The Beauty of Just a Few: Encouragement for When Your Small Group is Struggling

November 20, 2015




You anxiously wait for their arrival.  You set out your materials, get out your Bible and turn to the story or scripture you want to share.  You go over your lesson in your head one more time.  You’ve been over it numerous times, but once more won’t hurt.  It makes you feel more prepared.  You see headlights shining as cars begin to pull in.  You put on your leader hat because the time has come to start.


You welcome people as they arrive.  It’s just a few for now. More will come.  You look at the clock. 


Give them five more minutes. 


You make small talk with those present and tell them that you’ll get started in just a few minutes, you’re just waiting for the others to arrive. 


But the time passes and no one else comes.  You need to begin.


You only have a few people.  You smile at the group and say something like “well it looks like it’s just going to be us!” 


You take one more look out into the parking lot. Nope.  No one.  You take a deep breath in and then you begin.   



Have you been in this situation before?  I certainly have.  It can be disheartening, certainly discouraging, even downright frustrating at times.  You feel like a failure, like you’ve done something wrong. 



Did I forget to remind people?  Did people not see the announcement in the church bulletin?  What about all those Facebook reminders? 


It happens.  So today I would love to give you some encouragement for when you feel like your small group is struggling. 


I use the term small group very loosely because for some of you “small group” may mean 5-6 people, for others its 20-30.  Some churches call them “life groups” or “mission groups.” In whatever way this applies to you, I hope you will get some encouragement today.


I would love to start with a personal example.  Just recently over the last year I really began struggling with one of the small groups I lead.  Attendance was at an all-time low, I felt burned out and to be quite honest, I felt like maybe the girls were losing interest in it and we all should move on to something else.   


I was measuring the success of the group based on the numbers.  While mathematically this probably makes sense, from a spiritual standpoint I couldn’t have been more off. 


I devoted time in prayer over it and I was able to discern The Lord telling me not to let it go yet. 


 But Lord, I thought, we only have a few girls, sometimes just one girl, how can we continue to grow with just a few?  



Don’t let it go yet. Pour more into it.



I was getting my answer and now was the time to trust that God would be faithful and He would begin a new work in our group.


Over the past six months I have seen more growth in our small group than ever before.  We have grown in numbers, welcoming two new girls into our group.  We have exciting mission projects planned and the best part of all, I have seen such spiritual growth in the girls. 


They are grasping Biblical concepts better than ever before.  They are coming up with their own ways to serve in their schools and within their circle of family and friends.  They are chasing hard after the God who created them and it’s simply beautiful to watch and be a part of.


And to think that I wanted to give up on it because we were only having “just a few.”



Friend, let me tell you.  There is beauty in just a few. 



The world and at times even our churches will place more emphasis on things that will reach the most people, draw in the biggest numbers.  This isn’t a bad thing, but I’ve learned that building a relationship with “just a few” is just as essential as reaching the masses. Relationships draw people in.  Relationships keep people coming back.     


I understand how frustrating it can be to only have a few people show up after you’ve spent so much time preparing for your lesson or your event.  But don’t get into the mindset that I did and let the numbers guide how you serve. 


There have been times when I have lead a Bible study and an average of 20 women showed up.  The next time I lead one, it was a great night if 6 or 7 women showed up.  What changed?  Was it me?  Was it the Bible study I picked?


It may have been one of those things, I don’t know.  But the more realistic perspective to have is that everything happens in seasons.  Your small group will ebb and flow.  Did you know that your group will go through seasons too?


People get busy, especially women.  Maybe their children are involved in a sport that meets on the same night as your group meeting.  Maybe childcare is an issue and they don’t have a babysitter.  Maybe it has nothing to do with church or with you at all.  Maybe they are going through a tough time in their lives and they are drained, spent. Going to group is just beyond their emotional abilities at the time. 



It’s normal to see attendance drop off in times of busy seasons and then see it rise up again.  With every small group there are seasons of pruning and there are seasons of growth.  It’s hard to be patient during these seasons, but John 15:2 tells us



He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” (NLT)



During these pruning seasons, ask God to show you how you can better serve your small group.  Do you need to order new and fresh materials?  Should your group do a different mission project this year than they have done in the past?  Is there a greater need that needs to be met in your group? 


I have seen the reward come from my seasons of pruning.  Growth happens.  Although not always in the way I think it will.  Maybe you don’t see growth in numbers, but you see spiritual growth.  Maybe you see relationships and bonds form between the women in your small group where there were none before. 


This is where the beauty of just a few comes in.



You don’t need to have a large group to make a lasting impact on someone.  You may not think you’re making an impact on the few people you are serving.  I guarantee that you are.  You never know how your group lesson will impact someone.  You never know how sharing some of your own story can effect someone so greatly that they become brave enough to boldly proclaim me too.  Your work for The Lord never goes to waste. 


I have been so encouraged by this verse from 1 Corinthians 15:









If your small group is struggling and you’re ready to give up and let it go, I would love to encourage you not to.  It’s easy to throw in the towel and give up.  It takes more faith and courage to keep going.  Your group will experience seasons, it’s up to you to decide how you will lead your group through those seasons.   



There is beauty in just a few.



We are told in Matthew 18:20:

"For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”


If you are in a season of pruning in your small group, I pray you experience the blessing of growth!  If your current season is one of abundance, I pray that on the days when you are struggling, you will remember whose child you are and you will be encouraged that He has made everything beautiful in its time. 



Are you currently struggling with your small group?

Leaders, how can I pray for you?

If you are part of a small group, what do you enjoy the most about it?

2 comments :

  1. Yes! There is beauty in a few. I think this is something that ALL who are in a group can relate too! Thanks for the encouragement!

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  2. Oh man I can absolutely picture that situation because I have lived it many times. And it is SO easy to get caught up in numbers. And start questioning your effectiveness as a leader as a result. But it isn't any person who can give faith, only God. And the enemy knows the power of small groups, and I think that makes attacks more numerous as a result. The methods of the devil seem so subtle at times, but we have to remain alert and vigilant against them. I think our lack of acknowledgement of spiritual warfare in many first world churches is a huge issue when it comes to discipleship... but perhaps that topic is better suited for another day or this comment will become a novel ;) This was a great, thought-provoking post and I will definitely be sharing it!

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