Big Groups A Problem? 4 Practical Ways to Subgroup

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Are you struggling with how to handle big groups in this ongoing season of COVID-19? Or, maybe big groups have always been an issue for your small group ministry? We all know bigger isn’t always better, especially when it comes to small groups! The challenge remains – how can we make our big-sized groups smaller? Why not encourage your small groups to give subgrouping a try? Subgrouping is defined as a distinct group within a group; a group that has been divided into smaller groups. Subgrouping offers many benefits to small groups:

  • More participation: Subgrouping allows more people to be able to share during discussion, without taking a longer time.
  • Less intimidating: People feel more comfortable opening up in smaller groups, as well as in men/women group dynamics.  
  • Deeper bonds: People connect more easily, form deeper bonds compared to larger groups.
  • Increased & consistent prayer: The group’s prayer list isn’t super long, because the group size is smaller. Group members aren’t overwhelmed with a long prayer list each week.
  • Room for new members: Groups are able to invite others to visit, and give small group a try!
  • More leadership opportunities: Subgrouping also helps to identify additional leaders within the current group.

4 PRACTICAL WAYS TO SUBGROUP

Below are four practical ways that you can encourage groups to try subgrouping. Each of these involve different methods and require different things, such as additional meeting spaces and leadership, but each will benefit the group dynamics greatly. Be sure to have a plan in place ahead of time, and collect feedback from group members at the end of your “trial” period.

1)   PRAYER: A simple way to give subgrouping a try is to incorporate this into your group’s prayer time.  Determine in advance how you will subgroup for prayer. This will depend on your group size. Suggestions include splitting into men/women groups; or having members pair up with another person or couple. You can also simply split the group into half. It is helpful if you have different rooms to use and/or enough space to spread out.  Encourage each subgroup to commit to praying for those specific prayer requests, checking-in and following up with them throughout the week Encourage use of email, text chain, and/or any other prayer app/resource they can use.  This will serve to deepen relationships among the smaller groups.

2)  DISCUSSION: Gather your small group together as a whole first, open in prayer and read a Scripture passage together (depending on your series/study), then subgroup however you determine for discussion and questions.  Set a specific time for subgroup discussions, then resume together as “big group” and share key takeaways, so all can hear, and close in prayer.

3) VARIETY:  Consider subgrouping once or twice a month.  Determine how you’ll subgroup, and where groups will meet. You’ll most likely need someone to offer a different home and someone to facilitate group discussion, which is great because this helps raise up additional leadership.  If space allows, this is a great opportunity to encourage the group’s outreach on these specific days, since more space is available. Encourage group members to invite a friend/neighbor, etc. Give this a try and see how group discussion goes, and how it impacts the group.

4)  RELATIONSHIPS:  We all know the value of our relationships with one another. Why not encourage subgroups to meet up outside normal group meetings, such as for coffee or a walk/hike, or lunch, etc. A good way to break into smaller subgroups for this purpose, is to split up by locations. It can be easier to gather those who live closer together more often (rather than having to travel a further distance). Challenge your group to give this a try for the semester, maybe set a goal for 3 “in between” social gatherings among smaller subgroups.  Note any differences, and the impact this has on the group and relationships.

If your groups give subgrouping a try and find it a positive and beneficial experience all around, the issue of big groups will be minimized. Group leaders and members can get creative and think outside the box with subgrouping – there are no limits to what can be done! As always, encourage your groups to share ideas and resources, and be sure to collect stories that testify to the value of subgrouping (and smaller groups!).