An Analysis of the Church-Wide Campaign-Driven Strategy

An Analysis of the Church-Wide Campaign-Driven Strategy

Unlike the Free Market system or the Sermon-Based system (both of which are also very commonly semester systems), the Church-Wide Campaign-Driven strategy is actually part of a system and not the whole shebang.

For example, at Canyon Ridge we use several different strategies designed to connect people to groups over the course of the year. This set of strategies used over the course of the year are all designed to identify new leaders. A single church-wide campaign (typically in the fall) anchors our annual small group strategy. See also, Overview: Here Are Our Four Strategies for Launching New Groups.

A church-wide campaign is not a new idea. Churches have been using church-wide campaigns for many years, primarily as a way to rally the whole church around a vision (often connected with a capital campaign and a building project).

A church-wide campaign, or a spiritual growth emphasis (as Rick Warren refers to them) can be very powerful and do much more than connect adults to groups. Saddleback calls them a spiritual growth emphasis because a well-conceived, well-planned and well-executed church-wide campaign will have a powerful impact on the spiritual vitality of an entire church (from core to crowd and even into the community).

Full Disclosure: I believe a well-conceived, well-planned, and well-executed is the very best way to identify the largest number of leaders, launch the largest number of new groups, and connect the largest number of unconnected people.

Common Distinctives:

Church-wide campaigns have a number of distinctive elements:

  • They are alignments between a sermon series and a small group study. That is, what is studied in small groups enhances and reinforces the weekend sermon series.
  • Many campaigns include other elements, such as a daily devotional (think 40 Days of Purpose and The Purpose Driven Life), memory verses, serving opportunities, etc.
  • While there are many off-the-shelf church-wide campaigns, it is more and more common for churches to develop their own (produced in-house or farmed out to a production company). See also, The Latest on Church-Wide Campaigns – 2016.
  • The adult small group study is commonly DVD-driven.
  • Many campaigns are developed to include the whole congregation (with materials for children and students, as well).
  • Most campaigns include an effort to challenge unconnected adults to join groups that are using the campaign study (where they can get everything possible out of the message series).
  • Well-executed campaigns are designed to launch new small groups (and identify new leaders).

Advantages of the church-wide campaign-driven strategy:

Incorporating an annual church-wide campaign into your overall church strategy has a number of advantages:

  • It can focus your church on one conversation (children, students and adults can focus on a single topic).
  • Well-executed campaigns launch waves of new groups and identify new leaders. In my opinion, it is the very best way to connect the largest number of unconnected people and launch the largest number of new groups.
  • Connecting large numbers of unconnected adults into groups can provide an important first step into community.
  • Well-conceived and well-executed campaigns leverage the influence of the most influential person in the church (the senior pastor) to encourage whole congregations to participate (i.e, attend all 6 weekend services, be part of a group that’s using the study that goes along with the message series, do the daily devotional, etc.).
  • Well-executed campaigns very effectively sustain a large percentage of the new groups launched, helping many unconnected people take first steps into community.

Disadvantages of the church-wide campaign-driven strategy:

  • The effectiveness of a church-wide campaign rests largely on the senior pastor’s ability and willingness to play the role of champion. The most effective campaigns leverage the influence of the most influential person in the church to encourage everyone to fully participate. There is no truly effective substitute. See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion.
  • Choosing the right campaign can be a challenge. Since the topic determines who will say “yes” to leading a group and who will say “yes” to joining a group, choosing a topic that appeals broadly is an essential step. See also, Your Church-Wide Campaign Topic Determines Two Huge Outcomes.
  • Church-wide campaigns require full participation and buy-in from senior leadership (senior pastor, staff, elders, etc.). Without full participation and buy-in results in a less successful campaign.
  • Effective church-wide campaigns dominate the calendar for 2 to 3 months of the year. Recruiting new leaders and then launching new groups is a 6 to 8 weekend project. Series promotion and execution is typically an overlapping 6 to 8 weekends. See also, Behind the Scenes: Developing a Timeline for Your Church-Wide Campaign.
  • Truly effective campaigns are never one of several things being promoted. They are always the only thing being promoted. This aspect necessitates rethinking the way other ministries and programs are launched or promoted.

