What can we do to create a sticky group, one where people return and stay? If the research conducted by Lifeway Christian Resources holds true, there are a few big things we can do as Bible study leaders to get people to “stick.”

1. Involve them.

First, we can involve them in the life of the group. Most groups have a core that does most of the work of planning the parties, making the coffee, and keeping up with absentees. I realize some may feel like they earned the role, but what keeps us from finding more ways of involving people in the work of the group? One way of involving new group members is allowing them to be greeters. This allows them to meet everyone who attends while still being aware of the needs of new people joining the group.

We can also be intentional about involving everyone in the actual study time. Allowing discussion to take place in smaller groups, crafting questions that don’t assume prior participation, and asking people prior to the group time to read a passage or lead a breakout discussion are actions that will go a long way toward creating a sticky group.

"As the leader, you should think of your group as a set of individuals who happen to be in a group."

Dwayne McCrary

2. Feed them.

Whatever you call your groups, everyone attending expects there to be Bible study. If the purpose of your group is not built around Bible study, then you may need to rethink what you call your group and why you meet. Most of us have been in groups that are focused on football scores, political debates, and personal stories. We could get that from most service organizations. If it is a Bible study group, then the Bible ought to be front and center.

Beyond studying the Bible, we can help our group members understand how to better use Bible study tools. We can show them how to use a Bible concordance or Bible dictionary as opposed to simply telling them what we found. Better yet, we could hand a Bible dictionary to a group member and walk them through the steps of using the resource. The way we lead the group time matters.

3. Treat them like people.

Most of us have attended a class or group where we felt more like an item than a person. We received a different kind of name tag, we were asked to do things no one else was asked to do (like being the only one asked to introduce yourself to the group), or being the only one without a study guide. As the leader, you should think of your group as a set of individuals who happen to be in a group. Groups tend to be viewed like an institution, losing individual personality in the process.

In effect, we are fostering an open group culture by the way we as the leaders treat all attendees of our groups. Groups easily become closed without even trying. We may allow new people to join us and still be closed by how we as a group treat them. Treating each individual as a valued person will help move others to do the same.

What actions have you found helpful for getting people to stick in your group?

Dwayne McCrary is a project team leader for ongoing adult Bible study resources at Lifeway, including the adult Explore the Bible resources. He also teaches an adult group and preschool group every Sunday in the church he attends.

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