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Here are 6 Great Examples of a HOST Ask

If you’ve been along for very much of this conversation, you know that I believe the most exponential way to launch small groups is with a church-wide campaign that utilizes a HOST ask strategy (an open invitation from the senior pastor to host a small group).  There are lots of ways to launch groups.  I have no doubt this is the most potent strategy.

I’ve written about making the HOST ask many times.  When to make the ask.  How to set it up.  How many times to do it.  How to take advantage of testimony to make it even more powerful.  See also, How to Make the HOST Ask: The 2012 Version, Why You Must Make the HOST Ask Several Times in a Row, and 6 Ways to Help Your Senior Pastor Make the HOST Ask.

And I’m often asked if there are some good examples of pastors making the HOST ask.  I took the time this week to gather up 6 that offer good variety and great examples.

Here are 6 examples of a HOST ask:

The first few listed here are well worth spending some time with.

These next 3 are from Preparing for Transformation (3 examples from Rick Warren’s Saddleback series just before the launch of 50 Days of Transformation).  Without a doubt, Rick Warren and Saddleback Church are the masters of this strategy.  These 3 messages are worth watching in their entirety.  You’ll get a good feel for how it works at the church that has leveraged this strategy to connect thousands more adults in groups than they have at their weekend services.

  • How God Changes Us (this is week one of the series just before 50 Days of Transformation. The ask happens at about 42:00 minutes in)
  • 5 Habits of Healthy People (this is week two of the series just before 50 Days of Transformation.  The ask happens at about 57:00 minutes in but there are several setups along the way).
  • Your Life Support System (this is week three of the series of the series just before 50 Days of Transformation.  This whole message is really an ask.  The most pointed section begins about 58 minutes in).

I hope you’ve found this post helpful and I’d love to know of any other great examples you come across.

What do you think?  Have one to add? You can click here to jump into the conversation.

7 Powerful Benefits of a Church-Wide Campaign

I’ve written in the past about the exponential power of a church-wide campaign.  I know of no other strategy that provides the game-changing and trajectory-shifting potential of a well-timed and well-executed church-wide campaign.

There are at least 7 powerful benefits:

  1. Spiritual growth.  The powerful combination of a weekend message series, a small group study, daily devotionals, memory verses, and a number of other ingredients enables exponential growth.  A concentrated dose on the right topic will often result in a life-changing trajectory shift.  See also, Essential Ingredients for Life-Change.
  2. One conversation.  When a church-wide campaign is truly a church-wide campaign (i.e., when there are resources for adults, teens and children), there can be one conversation around the dinner table.  Think about the power of every member of the family and everyone in the congregation talking about the same thing for 6 weeks.  See also, How to Choose the Right Church-Wide Campaign,
  3. Congregational focus.  Church-wide campaigns can fan into flame new vision and new focus.  Far beyond the impact of a message series alone, the right elements can focus conversations and alter perspectives.
  4. New groups.  No other strategy even comes close to the new group launching potential of a church-wide campaign.  A senior pastor’s encouragement to “attend a worship service and join a 6 week small group that is using the study that goes along with what I’m teaching” is a powerful incentive.  See also, Top 5 Advantages of New Small Groups.
  5. Additional leaders.  With the right strategy it is very possible to identify the additional leaders your congregation needs in order to take your ministry to the next level.  Doing what you’ve always done will get you what’s you’ve always gotten.  If you want to break through barriers you will need more leaders and the best way to discover additional leaders is with a church-wide campaign.  See also, 5 Keys to Finding More Leaders.
  6. Momentum.  They say the hardest car to steer is a parked car.  A well-executed church-wide campaign can energize your congregation and help build momentum.
  7. Community outreach.  Your church-wide campaign topic determines two things: (a) who will say “yes” to hosting a small group and (b) who will say “yes” to attending a small group.  Choose a topic that appeals cross-culturally and your congregation will find it easy to invite friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members.  See also, The Easy/Hard Continuum and The Latest on Church-Wide Campaigns (2014).