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

The Very Best Way to Launch the Largest Number of New Groups

The Very Best Way to Launch the Largest Number of New Groups

I am regularly asked for ideas on the best ways to connect more people in groups. Having been working on the answer to this question for over 20 years, you might think I have a pat answer by now.

And you’d be right. I do have a pat answer.

A church-wide campaign is the best way to launch the largest number of new groups. A church-wide campaign is the best way to launch the largest number of new groups. Click To Tweet

A church-wide campaign is the best way to launch the largest number of new groups. And no other strategy even comes close.

But…it’s actually not quite that simple. It’s a little more complicated than that.

The correct answer to the question is that a well-conceived, well-planned, and well-executed church-wide campaign is the best way to launch the largest number of new groups.

*Check out my popular mini-course: How to Maximize YOUR Church-Wide Campaign.

A well-conceived church-wide campaign

What do I mean by a well-conceived church-wide campaign? That’s a little easier to explain than to actually pull off.

A well-conceived church-wide campaign is specifically designed or chosen to do the one thing you really, really want to do.

Let’s start with an understanding of “the one thing you really, really want to do.”

First, a well-conceived church-wide campaign acknowledges from the outset specifically who you hope to connect.

Specifically. Laser targeted. Not broadly or generally. Not all-inclusive. Not wishfully thinking about connecting everyone.

Specifically.

Specifically means the exact kind of person you hope to connect.

Example #1: You might determine that the ideal church-wide campaign for fall 2017 is one that appeals to the community, crowd and outside edge of your congregation. If you choose that kind of person you’ll also choose a topic that will appeal to to them (and might not tickle the fancy of the already connected).

Example #2: You might determine that the ideal church-wide campaign for fall 2017 is one that appeals to the inside edge of the congregation, committed and core. If you choose that kind of person you’ll choose a topic that will appeal to them (and might not tickle the fancy of unconnected people).

Why would you do either? In determining in advance who you hope to connect, you’re acknowledging that you cannot please everyone and you’re landing on the specific topic that will help the demographic you choose take the step you hope they’ll take.

In Example #1 you’re choosing a topic that will appeal to the community, crowd and outside edge of your congregation in hopes that they’ll be taking a first step into connection that will lead to more frequent attendance and the next steps that help people begin to follow Jesus.

In Example #2 you’re choosing a topic that will appeal to the inside edge of the congregation, committed and core in hopes that they’ll take the next steps that lead to greater commitment to Christ and the practices that demonstrate true spiritual maturity (i.e., serving in a gift-based passion-driven ministry role, giving generously, being other-centered, etc.).

See also, How to Choose the Right Church-Wide Campaign and Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer?

Second, a well-conceived church-wide campaign might be designed and developed by you or it might be an off-the-shelf campaign.

It’s gotten easier and easier to develop your own campaign when you have the right in-house team or can hire the right people for the project.

At the same time, there is a wide selection of off-the-shelf campaigns that can work very well in most contexts. See also, The Latest on Church-Wide Campaigns – 2016 and 2017’s Top 5 Church-Wide Campaigns.

A well-planned church-wide campaign

A well-planned church-wide campaign begins with the end-in-mind and builds in tailored steps that lead directly to the preferred future.

Well-planned church-wide campaigns aren’t last minute, wild-haired ideas. There aren’t impromptu work-arounds or bull-headed do-it-anyway moments.

Well-planned church-wide campaigns are calculated, shrewd and uncompromising. Anything and everything that could alter the trajectory is eliminated or deemphasized.

Well-planned church-wide campaigns begin to play out many months in advance. September campaigns are set in motion in the late spring…at the latest. February campaigns are often in play in the late fall.

See also, Behind the Scenes: Developing a Timeline for Your Church-Wide Campaign.

A well-executed church-wide campaign

Well-executed campaigns are detail oriented to the extreme. They are designed and executed with precision and moment-by-moment vigilance.

Execution is about carrying out the plan…to an exactness that may not be customary in your congregation’s experience.

