In the hands of ordinary Christians, small social groups are a big spiritual deal. This is because "ordinary Christians" have more credibility than the ordained clergy. A guy named Herb Miller did some great research:
* When first-time visitors to a local church receive a "glad you came" visit (or phone call) within 36 hours, 85% of them will return the following week.
* If the "glad you came" call is received 36 to 72 hours after their first visit; the percentage drops to 60%.
These statistics represent the reaction from church visitors who receive a rapid response call by someone other than the pastor. Herb found that something interesting happens when first timers get a quick follow up call from "Mr. Important," the pastor himself:
* When the "glad you came" call is given by the pastor, the percentages are cut by 50%!
Giving someone a "glad you came" call does not guarantee that they will return. It's not about the pastor personally; it's about common sense. Visitors know that the pastor is on the payroll. A call from me is about as special as a call from a telemarketer; they figure I'm just doing my job.
Think of it this way: The Christian life is like a brand new car, and the pastor is a car salesman. When a car salesman says, "Hey, I just want to help you find a great car because I really care about you," people think: "Whatever."
As an "ordinary Christian," however, you're like a car owner. People are going to be interested in your opinion; they know that you're not working on commission.