What do you think?  Have a question? Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

5 Dangerous Myths about Church-Wide Campaigns

There are definitely ways that church-wide campaigns miss the mark and there are keys to avoiding a church-wide campaign disaster.  There are certain things you need to do to have a great church-wide campaign. See also, Top 10 Ways Church-Wide Campaigns Miss the Mark, 5 Keys to Avoiding a Church-Wide Campaign Disaster and 10 Simple Steps to a Great Church-Wide Campaign.

5 Dangerous Myths about Church-Wide Campaigns

There are certain myths about church-wide campaigns that set up bad expectations.  Hope and optimism are good things, but wishful thinking can set a congregation up for big disappointment right when they need a boost of encouragement.

People will believe anything and many believe that a church-wide campaign is…

  1. the solution for sagging attendance.  Can a campaign help reenergize a congregation and help inconsistent attendees become more consistent?  The short answer is yes, but only when the right groundwork has been laid.  The right campaign can encourage more consistent attendance when participants are challenged to make and keep commitments to “be here each Sunday and join a group that’s using the study that goes along with the message.”  Certain key ingredients make this commitment likely: a topic with broad appeal, a series of reasonable length (6 weeks is just right), and a study that is easy to do (homework tends to be a barrier).  See also, The Exponential Power of a Church-Wide Campaign.
  2. the solution for reaching neighbors, friends, co-workers and family.  The right church-wide campaign can provide the perfect invitation.  Choose a cross-cultural topic from the easy end of the Easy/Hard Continuum and the invite will almost make itself.  Choose the wrong topic and you won’t be able to bribe your dearest friends to join your group.  See also, The Easy/Hard ContinuumHow to Choose the Right Church-Wide Campaign, and The Latest on Church-Wide Campaigns (2014).
  3. the solution for disunity.  It is not actually the campaign that generates unity.  Developing a prayerful attitude.  A willingness to truly seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Opening God’s word together.  Those are the things that bring unity.  Still, choosing a church-wide campaign that encourages those things will move you in the right direction.
  4. an easy way to launch a small group ministry.  The right church-wide campaign coupled with the right preparation and the right follow-through will go a long way in the effort to launch a small group ministry.  Still, it requires a lot of energy, resources, and persistence.  Do the right things.  Do all of the right things…and when the dust clears you should have a great beginning; the kind of beginning upon which you can build a thriving small group ministry.  See also, What Is the Best Way to Connect the Largest Number of People?
  5. an easy way to “get everyone on the same page.”  In much the same way that a church-wide campaign isn’t a solution for disunity, it won’t be an easy way to “get everyone on the same page.”  The right campaign won’t hurt and coupled with a compelling vision may provide momentum that will move your congregation in the direction of the same page.

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again

Don’t miss this!  If you’re planning a church-wide campaign you must grab hold of this latest idea.  I believe it is at the very heart of how Saddleback amassed over 8400 groups for their most recent campaign (Transformed: How God Changes Us).  You read that right.  8400 groups.

Their idea was embedded in every message, every announcement, and every email.  Here’s an example from a Saddleback email sent just before the campaign began.  See if you can spot the idea:

“This weekend marks the beginning of Pastor Rick’s highly anticipated new series, 50 Days of Transformation! Through small group study and the weekend series, you’ll learn how real change—lasting change—can actually happen in your life. Sign up now to become a small group host. Hosting is easy! Grab two friends and your group is ready to go. Then join Pastor Rick this Friday, January 17 for a special gathering to celebrate the start of the series and pick up your group materials. Learn more at our website!”

Did you catch it?  Grab two friends and your group is ready to go.

Grab two friends and your group is ready to go.

Could this simple tweak really have been at the heart of how Saddleback jumped to over 8400 groups?  According to Steve Gladen, “there were many reasons, but starting groups organically was a huge part.”

If you’ve been along for very much of this journey, you know that I’ve always suggested lowering the bar even lower on the last weekend or two before the launch of the campaign.  It’s always made perfect sense to broaden the definition of who could host a group at the last minute.  That’s what I was talking about in Add 5 to 10% More Hosts with This Jedi Move and Mass Hysteria at the Grab-and-Go Table.

