20 People Signed Up, But Only 5 Showed Up

By Allen White

Maybe those aren’t the specific numbers that you experienced in your group, but the reality is that it happens to every group at some point. Here are a couple of keys to riding the attendance roller coaster.

 1. It’s not about you. Somebody famous said that. In the church, community is what we want, yet it’s what we resist the most. People got excited. They signed up for your group at church on Sunday. Then, life just got in the way. After all, the road to you-know-where is paved with good intentions.

2. Keep them on your list. Keep the communication flowing. Email them along with the rest of your group. Give them a call. The call should go something like this: “Hey, I was just wondering about you guys (Southern: y’all). Is everything okay? I’m not calling as the truant officer. I’m just calling because I care.” Chances are that they won’t slam down the phone after saying, “I don’t want you to care about me.” Who doesn’t want that?

3. Focus on who showed up rather than who didn’t. My small group has four people regularly with another five or six on the list. Last week, there were only two of us. By the numbers, my group is a complete failure. Yet, there are things you can talk about with two that you can’t discuss with eight. Maybe you do the lesson. Maybe you set the lesson aside. Before you start beating yourself or your group members up over low attendance, you need to do a quick check-in with God: “What do You intend for this group meeting? It doesn’t look like what I planned. What have You planned?” His plans are better anyway.

4. Remember your small group and the ministry of your group are not the same. Some people may never show up for your group. Or, they’ll come once or twice, then you won’t hear from them for a while. Here’s the deal: whether they attend every week or once in a blue moon, they are yours. The group members who meet three out of four times a month are essentially your small group. Everyone else is the “ministry” of your small group. There is a reason that God has placed these folks in your life. Keep up with them. Help them when they need help. Pray for them. This is not some clandestine plot to convince them back to the group with your kindness, but it might work. This is your opportunity to serve, even if you never get anything in return.

In a perfect world, everyone would honor their commitment to that two-part form and show up for every group meeting. But, this is not a perfect world. Here’s the deal: that flakey person on your list, you just might be their only connection to the body of Christ. Their well-being, of course, is not up to you. But, there is a reason that in all of the small groups in all of the county, they signed up for yours. God will show you why.

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  1. #1 by Steve Rains on May 18, 2011 - 11:57 am

    Good stuff Allen. I appreciate your insight and honesty about hosting and leading groups. We can’t forget about the 2 while we are wondering were the 8 are!

    • #2 by Allen White on May 18, 2011 - 2:18 pm

      Thanks, Steve. I’ve learned so much from my mistakes over the years, I thought I’d share with others. Life is too short to make all of the mistakes yourself.

  2. #3 by Robert on January 16, 2012 - 7:48 am

    I stumbled upon this post after a small turnout at a recent group Bible study. Thanks for sharing number 4 – “Remember your small group and the ministry of your group are not the same”. Great food for thought.

    • #4 by Allen White on January 16, 2012 - 8:43 am


      I am so glad you were encouraged by this post. We’ve all been there — ready for a dozen groups members, then we get two. God is always up to something, and we certainly don’t know what to expect. Low attendance is an opportunity for God to do things He couldn’t if others were there.

      You’re in good company my friend. God is using you.


  3. #5 by Mark Shiver on January 16, 2012 - 2:58 pm

    Allen, my wife and I have led a small group off and one for the bettr part of 25 years. Most recently, we led one for 6 years. No matter how long one leades, it is still a human reaction to be disappointed when people you were counting on do not show up. I’ve tried to lessen the disappointment by sincerely praying, “God, may those you want here tonight be here.” It honestly does help. Thank you for sharing this post.

    • #6 by Allen White on January 16, 2012 - 2:59 pm

      25 years — Mark, you are a rock star of a small group leader.

      God bless,

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