.
Then for these smaller groups, you can choose a person in each to lead the discussion. Incidentally, it's a great way to look for future leaders. After the discussion time, maybe have all the groups back together and finish the discussion, so you're all one big happy group again.
By breaking in those smaller groups, more people are encouraged to participate in the conversation.
Dealing with the extroverts and introverts.
Now, let me warn you right now, the extroverts and the introverts will rise up against you on subject of breaking into smaller groups. The extroverts will say "No, we all need to stay together. It's really important for us to stay together, so basically everyone can hear what I have to say." The introverts will say "If we all stay together, the extroverts will do the talking, so I don't have to do any talking, and I'm much more comfortable that way." That's not the recipe for a great discussion or a great group. You want to make sure everybody participates. The extroverts need to tone it down some, while the introverts tone it up.
Creating two groups.
Now, there's a thing that you can do with a large group that will help the dynamic feel small, and it's very missional. This involves a bigger step. What you do is you would actually split your group in half. Half of your group would stay you, and half of your group would go with a brand new leader. Instead of a group of 20, now you have two groups of 10. It's a bigger step, I'll acknowledge that, but it's a great step that's both missional and will preserve that smaller group dynamic.
Those are a few things that you can do with a larger group to help it feel like a smaller group.
*This is the eighth post in a series of 27 Tips for Small Group Leaders
BILL SEARCH is the author of Simple Small Groups. He has served in ministry for nearly 20 years. Bill loves spending time with his family, drinking great coffee, listening to jazz, and enjoying the great outdoors.