The Key Idea: Go Organic from the Opening Bell!

Based on Saddleback’s experience, I’m suggesting you adopt the language of “grab two friends and your group is ready to go.”

You still need to follow the 10 Simple Steps that Lead to a Great Church-Wide Campaign.  This is not a pass that eliminates planning or praying.  But clearly, it is a different game when your campaign has the potential to enlist a wave of people who have two friends!

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Enlist Your Congregation in the Mission with “Life on Mission”

Life on Mission largeHad an opportunity to preview a new church-wide campaign from Tim Harlow (produced by Lifetogether and published by Pastors.com).  Life on Mission: God’s People Finding God’s Heart for the World is a 6 week campaign that “offers clear Bible teaching designed to empower you to share your faith with people right in your own neighborhood.”

If you’re not familiar with Tim Harlow, he is the senior pastor of Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park, Illinois, one of the fastest growing churches in America for 7 of the last 10 years.  I had the great privilege of serving on Tim’s staff at Parkview and am so excited that his teaching ended up in a campaign we can all take advantage of!

Taking his cue from Acts 1:8, the teaching centers on the powerful realization that although reaching the world is important, the United States is actually the 4th largest mission field opportunity and God has placed us where we are for a reason.  Based on Tim’s new book by the same title, I love the way the teaching zeroes in on reaching our own Jerusalem.

DVD-driven, the sessions average 14 to 18 minutes in length and feature a combination of Harlow’s very engaging style of teaching, compelling stories from church members, and a collection of short vignettes by Mindy Caliguire, Tom Holladay, Gene Appel, Jud Wilhite, Lee Strobel, Cam Huxford, Kyle Idelman, Cal Jernigan and Alan Hirsch.

The Life on Mission study guide includes a video viewing guide, an engaging set of discussion questions, a section devoted to applying what you’ve learned, and a digging deeper section designed to help those ready to explore the topic further.  Each of the six sessions also includes a short set of daily quiet time experiences.  A good set of leader and group resources are included in the study guide.

The Life on Mission campaign kit also includes a resource disc loaded with downloadable sermons, series artwork, powerpoint slides, and much more.

If you’re looking for a church-wide campaign that will help your whole congregation step into mission, Life on Mission is calling your name.  I found it very compelling and I think you will too!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I may receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

7 Ways to Add Prayer to Your Church-Wide Campaign Preparation

I’ve written about the importance of prayer in your church-wide campaign, but I haven’t let you in on some of the best prayer ideas that I’ve come across.  See also, Note to Self: Don’t Forget to Pray for Your Church-Wide Campaign.

7 ways to add prayer to your campaign preparation:

  1. Challenge your staff and other key leaders to pray daily for the campaign.  This may go without saying, but involving your staff and key leaders (elders, deacons, etc.) in praying daily will be a unifying experience.
  2. Invite your staff and other key leaders to meet together in the morning to pray for the campaign.  I personally experienced the power of this idea while on the staff at Woodlands Church.  In preparation for Easter we would meet before the work day began and pray as a staff team for Easter.
  3. Enlist a prayer coordinator and team to both pray daily for the campaign and create opportunities for your congregation to pray.  Long an ingredient in Saddleback’s campaigns, every church has prayer warriors.  Involve them in the effort.
  4. Provide opportunities for others to join in praying for the campaign.  Whether you collect names on a clipboard, sign-up cards, use a “text to join” strategy, or post a link on your website, opening up engagement beyond your usual suspects will help include new participants.
  5. Challenge all of your current small group leaders and coaches to pray daily for the campaign.  When you’re preparing for a campaign, existing leaders are often overlooked and many times we presume they know what is coming and are planning to join in.  Don’t presume.  Reach out to them.  Use your senior pastor’s influence to cast vision and challenge them to join you in praying.  See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.
  6. Distribute a 7 day prayer guide with every HOST packet.  Here is a simple form I’ve included in new host packets for over 10 years.  I got the idea for this 7 day prayer guide from the 40 Days of Purpose campaign kit.
  7. Incorporate prayer for the campaign in your worship services 2 to 3 months before it begins.  Making the campaign part of your public prayers in your worship services will allow your congregation to catch fleeting glimpses of God’s heart for unconnected people.