Details that are often shrugged off are evaluated real-time and course corrections are swift.

Communication with all players (staff, existing group leaders, weekend service personnel, congregation) is uncompromising and exactly as planned. To the letter.

For example, all announcements (verbal, bulletin, website, email, etc,) and sermon mentions are often scripted and care is given to specific wording designed to emphasize important elements.

Example #1: In the fall of 2015 we used Saddleback’s Transformed: How God Changes You as our campaign.  In place of some outdated verbiage, we inserted the following lines to recruit hosts (people who would launch their own group with their own friends):

“If you have a couple friends you’d like to do the Transformed study with, stop off at Groups Central after the service today and pick up a Transformed Starter Kit. We’ve included everything you need to do the study with a couple friends and we’ve priced it super affordably.”

You need to note a few things:

  1. The wording was very specific.
  2. We never referred to “starting a group.”
  3. We made it as friend-oriented as possible: “If you have a couple friends.”
  4. It was intended to seem easy to do.
  5. We never referred to the price, only “we’ve priced it super affordably.”

This script was used dozens of times over the 8 weeks leading up to the launch of the Transformed series. Any deviation was noted and corrected immediately after the service.

Example #2: An important element of execution in a church-wide campaign is the specific narrowing of focus during the 8 weeks leading up to the launch of the weekend series. Virtually nothing else of significance competed with Transformed in 2015. On the flip side, our 2016 campaign (which was much less successful in every way) our attention slipped and too many additional items made it onto the stage for promotion.

See also, What If Narrowing the Focus Is THE Missing Ingredient? and Behind the Scenes: Preparing for a Church-Wide Campaign.

Top 5 Church-Wide Campaigns for 2017

Top 5 Church-Wide Campaigns for 2017Have you pulled the trigger yet on church-wide campaign for 2017? It’s not too late, but now is the time if you plan to incorporate a church-wide campaign (an alignment between your weekend message series and a small group study).  Although you would really have to hustle to take advantage of a campaign in February (in my mind the second best time of the year for a campaign), there are two other windows when the impact of a campaign can be optimized (post-Easter and fall).  See also, When Is the Best Time to Launch a Church-Wide Campaign.

While choosing the best church-wide campaigns is certainly subjective, I’ve made these selections with 15 years experience leading churches through the process of choosing, designing and launching powerful and trajectory altering church-wide campaigns.  See also, How to Choose the Right Church-Wide Campaign and Church-Wide Campaign Coaching.

If you’re a subscriber to MarkHowellLive.com you’ll notice some repeats from last fall’s list. The truth is that although most years offer a selection of new campaigns, some are still too good to exclude.

Here are my picks for the Top 5 campaigns for 2017:

transformed 3DVD-driven, Transformed is a 7 session study that accompanies a 7 week message series.  Although this campaign launched in 2014, this is a potent theme and should be on your radar.   Anchored in the apostle Paul’s profound truth in Romans 12:2, this campaign will guide and grow your church by exploring what the Bible has to say about every essential area of our lives: Spiritual, Physical, Mental, Emotional, Relational, Financial, and Vocational.Like all of Saddleback’s campaigns, this one is the complete package and is a true church-wide campaign with material for the whole family.

I like Transformed because it will appeal to both the congregation and the crowd (and in many situations to the community as well). Who doesn’t sense the need to change in some way? You can read my full review right here.

finding your way

Finding Your Way Back to God: Five Awakenings to Your New Life has the most powerful  outreach potential I’ve come across in a long time. If you’ve not had a chance to spend some time with the book yet, you need to make time! I believe this might be the most powerful outreach campaign I’ve ever reviewed.

The DVD segments are very compelling and exactly the right length to grab and hold attention. Both Dave and Jon Ferguson come across as real people who genuinely care about this message. Each session also includes the compelling testimony of some who have found their way back to God. An aspect of the video segments that stands in stark contrast to some is that these people have a very familiar presence and feel like they could be your neighbors.

The resources you need to put on your own campaign (including sermon transcripts, small group participant/leader guides, teaching videos, series bumper video, and website graphic) are available from youwayback.org. You can find our more right here.

