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Is Attendance Declining in Your Church Small Group?

How to meet people’s needs so they keep coming back to your small group!

Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25

 Is your small group struggling to get consistent attendance? Are you finding that some people have lost interest? This is a problem that faces all small groups at one time or another, so let’s talk about how to meet people’s needs so they keep coming back to your church small group.

There are many reasons that keep people from showing up to small group: busy schedules, childcare issues, and if you’re meeting online only, then there’s that thing none of us had even heard of a few years ago—Zoom fatigue!

Here are two strategies to keep people coming to your church small group: Become capitalists and follow the Yellow Brick Road.

Strategy #1 to keep people coming to your church small group: Become Capitalists—Adopt a Free Market System.

In economics, a free market is a self-regulated system, driven by what the consumers want and need.  In a small group, this means you’re choosing studies based on the felt needs of the group.

What about sermon-based small groups?

But, you say, our small groups do sermon-based discussions, so we aren’t choosing what to study. Well, sermon-based groups are great for helping people really understand and apply the sermon. But for some groups, that might only be right for them some of the time. There may be times when your group is grappling with something that is not being addressed by the sermons, and you need to decide whether or not it’s okay to go off-script and pursue a topic that’s important to your group at this time.


What do your small group members need?

It's a simple fact that groups tend to stay together longer when their needs are being met. So, if you’re trying to figure out what to study next, instead of looking for the newest study by your favorite author, look instead at your group. Try jotting down something specific about the life of each member of your group.  What top three needs emerge? Now, direct your search towards looking for a study that addresses one of those needs, or maybe even line up two or three studies so people know that even if they’re not particularly into this study, the one you’re doing next is the one for them!

How do you find Bible studies that meet the specific needs of your small group?

It helps to have access to an extensive library that carries studies on all types of topics or books of the Bible, taught by trusted pastors, scholars, and Bible teachers. Try exploring the service that carries all the video Bible studies published by HarperChristian Resources—Study Gateway. It doesn’t cost anything to browse through the library and see what studies are offered that could address what your group needs!

Strategy #2 to keep people coming to your church small group: Follow the Yellow Brick Road.

People will tend to stay engaged and keep coming back to your small group for a longer period of time if you have a pathway mapped out for them to follow. Think of Dorothy and her companions, and how the pull of the yellow brick road was irresistible. Consider with your group what spiritual growth goal you want to progress towards together. Do you want to improve your Biblical literacy? Overcome a problem? Practice spiritual disciplines? Improve your relationships?

Decide on a spiritual growth goal, then sequence together a series of studies to move your group on a progression towards that goal.

Over the course of a year or two you can work your way through this series of studies and chart your progress as you complete each one. This is a great way to keep people coming back to your group—because people love the proverbial sticker chart; we love seeing how much we have accomplished, and how far we have to go. People are more likely to stick with your group if you are working towards a goal together.

Tracks to Meet Spiritual Growth Goals

There are several different spiritual growth tracks laid out in the Study Gateway View Book (click to open). As you page through it, you’ll see sequences of studies on discipleshipsharing God’s love, spiritual formationovercoming and healing, and life purpose. These studies are assembled in a progression to help church small groups work on a specific spiritual goal.


Did you know? Study Gateway is the only streaming Bible study service that offers subscriptions specifically designed for church small groups! It’s easy to start your free 7-day trial, and after that you pay less than $1 per person per month for a group of up to 20 people. Individual and church plans are available too. Check it out!