Listen.  However you do it, don’t forget to pray for your campaign.  It is a powerful strategy but without God’s involvement it is just a strategy.

What do you think?  Have something to add?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

FAQ: School Starts in August. Shouldn’t Our Fall Campaign Launch in August?

I get a lot of questions.  This question is high on the list of frequently asked questions (FAQs).

The Question:

School starts in mid August in our community.  Shouldn’t our fall church-wide campaign launch when school starts?

Assumptions that drive the question:

  • An attendance surge often coincides with school starting.  “Our congregation is back after taking vacations in June and July.”
  • People often report being too busy to join a group in late September.  “They’ve already arranged their family calendars and commitments before a late September launch of a church-wide campaign.”

My Answer: You probably should not launch in August.  At least not without wrestling through several major questions.  Here are the 4 questions that must be answered:

When will you promote your church-wide campaign?  The most effective campaigns are well promoted.  For example, although Saddleback’s fall campaigns typically begin in late September or early October, it’s not unusual for Rick Warren to begin talking about their fall campaign in late spring.  A successful mid August campaign would need to begin promotion no later than late May or early June.  See also, When Is the Best Time to Launch a Church-Wide Campaign?

Who will lead the new groups you hope to launch?  The most impactful campaigns engage a wave of new small group leaders.  Rather than being content to tap the usual suspects, the HOST strategy is implemented specifically to offer potential leaders an opportunity to put their toes in the water.  A successful mid August campaign would need to begin recruiting group leaders no later than early July.

Who do you hope to connect?  Church-wide campaigns offer the very best opportunity to connect the largest number of unconnected people…provided the campaign is well planned and strategically implemented.  Unconnected people are infrequent attenders and may be attending for the first time in many weeks right when your campaign is launching.  A successful mid August campaign would need to take the traits of unconnected people into consideration.  See also, 5 Things You Need to Know about Connecting Unconnected People.

What is the purpose of your church-wide campaign?  This is a critical question.  Campaigns can unify churches, deepen the prayer life of members, and make stronger disciples.  They can also reach the friends, neighbors, co-workers and family of hosts who invite them to join their group.

  • Note: Attempting to do “all of the above” is a recipe that leads to ineffective campaigns.  Far better to develop a clear objective and design everything around it.
  • Note: Churches that have a clear understanding of their objective (i.e., what they will call success) have the best opportunity to succeed.

My Takeaway: Although I am regularly asked this question, I sincerely believe it is best to follow my 10 Simple Steps to a Great Church-Wide Campaign.

What do you think?  Have a question?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

What To Do Before You Plan Another Church-Wide Campaign

As you might imagine, I talk with church leaders almost every day about church-wide campaigns.  Home runs and whiffs.  What worked and what didn’t work.  What was great and what was absolutely terrible.

If you’re planning a church-wide campaign (or even thinking about planning one), can I give you a short list of things to do first?

Hold an autopsy without blame of your last campaign.  Whatever else you do, don’t plan your next campaign without thoroughly evaluating your last campaign.  That makes it essential to evaluate how it went last time and then make changes in your strategy that reflect your learnings.  See also, Top 10 Reasons Church-Wide Campaigns Miss Their Mark.

Key to Remember:

Albert Einstein was right when he said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.”

Carefully determine what you hope to accomplish with your next campaign.  This is a critical step.  Miss this step and you will almost always be the person that climbs the ladder to the top and then realizes it was leaning against the wrong wall.  What you hope to accomplish should determine the campaign you choose and how you prepare for it.

Some examples of what you hope to accomplish might be:

  • Unify your congregation
  • Connect as many unconnected members and attendees as possible
  • Help your congregation connect with their neighbors
  • Deepen the prayer lives of your congregation
  • Etc.