You can read my full review of the book right here.

starting-overRecently had an opportunity to take a look at a powerful new campaign from Dave and Jon Ferguson. Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets is the newest project from the authors of Finding Your Way Back to God.

Starting Over was developed as a result of many conversations the Ferguson’s had with people who had read Finding Your Way Back to God: Five Awakenings to Your New Life. The authors made a curious discovery. If you’re familiar with Find Your Way Back, you may remember that the second awakening was awakening to regret. Their discovery? “Many of the people we talked to experienced the Awakening to Regret but then got stuck there.” Starting Over was developed to help people “come face to face with your regrets and learn to start over.”

Like Finding Your Way Back to God, the study (and accompanying videos) are very engaging. Packed with personal stories and skillfully told stories from the Bible, this is the kind of study that make it easy to invite friends, neighbors, co-workers and family.

A 5 session study, Starting Over is well-written and very easy to use. Although some participants may be anxious about joining a discussion on this topic, most will be quickly made at ease by the tone set in the opening questions. Each session of the study includes an opening icebreaker and questions that will consistently welcome everyone to the conversation. The Bible study portion of the study does a very good job of exploring a series of stories, Psalms, and passages on regret. A life application section will help participants make the story personal.

The participant guide also includes an extensive leader guide that will enable even the most inexperienced leader to feel better equipped to lead.

I have to tell you, I believe Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets may have even greater potential than Finding Your Back to God. Why? I think regret is an even more cross-cultural topic. While everyone may not be overwhelmed by feelings of regret, everyone can personally relate. If you’re looking for a compelling study that will appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike, take a look at Starting Over. I love this study and I think you will too!

You can read my full review of the book and the study right here. Also, you’ll find all of the resources for the church-wide campaign right here.

Wonderlife: A Not So Perfect Guide to Who You Are and Why You’re Here is the newest resource from Mike Foster and the folks at SecondChance.org.  The study is designed to take people on “an authentic journey through their not-so-perfect stories to find their sacred calling.” Based on the principles of Psalm 139, the small group workbook, DVD and weekend series can easily be used as a church-wide campaign.

Covering the kind of topic that makes an easy invite for friends, neighbors, co-workers and family, it is designed to generate a fairly personal discussion. At the same time, it comes at it from such an exploratory angle, it ends up being fun and engaging at the same time.

If you’re looking for a study that makes for a great outreach opportunity, take a look at Wonderlife: A Not So Perfect Guide to Who You Are and Why You’re Here. I think you’ll like what you find. I loved this study and I think you will too!

The Miracle of Mercy, a new 6 six-week church-wide campaign, is anchored by a weekend teaching series that launched the weekend after Easter, 2016.

If you want to know how to leverage a church-wide campaign to unite your congregation around a purpose and fan into flame difference-making action…you absolutely must take a look at Saddleback’s newest spiritual growth campaign. This is very powerful stuff. Don’t miss it!

I have pointed out many times that Saddleback strategically uses their small group ministry to drive ministry initiatives (think 40 Days of Community and the P.E.A.C.E project). There has never been a better example than The Miracle of Mercy. If you want to unleash a tidal wave of impact on your community and the world, you must take a look at this campaign.

You can read my full review right here.

What if you could start 10 times as many new groups-

4 Essentials of Execution: Plan, Rehearse, Evaluate, and Adjust

essentials of execution4 Essentials of Execution: Plan, Rehearse, Evaluate, and Adjust

And…we’re off. We’re now two weekends into our fall launch.

The way our strategy is designed we will focus exclusively on casting vision for the series (Finding Your Way Back to God) and recruiting hosts for the first three weekends. By hosts, we mean people who respond to the specially designed ask: “If you have a couple friends you’d like to do the study with… (i.e., the study that goes along with the series).” See also, Why You Must Make the HOST Ask Three Weekends in a Row and Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again.

So far, our results are underwhelming. We saw improvement in the second weekend as we tightened up the ask (both our service host and teaching pastor pulled closer to the script) and more effectively cast vision for the series (the ‘why’). But there remains room for further improvement.

