Image by Hrag Vartanian
Image by Hrag Vartanian
I’ve written a little bit on the topic. Okay…I have written a LOT on this topic. With over 1900 hundred articles dating back to 2008, determining the top 10 articles was a little challenging. According to Google analytics, this is how it came out.
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How honest are you about your own small group ministry? You know…about how things are going…really?
Are you brutally honest?
In his best-selling book Good to Great, Jim Collins introduced the “discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
“You absolutely cannot make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts. The good-to-great companies operated in accordance with this principle, and the comparison companies generally did not.”
Today I want to talk about a very important step in the preferred future process. Just as important as identifying and describing your preferred future, being honest about how things really are today is absolutely essential. Only with real honesty, brutal honesty, can you begin to design the strategies that will help you get from where you are (your present) to where you want to be (your preferred future).
Sounds harsh. Brutal even. But without an honest evaluation of right now, you can’t possibly build an exponential system. So how do you evaluate your present? What are you looking for?
Here are some of the questions I use:
First, Is group life promoted year-round as an essential ingredient of spiritual growth? So that we’re clear, here’s what I mean about each of these terms:
How are you doing so far? When you evaluate the way things are right now in your ministry, is group life promoted year-round as an essential ingredient of spiritual growth?
The next diagnosis question is: How obvious is the path to connect with a group in your system? In other words, once I begin hearing about how essential group life is, will my next step be obvious? Can I see it prominently promoted on the website? Can I walk out into the lobby right after service and see what to do? Is the next step obvious?
Next, how easy is the first step? Can I take a baby step? Or do I have to be a world record long jumper like Carl Lewis? An example of easy is a six week test-drive on a timely and broadly engaging topic. An example of a difficult first step is Experiencing God or The Truth Project. Great studies, but at 12 to 14 weeks are too long for a first step.
Last, does the first step lead to a next step? This is a very important part of getting to exponential. It’s not that every group must survive or every person who joins continues. It’s that you’re doing what you must to build in the greatest possibility of survival.
A thorough diagnosis of your present would include an honest conversation about much more. There would be questions about the legitimacy of your coaching efforts. You’d have to assess whether you are truly making disciples or simply connecting people? You would have to look deeply into the reasons you’ve connected some but not others.
A thorough diagnosis of your present would also include a careful look at all the elements that effect small group ministry. For example, what does communication look like in your church? How effectively do all of the communication ingredients work together to present a clear sense of the next step you want unconnected people to take? Are you presenting a pathway that is easy, obvious, and strategic? Or are you really pointing unconnected people to a confusing buffet?
While communication is an important element to diagnose, there are many others. Here are a few more:
Your next step is to pull together a conversation about how things really are right now in your ministry. You’ll need the right people around the table. It will take time. You’ll have to be honest. But here’s the thing. You’re kidding yourself if you think you can get to exponential from just anywhere. You need to rearrange the way things are today if you want to get somewhere different tomorrow.
Image by Jonathan Harford
Connection between people is a little bit of mystery smack dab in the middle of a lot of predictability. It is mostly about managing the 5 tensions of connection. The 5 tensions are driven by things that seem true and good to everyone except unconnected people.
Here’s what I mean:
Connection is easiest when everyone is new. This is why it’s more effective to form new groups than to add new members to existing groups. I’ve said many times that once a group is 4 to 6 months old it begins to form a nearly impermeable membrane that prevents the easy connection of new members. Once that membrane forms the only new members that can break through are friends of existing members or the least self-aware and most brazen extroverts imaginable.
On the other hand, when everyone is new, no membrane exists. Barriers haven’t formed. Pecking orders aren’t established. It’s a level playing ground.
Tension #1: It will always be easier to send new members to existing groups. It is more productive to launch new groups.
If you want to connect unconnected people you need to focus on launching new groups. See also, Top 5 Ways to Start New Groups. Lots of New Groups and Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs Starting New Groups.
Connection is easiest when everyone is similar. The closer the affinity the easier it is to connect. True, there are some who are looking for an intergenerational group. Trust me, they are the exception. The easiest connections happen between people with common interests and similar life-stages.
While it is often true that greater diversity leads to a richer form of community, it is not automatic and it doesn’t form quickly enough to make connection likely.
Tension #2: It is easier to connect without intentionality. It is more work and harder work to design events and connecting opportunities that take advantage of affinity.
If you want to connect unconnected people you need to look for strategies that connect affinity, the closer the better.
Connection is easiest when the topic of study is customer-focused. That may seem an odd way of expressing the idea, but it is never harder to connect unconnected people than when the topic of study is only interesting to the people who chose it. Just like trying to get your children to eat their vegetables, telling them to eat it because “it’s good for you” is not helpful. See also, Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer?