Key to Remember: It rarely works to choose more than one thing you’d like to accomplish.  Why?  The campaign you choose to unify your congregation or deepen the prayer lives of your congregation won’t be the topic that will appeal to the crowd or community.  See also, Three Keys to Connecting Beyond the Core and Committed and Your Church-Wide Campaign Topic Determines Two Huge Outcomes.

Commit to do the things that make a church-wide campaign a win.  If you choose to do a campaign, commit to doing your campaign the way that will accomplish what you hope to accomplish.

Key to Remember: Like any of the Apollo missions, just a degree or two off course took the rocket on an entirely different trajectory.  Have a destination you hope to reach?  Do the things that lead to a win.  See also, Build Crowd to Core Flow in Advance

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

The Latest on Church-Wide Campaigns (2014)

Saddleback released the 40 Days of Purpose church-wide campaign in 2002.  Although they had previously launched internal spiritual growth campaigns, this one really was a just-add-water option.  Of course, in 2002 it really was just about the only option.

Today, there are lots of options and there are more all the time.  I’ve reviewed many of them and cataloged them here for your convenience.  How to choose?  I’d highly recommend my article, “How to Choose the Right Church-Wide Campaign.”

The Nearly Complete List of Church-Wide Campaigns (as of 4/29/14)

Note: This list is alphabetical.  In most cases, I’ve linked to my own review of the campaign.

Steve Gladen on the Power of HOST Gatherings

steve-gladen-e1328876116556I had a great phone call with Steve Gladen (Saddleback’s Pastor of the Small Group Community) last week, thinking that I’d glean enough to turn around and create an overview of the host rally event.  I was right…I got a ton of great ideas…but there was so much good stuff that I decided to post an edited transcript and a link to my recording of the phone call.
Spoiler Alert: Waaay longer post than normal.  My suggestion, read along while you listen to my recording of the phone call.  Here’s the audio: Steve Gladen on the HOST Gathering.
MH: At Saddleback, you always seem to be working to improve the way you do what you do and the church-wide campaign seems to be no exception.  One aspect that I’m really curious about is the post-campaign host rallyWhy hold a rally?
SG: First off I want to say a couple things.  Our language is more of a “host gathering.”  And we really do two different gatherings.
  • First, we do a gathering prior to the launch and we’ll do this with both our existing hosts, to get them familiar with what we’re trying to do and why we’re trying to do it.  We’ll also do one for brand new hosts and give them an opportunity to get their materials first.
  • On the backside we’ll do another event that is for celebration, Rick will love on them a lot,  and also get them new curriculum for what’s going to happen next.

MH: What are the key ingredients of the rally?  It would be good to know things like how long it is? what’s the program like? with as many hosts as you have do you have more than one time? does each site have their own rally? how are the hosts seated? is it a meal? etc.

There are three main ingredients to the gathering.

  • Appreciation: We want to appreciate and honor long time hosts.  We want to have a prayer time for new hosts and celebrate them.  They’re standing and we all applaud them.  Everybody needs appreciation.  It’s the fuel for motivation and taking next steps.  You have appreciation and then you have vision.
  • Vision casting: This is where Rick comes in and plays a big role.  The other beautiful thing is the he’s very scriptable and is the first one to ask what you need said.  How can I help you. This is about vision casting from the senior leader.  And the other major ingredient is recruitment.
  • Recruitment: A lot of times when you think of recruitment you think of just gathering people that you can bring along with you on the journey, which is very, very true.  But also part of recruitment is mentally getting the hosts into that next phase of what we want them to do.

Pre-rally it is clear, bring somebody with you.  Nobody comes alone.  At our last rally for our new hosts we had 100 to 130 of their invitees in the room sign up to lead groups themselves.  We’ll do the same thing on the post-side.

But also recruitment is getting them to take the next step and continue on.  Part of that is having curriculum available, having our bookstore in full operation and they can buy online or onsite.

MH: So there are three main components.  Appreciating and honoring.  You’re casting vision.  And then recruitment is really more than to the next curriculum or what your group is going to do next.  It has to do with what the leader or the host’s next step might be.