And we will continue to tweak and massage the launch until we work it into the right language, the right feel.

Which brings me to a short, but critical, explanation of the ingredients that go into a well executed small group launch.

4 Essentials of Execution:

  1. Plan. The best planning clarifies the win, makes clear what you are trying to do and removes the guesswork. Paint the bullseye before you shoot the arrow. For me, planning includes writing the script for the specific lines I want our communicators to us.
  2. Rehearse. Just prior to pulling the trigger it is a good idea to remind all players about their lines. Ideally, this is not improv. You think about this nearly year-round. Many of the other players (i.e., your senior pastor, your communication director, etc.) only think about a small group launch or church-wide campaign when it is rolling.
  3. Evaluate. Every move should be evaluated immediately (i.e., if you have two services you should be evaluating immediately after the first service). “How close was that to the script?” “Was that really what we planned?” “What were the results from that ‘ask’?” Remember, “Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.” If you don’t like the results from the first service…don’t assume the results were a fluke. They were generated by the execution of your design (or a deviation from the design).
  4. Adjust. If the results you achieve are not what you hoped for or expect, you must adjust what you are doing. As Albert Einstein shrewdly noted, “The definition of insanity is to do the same thing again and again and expect different results.” If you want different results, you must adjust the execution of your strategy.

We have our third move next weekend. I’ll keep you posted as we adjust (in hopes of a greater response, so we can connect a larger number of unconnected people).

Further Reading:

Image by Jeff Archer

What If Narrowing Your Focus Is THE Missing Piece?

narrow white noiseI’ve suggested MANY times that the most important ministry book you could read is Seven Practices of Effective Ministry. In fact, I’ve suggested it so many times that I’m actually disappointed in you if you haven’t read it multiple times. It is the best explanation for the way to do effective ministry. I really do believe that.

Which leads me to today’s post.

Have you ever wondered if there actually was a single most important missing piece to your strategy?

Think about this Andy Stanley line:

“Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.”

Is that phrase locked squarely in your mind?

Now think about this, what if you have everything right in your design except one thing? Could that one thing cause your results to still miss the mark? To keep you from achieving the win that you’ve clarified?

What do you think? Could getting everything right except one thing cause you to miss the mark?

Spoiler Alert: I believe your design only has to miss one thing in order to significantly alter your results.

That’s right. If your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing…only one element of the design needs to be off.

8 Key Design Elements to a Successful Church-Wide Campaign:

For example, if I were to list the major design elements to a successful church-wide campaign, the list would include the following:

  1. The topic (or specific study chosen).
  2. The timing of the weekend message series.
  3. Isolating a single message for each weekend in the weeks leading up to the campaign.
  4. The senior pastor’s involvement as champion in promoting the campaign.
  5. The message series that leads up to the campaign.
  6. A clear distinction between the host ask and the group member ask.
  7. Connecting every new group leader with a coach.
  8. Choosing the follow up study in advance and promoting it skillfully to new group leaders and members.

What if you only missed one design element?

I believe you only have to miss one design element to end up with significantly reduced results.

Choose the wrong topic, you’re toast because the topic determines who will say yes to hosting and who say yes to joining a groups.

Chose the wrong timing for the series and clearly your results will be different.

Choose the wrong person to champion the campaign (anyone other than the senior pastor) and your results wlll be significantly reduced.

Choose the wrong message series leading up to the campaign and your host and member asks will seem forced.

Fail to differentiate between the host ask and the member ask and you will severely compromise the number of hosts you recruit.

Fail to connect every new leader with a coach or fail to choose the right follow up series and you will sustain far fewer new groups.

Note: For most of my readers, especially those who have completed How to Maximize YOUR Church-Wide Campaign, this is all old news.

Special Note: Fail to isolate a single message, to narrow the focus, to a single objective and the whole thing can be drowned out by the white noise of too many opportunities.

The Most Overlooked Design Element?

I believe the most overlooked design element is the failure to isolate a single message, to narrow the focus, to a single objective. When too many things, too many options, are being promoted at the same time, the whole thing can be drowned out by the white noise of too many opportunities.

