Sticky Church

I blogged a while back about a uesful book I’d read by Larry Osborne called Sticky Teams. He’s also written another little gem called Sticky Church. Here are some of his best insights:

  • If a church wants to grow, retention of people is massive. It’s no good having a huge wide open front door if the back door is the same. Let’s take an example. Let’s say a church of 250, over the next 10 years, dreams of doubling to 500. If they retain 3/10 new visitors who show up and give them a go they would need a total of 834 new people in that period (or 84 a year) to eventually add the extra 250 (actually it’s probably more than that factoring in existing people who leave). If they could retain 7/10 they would need 357 new people in the same period (or 36 a year). Attraction isn’t enough. Retention is the game.
  • So . . . how do you go about retaining people. Osborne argues that home-groups are key – get 70% of your folk into a homegroup and velcro them in. [nb. he also argues that the best children’s ministry is a quality adult ministry – amen to that.]
  • Home-groups should discuss the Sunday sermon – result: people more attentive, increased note-taking, applied discussion, worshipful prayer, more stuff sticks – result: growing disciples – winner.
  • Don’t keep adding lots of new people to existing booming groups; start new groups for new attenders
  • What to look for in leaders – spiritual warmth, relational warmth – ask for recommendations, not volunteers.
  • Who to avoid for leader roles – hyperspiritual God-talkers, single issue crusaders

Here are some of his home-group leader training topics

  • Rookies
    • Learning to listen
    • Asking good questions
    • How to run the meeting
    • Group prayer times
    • Study tools
    • Dealing with loudmouth
    • Caring for the flock
  • Veterans
    • Summer sabbath
    • Motivation – push, pull, or plead?
    • Active listening
    • Balance – Covey’s four quadrants
    • Study tools
    • Book reviews
    • Handling the crisis
    • Emotional intelligence
    • Dealing with the crusader

It’s one of the most helpful books I’ve read on this subject and certainly repays the time investment.


5 Replies to “Sticky Church”

  1. I just stumbled across your blog and am enjoying looking around.
    I have Sticky Church sitting on my shelf, but haven’t cracked it yet as the idea of sermon related small group lessons runs counter to other teaching I’ve received. Specifically, if small groups are to be an entry point to the church, then discussion of the sermon will make the newcomer more of an outsider rather than making them feel welcome as a peer who’s input is valued.

    Do you have experience with this?

    1. Hi ozziepete,

      We do use Osborne’s system in our church and it works well for a number of reasons.
      First, it does improve listening – people takes notes in the sermon, listen back online if they couldn’t make it, talk about in small groups, and then pray it in.
      Second, it means you don’t need your leaders to be seminary graduates. We provide the questions, they lead discussion.
      Third, it cuts prep time for busy leaders.
      Fourth, they spend more time applying, less time splitting dogmatic hairs.

      As you say, it might mean that if your very first point of contact with the church was via a small group you might wonder what’s going on. That said, folk have Bibles open, and anyone can contribute. I guess it would be unusual for us to find someone’s first contact was through a small group, but we wouldn’t want to discourage someone from taking their friend to their small group if they thought that would be the best entry point.

      I suppose it’s one model among many. I’d definitely recommend reading the book – easily one of the best books I’ve read on the subject, and even if you don’t follow him all the way, you’ll find plenty of good stuff to pinch in there.


      1. Thanks for taking the time to reply Martin. You’ve persuaded me to give it a look. I’m glad you’ve had a good experience with it there. 🙂

  2. Hi Martin! I read Sticky Church recently and it’s given me loads of ideas. Out small groups here follow our sermon series but aren’t quite “sermon-based”. How do you manage to get material for small group leaders prepared in time? Doesn’t this necessitate finishing sermon writing much earlier than one might usually?

    1. Hi JT – sorry for slow reply – been on me holidays!
      For us it works as follows: Whoever is preaching provides 3 questions to go in the Sunday meeting guide by Thursday morning. Only 3, fairly simple, designed to open up some discussion, more specific application, and prayer for the groups. I only have to get as far as some basic exegesis to provide these. The shape, illustrations etc aren’t necessary to provide a few simple questions. So it’s not as bad as you might think – we find it easily do-able. What I think we’ll move to is actually providing hg questions through the blog which means they can be crafted even later (say Friday afternoon) ready for the small group leaders to access them at their leisure in preparation for their next week’s meeting. Does that help?

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