SG: We never miss an opportunity to take people from where they’re at to where we want to take them.  A great thing I haven’t talked about yet is that at our rallies we know that everybody is at a different place in their spiritual journey so we will give hosts an opportunity to step across the line of faith.  Because we engage people who aren’t even followers of Christ yet, as long as they have two friends, we don’t advertise their groups, but if they have two friends, we’re going to engage them and let them be a part of our community.  Rick will clearly say, “And if you haven’t stepped across the line of faith, you need to do it.”  We will also have our baptismal ready, for those that want to make a public declaration and share that with everybody that is there that night.  They can have an opportunity after the gathering to get baptized.  (Here’s a sample of this year’s “My Spiritual Next Steps” commitment card)

The net is somewhat wide in that aspect because we’re always trying to say at everyone of our gatherings we’re saying what is the next step?  Because we do this so wide, we keep the funnel wide at the top, and it narrows as it gets through.  We will meet them where they’re at, they come because of the content, but they stay because of the relationship.

MH: When the post-rally happens, and the campaign is over but the group might not have had their celebration yet, how do you help the people that said, “Yes, I will open my home 6 times” take their next step to a group that will continue?  And the role of your leadership pathway?

SG: In all sales, people need to hear things 7 to 9 times, before they make that little aha, that connection, that actual step through.  So the rally is emphasizing what has been emphasized all along. During a campaign, hosts are getting multiple touches:

  1. One is on the DVD itself we have “helps for hosts,” that are always trying to encourage them to their next steps.  So, about two thirds of the way through the campaign, the helps for hosts are saying, “hey be thinking about your group, what could be your next study?” We’re not asking them to decide whether they’re going to continue or not, we’re asking them to think about their next study.
  2. Also, in the weekly tips that either I send out or Rick sends out, we do the same thing.  We’re saying “be thinking what’s that next step you could do with your friends?  what is that you would want to do?  Here are some great curriculums.  If you’re brand new, here are some other ideas.”
  3. We’ll also have our community leaders that are calling through all of our new groups and trying to do three touches throughout the campaign.  On their second touch, they’re saying, “Hey be thinking about what you can do.”

So when they come to the gathering, whether it’s online or at one or our sites, the powerful thing is that they’re getting that same reinforcement only their call to action is a little more prominent because they’ll have the curriculum there, that they can buy right then and there for their group.  We will have a little more of that pastoral push because both myself who will host it and Rick who will be there will be giving that emphasis to it.”

MH: You guys have a vision about how you develop a host into a leader, how do you help them take the next step from a leadership standpoint?  Is there something in the rally that moves them?

SG: You have to know where the escalator is going.  We are clear and precise on where we want to take them on our leadership pathway.  Inside the pathway you’ve got to have a cognitive arm and a relational arm.  For our relational arm there are community leaders that are coming alongside new hosts.  This is about trust and trust takes time.  There’s also the cognitive arm that is our training that we will do with our group leaders.  Inside the DVD curricula there are guardrails that are set up.

What the gatherings do, they give motivation, they give hope, they give inspiration, they give vision.  When you’re in your group you just need that injection of something bigger than you.  We inject fun.  We inject serious moments.  We inject next steps.  We script our rallies so they have a flow.  They help move people along.  We try to orchestrate a next step for every type of host who will be present, whether they’re brand new, maybe need to respond to Christ, be baptized.  Experienced hosts as well, that they would be able to take a next step.

MH: Any lessons that you’ve learned from previous gatherings?

SG: First, people often come to me and say my pastor isn’t on board yet.  If that’s you, just ask your pastor to come by the gathering and say “hi.”  Make it easy for them.  Also, it’s easier for them to edit than create.  Give them 3 things that they could say and let them shape it.  Think crawl, walk, run.

Also, engage people who are better at creating fun than you are.  Have them work on making it fun.  Find people who are great recruiters and talk about how to get more hosts there.  Get decorators involved.  Think through not only the event but what are they going to walk away with.  Make sure you have a commitment card with next steps for your hosts with the different steps for them to take.  If you just have the gathering and no way to respond, you’ve missed a great opportunity.  (Here’s a sample of this year’s “My Spiritual Next Steps” commitment card)

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