When you attempt to promote more than one thing at a time, your people hear noise. They do not hear options. They hear noise.

If you want to connect beyond the usual suspects, you must narrow the focus to the single message you want them to hear. When you don’t do that, it is a design problem Your design problem.

P.S. If you haven’t read Seven Practices of Effective Ministry you can order it right here (and join the smart set).

Further Reading:

Image by Andrew Kimmel

4 Ingredients of an Effective “Ask” (that Recruits Small Group Members)

4 Ingredients of an Effective -Ask-4 Ingredients of an Effective “Ask” (that Recruits Small Group Members)

I’m regularly asked, “What is the best way to get the most people involved in our upcoming church-wide campaign?”

To answer that question, I wrote what became one of my most popular articles, 5 Keys to Getting Everyone Involved in a Church-Wide Campaign. I won’t go into all 5 keys here, but I will remind you that getting everyone involved begins with your senior pastor.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Getting everyone involved begins with your senior pastor.  There’s no getting around this.  Connecting everyone involves your senior pastor talking about the importance of being in a group every week.  When you’re launching a church-wide campaign, be sure your pastor is emphasizing the importance of “being part of a group that’s using the curriculum that goes along with the weekend message.”  See also Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups

Getting everyone involved begins with your senior pastor. And that begs the question, “What, exactly, does my senior pastor need to say to be most effective?” If getting everyone involved begins with your senior pastor, what does your senior pastor need to say to be most effective?

“What, exactly, does my senior pastor need to say to be most effective?”

Making the small group ask really involves two separate asks:

Here are what I think are the key ingredients of an effective “ask” that recruits small group members.

4 Ingredients of an Effective “Ask” (that recruits small group members):

There are 4 very important ingredients:

  1. Appropriate Urgency: If there is ever a place for passion it is in this ask. An effective ask always conveys a sense of urgency. There may be a place for blandly reporting the facts. It is not here. Certainly, there are senior pastors whose speaking style is even and rarely passionate. This is the moment for them to work to communicate urgency. See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Unconnected People?
  2. Skillful Placement: Certainly the best time for the senior pastor to make the ask is during the sermon. Announcements and pre-service slides are helpful, but if you want to leverage the influence of the most influential person in your congregation, the time to do that is in the sermon. It also matters where the ask is placed within the sermon. In my opinion, the best time for the ask to happen is when the sermon naturally leads to an opportunity for a response. Obviously, some sermon topics lend themselves more naturally to an opportunity for this kind of response (and ultimately, this should be a factor in the selection of topics for the weeks leading up to a church-wide campaign).
  3. Visionary Language: Again, there may be times for bland reporting of the facts and details (when and where the small group connection is, childcare is offered, how to pick up your study guide, etc.). The ask is NOT the time for facts! It is the single best opportunity to cast vision about the potential impact of joining a small group.
  4. Action Step: When you make the ask, always ask for a response. “Fill out this card (hold it up) and drop it in the offering in a few minutes.” Too often, senior pastors include the other three ingredients and neglect asking for a response.

Very Important:

You must make the ask several weeks in a row. Don’t miss this. Unconnected people are infrequent attenders. They rarely attend two weeks in a row. See also, Why You Must Make the HOST Ask Three Weeks in a Row.

Here is an example ask:

“I believe the message series we’re launching on September 18th is going to have a powerful impact on us. As your pastor, I want to challenge you to make three important commitments as we begin this series.

First, I want to challenge you to be here every week for this series.

Second, I want to challenge you to join a small group that is using the study that goes along with what I’ll be preaching. It’s a 7 week commitment. Joining a small group will help you take these important promises and principles deep into your life.

Third, I want to challenge you to read the daily devotional.

Listen, we believe Transformed is going to have a powerful impact on our lives. People will be talking about what happened here in the fall of 2016 for a long time. People will be talking about how their lives changed, their marriages were restored, their families got on the right track. You don’t want to get to November and realize you should have joined a small group.

