10 Things Millennials Are Looking For In Small Groups
Small groups, life groups, growth groups, home groups… there are many names for this method of connection within the church. Found in most churches today, small groups are a great way for people to engage in biblical community by intentionally gathering regularly for the purpose of joining in God’s mission together. Because this is such an important element in most millennials’ faith, it is crucial that the church makes a real effort to create an environment where its small groups can thrive.
Church leaders, here are ten factors to keep in mind as you consider how to foster small groups that are engaging to millenials.
Churches need to build small groups with authenticity in mind. Often, small groups will start meeting simply out of routine, following a prescribed schedule and script that the church provides. When a group becomes just a routine, the depth of relationships can become shallow. Small talk about daily life overshadows discussions about struggles and doubts that can be truly live-giving.
As you build up your small group ministry, seek authenticity above anything else. Create groups that are founded on honesty, vulnerability, and trust. These are the factors that will keep your millennial congregation engaged.
2. Consistency (and Flexibility)
This might seem contradictory, but millenials need to know that their small group will always show up, even if the timing needs to be rescheduled sometimes. It requires more effort to coordinate each week, but it’s often easier to commit to leaving a one night of the week available after seeing consistent dedication from other participants.
3. Making a Difference
Serving together can bring a new depth to relationships, especially within small groups. Not only are you seeing your group outside of its normal environment, but you can meet in your community while focusing on others’ needs.
Most church leaders know how important it is to look at the demographics within your church when assessing how to best disciple your congregation. The same concept applies to small groups. If half of your church is composed of single millennials, but the only small groups in existence are couples with young children, there won't be growth. It’s important to offer a variety of small group cultures to engage congregants in every stage of life.
5. The Right Environment
Offering various environments is another important factor in small groups. Not everyone is comfortable meeting in someone’s home with a group of strangers. It could be helpful to have some groups meet in a coffee shop or a church space instead. Use these types of environments as launching platforms for new members and people just getting into small groups.
Note: this first requires your church to have a set structure and model in place to replicate groups. After a time, the coffee shop group will have enough core people who are no longer strangers to transition to another meeting location, freeing up the coffee shop space for newcomers.
Size is not a factor exclusive to millennials, but is still forgotten about at times. A group that is too small (and not growing) can feel awkward and too vulnerable. However, when a group grows too large, newcomers can feel like outsiders and can find it difficult to share open up and be authentic. A larger group can easily be split into smaller groups (or added to a smaller preexisting group) to allow for more intimate connection and discipleship.
7. Proper Leadership
One thing to watch out for as you consider increasing the number and variety of small groups within your church is the quality of leaders. Leaders for these new groups aren’t just pulled out of a hat or plucked off of a tree. Encourage those within your church that have the potential to lead to step into this leadership role.
Likewise, you should make sure that they have the resources and training necessary to be a good leader. It can be discouraging to attend a small group and find a leader that has zero idea what he or she is doing, or mistakenly believes he or she has all the answers. It can be a difficult balance to find, but it is worth the time and conversation to assess the leadership ability in small groups.
8. Respect Time
There are few things worse than going to a small group at 6pm with the expectation of two hours, but not leaving until 9pm. Some groups may function better by meeting for varying lengths of time, but it’s important to set an expectation well ahead of time and stick to it. This creates consistency and loyalty among small group members.
Choosing the right materials or bible study for a group can be difficult. It’s certainly easy to stick with a tried-and-true study that the other groups in your church have been doing for years. While well-known material is helpful to some, most millennials tend to gravitate toward more relevant and current studies. Make sure you leave room for all kinds of people, and include both intellectual and emotional takeaways as you work through the study. Then, when your group becomes more established, together you can decide on the next study according to everyone’s collective interests.
While the routine of gathering in a circle to talk every week can be nice in its consistency, it’s not always the most beneficial to a small group. Just as serving together and making a difference helps build relationships within a group, so can switching up the small group routine a bit. Try just having a meal and fellowship one night and attending a worship night or conference together another night. Being able to experience life together outside of a circle in someone’s living room can have a great impact on the cohesiveness and authenticity of a small group.
While many of these qualities could be beneficial in any small group, these are especially relevant to millennials in churches today. Realistically, it would be near impossible to magically create a small group that encompasses all these qualities right this second, but start with just one or two points and see if your millennial engagement doesn’t go up!
What are some elements that you’ve built into your small group ministry?