Tension #3: The loudest voices are always the already connected minority. Unconnected people have little or no voice. Finding ways to learn their interests is a very important responsibility.
If you want to connect unconnected people you must keep their interests and concerns in mind and choose study topics that naturally appeal to them.
Connection is easiest when it’s convenient. Unconnected people are almost always the least motivated to connect. They have other priorities. We may believe they have the wrong priorities…but they are their priorities. Removing the barrier of inconvenience is essential. The day and time of your connecting event matter. The format of your event matters. Providing childcare matters. Inconvenience is in the eye of the beholder.
Tension #4: The most convenient design for unconnected people is almost always less convenient for staff and key volunteers.
If you want to connect unconnected people you need to create opportunities that are convenient to them.
Connection is easiest when it is a good value. Remember, unconnected people are almost always the least motivated to connect. The cost must seem to be a good value to them. If you’re going to subsidize anything, subsidize the cost to sign up for a first connection opportunity. Design your programs to make it easy and extra affordable for unconnected people. Their very first steps are the most difficult.
A good value is about more than the financial impact. Does it feel like a good use of their time? Does the sign up process and the event itself feel like a good use of their time?
Tension #5: Your budget will almost never drift it’s way into prioritizing unconnected people.
If you want to connect unconnected people you need to make connecting seem like a very good value for their money, time and effort. See also, Budgeting for the Preferred Future.
What do you think? Have a question? Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.
Image by Siddharth Vishnathan
“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” Jim Stockdale
Image by David Jones
How does calendar planning happen in your world? Maybe the question should be, “does calendar planning happen in your world? Let me tell you, whether you are naturally a planner or you will only plan when it’s done for you or you’re forced…calendar planning is a key to small group ministry effectiveness. Here’s why it’s important and also some keys to doing it well.
Why Calendar Planning Is Important
Although you may be be a play-it-by-ear type when you’re on your own, when you’re leading a ministry that involves a lot of people you’ve got to take the needs of a lot of people into consideration. Another very important reason that calendar planning is important is that we’re all competing for the attention of leaders. If you want your ministry to catch and hold the attention of leaders…you’ve got to plan ahead. Enough about why, here’s how to put together an annual calendar.
How To Build an Annual GroupLife Calendar
The most important key to planning…is to get started right away. The sooner you get your big rocks in place and publicized, the sooner you’ll see the benefits of planning.
Image by Dafne Cholet
When was the best fall ministry season you’ve ever had?
2 or 3 years ago?
Too long ago to remember the exact date?
What did you do? Do you remember what worked so well?
Could you do it again?
Would it be enough?
What if the fresh eyes of a strategic outsider could help you improve your results by 10 or 20%? What if instead of starting 5 new groups you could start 10 or even 20 new groups?
What if instead of starting 10 new groups (and keeping 2 going beyond the beginning study) you could start 20 new groups and sustain 14 or 15?
What if you actually had a set of tailored next steps that would help the least connected people in your congregation and crowd actually take the best next step?
What if you could start the fall ministry season with a plan to:
Maybe you need to sign up for my newest mini-course?
Supercharge Your Fall Ministry Season is my newest mini-course. I’ve offered parts of this four week course in the past, but this revision contains the latest strategies and ideas.
If you’re looking for a way to reach more people, launch more new groups (and sustain a high percentage of what you launch)…please consider signing up for Supercharge Your Fall Ministry Season.
Here’s what’s included:
When, Where and Other Details:
Are you ready? I’d love to teach you how to supercharge your fall ministry season.
You can do it. Your senior pastor will be glad you learned how…and so will your church!
Ready to jump in?
Just choose your payment option below and you’re all set. Please don’t delay! The early bird pricing goes away soon and there is limited space available for the live version with Q&A.
Can’t see the sign-up form? Click here to visit this page on my site.
Note: I had some technical difficulties yesterday. If you were able to sign up, try again today!
New to small group ministry? Trying to figure out where to begin? Or maybe you’re trying to figure out how to reboot the small group ministry you have?
Whether you’re just starting out or you’re already some ways down the road, if you’d like to make sure you’re heading in the right direction, you might find it helpful to work your way systematically through the steps.
I’ve created a free series of simple assignments that will help you work through what I think are the first steps you need to take.
A few weeks ago I launched Small Group Ministry Basic Training.
It’s FREE. It’s designed to help people who are new to small group ministry (or perhaps need to look at it from a fresh point-of-view).
I’d love your feedback.
Want to help me test a new program? Here’s the sign-up form:
You may not realize this, but the things you do in May and June often predetermine how it goes in September.
The things you do in May and June often predetermine how it goes in September.
With that in mind, here are 5 simple things you can do today:
Image by F Delventhal