If you’re not yet in a small group, I want to challenge you to sign up for our small group connection and get connected. In your bulletin is an insert…it looks like this (hold it up). Fill this out and drop it in the offering in a few minutes. Joining one of these 7 week groups is so important. Please don’t miss this.”

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

Behind the Scenes: Developing a Timeline for Your Church-Wide Campaign

januaryBehind the Scenes: Developing a Timeline for Your Church-Wide Campaign

When you’re preparing for a church-wide campaign, developing a timeline is one of the most important early steps. I was looking at an article I wrote in 2009 about how to develop a timeline…and I realized how much has changed! It’s time to take another shot at it.

Here is the way I develop a timeline in 2016:

Start with the End in Mind

The very first step is to determine when your weekend message series will end. This is an important decision. For a fall campaign, I try to finish at least two weekends before Thanksgiving. This is ideal, since providing your newest groups with a study to do next is an important step in sustaining a high percentage of the groups you launch and finishing your campaign at least two weekends before Thanksgiving will allow your new groups to do at least the first session (or two) of the follow-up study before Thanksgiving.

With me? As I said, though, this is ideal and I can’t always make it happen. Sometimes other factors get in the way.

Once you’ve chosen the end date, you can simply count forward the number of weeks in the series and determine when it will begin. For example, this year we are doing Finding Your Way Back to God. Although it is a 5 week series out of the box, we are adding an intro week, making it a 6 week series. We want our ending date to be October 30 which makes our beginning date the weekend of September 17-18.

Work Backwards from the End Date

The small group connection strategy is designed to form new groups to connect people who come to an event. See also, How I Lead a Small Group Connection.

If our series begins on September 17-18, we’ll be holding a series of small group connections during the week before the series begins. This year we will hold connections on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. In our case, we’ve found it beneficial to offer more than one connection event (providing an additional time allows more people to attend a connection). In our case, we don’t have available rooms large enough to hold everyone we need to connect, so we actually offer 5 different times. In your case, keep in mind that you need critical mass for the connection strategy to be effective. Don’t offer so many times that it spreads attendees over too many nights.

Plan to Promote Your Connection(s) Over 2 to 3 Weekends

As I’ve said many times, unconnected people are almost always infrequent attenders. If you want to connect as many as possible, you need to promote your connection events over several weekends. I like to promote the connection event(s) three weekends in a row and hold it on the third weekend after the 11:00 a.m. service.

Since our small group connections take place during the week of September 11th, we’ll be promoting them on 8/27-28, 9/3-4 and 9/10-11. Same script all three weekends in the sermon, announcements, preservice slides, bulletin, and website. We’ll also send at least one church-wide email promoting the event.

If You Have a Couple Friends…

Another important strategy for connecting people is the latest iteration of the HOST strategy. I refer to it as the “if you have a couple friends” strategy and when used with the right campaign it can help connect a wave of people to people who simply invite them to do the study together. See also, Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again.

Again, since people are attending church less frequently, it is important to mention this opportunity at least two or three weekends in a row.

We will begin inviting people to stop off at Groups Central and pick up a HOST kit on 8/6-7. and continue on 8/13-14 and 8/20-21. Same script all three weekends in the sermon, announcements, preservice slides, bulletin, and website. We’ll also send at least one church-wide email promoting the strategy.

Recruiting Launch-Phase Coaches

Another of the most important ingredients in the attempt to sustain as many new groups as possible is providing coaches for every new group leader. Recruiting and training new “coaches” needs to begin in April, May and June. See also, How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure – 2016 Version.

Bring Your Existing Group Leaders into the Loop

It’s a good idea to keep your existing group leaders informed and bring them into the loop well in advance. We like to hold a Group Leader Briefing in between services in early June. These briefings are short and to the point and feature a brief appearance by our senior pastor who casts vision for the campaign and shows appreciation for our leaders. We typically will show a short clip from the video and provide a sample of the study guide.

Begin “Teasing” the Campaign

In late spring or early summer we begin “teasing” the campaign. Think about the way the next Batman movie is promoted. Long before a true movie trailer is produced, posters and seconds long video will be released during the previews in movie theaters everywhere. Batman Begins…coming Christmas 2016. Why not “tease” your campaign?

_____________________________________________________________

GroupLifeInsider_black_141208In the next few weeks I’ll be launching a new site called GroupLife Insider.

GroupLife Insider will feature more detailed and step-by-step instruction on building a thriving small group ministry. It will also feature:

  • A backstage pass kind of look at how I do what I do.
  • Free access to every mini-course I produce.
  • Opportunity to join an invite-only video conference call to get your questions answered.
  • Video interviews with experts you will listen to again and again.

GroupLife Insider will feature a robust behind-the-scenes experience. It will be a subscription service. While the price per month will be very reasonable, it will not be free ($10 to $15 per month or an annual fee).

If you’ve enjoyed and benefitted from the strategies, tips and ideas of MarkHowellLive.com…you will probably see right away the upside of a backstage pass that would give you access to more detail and a better step-by-step explanation.

Want to find out more?

Let me know by subscribing to the GroupLife Insider list:

Can’t see the sign up form? Click here to visit the article on the blog itself.

Behind the Scenes: Preparing for a Church-Wide Campaign

behind the scenesBehind the Scenes: Preparing for a Church-Wide Campaign

What do you do to prepare for a church-wide campaign? When do you start preparing? What are the first steps that lead in the direction that maximizes your results?

These are all good questions. And along with many other questions, these are the right questions.

In today’s post, I want to give you a look behind the scenes as we prepare for this year’s fall church-wide campaign.

What’s already happened:

  • Earlier this spring our lead team/teaching team chose this year’s church-wide campaign. The first thing on our mind was the why behind the what. Last year we chose a campaign that was primarily intended to strengthen our congregation, committed and core (the people who were already here). This year, we determined to go after the friends, neighbors, co-workers and family of our congregation and crowd.
  • While there are some years that we choose to develop our campaign study (video and study guide) in-house, many years we use an off-the-shelf campaign (one that has already been produced by someone else). For example, last year we chose to use Saddleback’s Transformed: How God Changes You. This year we’ve chosen to use Finding Your Way Back to God. See also, Top 5 Church-Wide Campaigns for Fall 2016.
  • 3 weeks ago we laid out the timeline for the entire campaign. We start by determining how long the weekend message series will run and when we need to launch the message series in order to finish the series at the right time (Thanksgiving plays a role). After determining the length of the series, we determine the necessary weeks to promote and hold a series of small group connections. This is preceded by the number of weeks we plan to recruit a wave of people “who have a couple of friends they’d like to do the study with.” See also, How to Develop a Timeline for Your Church-Wide Campaign.
  • Over the last two weeks we’ve fine-tuned the budget for the campaign (promotion, leader training, materials, etc.). Part of fine-tuning the budget requires determining the bulk pricing of materials (DVDs, study guides, host bags, invitations, etc.).

Last Weekend:

  • We held a meeting for our coaches that outlined the campaign and their roles. The two most important aspects we discussed were the series of small group connections and the distribution schedule for host kits, group leaders, and member purchases.
  • We held a “briefing” for all of our existing small group leaders. The briefing was hosted by our groups team and featured a brief appearance by our senior pastor (who shared the “why” behind the series). This gave us an opportunity in early June to share the ideas behind the campaign and the timeline with our leaders. By sharing this information early we hoped to get more of our leaders on-board and prepared. One of the key takeaways for leaders was that “every group ought to plan to add a few new members or consider taking a small group vacation (so they could each plan to invite a few unconnected people to join them).

What’s happening right now:

Moving into the next 60 days there are several key targets:

  • We are on the hunt for another wave of “launch-phase coaches.” This is our term for the group leaders we believe are potential coaches that we will invite to help us by “taking a newbie leader or two or three” under their wing. It’s an 8 to 10 week commitment (a week or two on the front end, the 6 weeks of the campaign, and a week or two on the back end to make sure their new groups land”). This is our primary strategy for recruiting new coaches. See also, How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure – 2016 Version.
  • We are instigating a few select strategies designed to help our congregation and crowd get to know their neighbors and co-workers (with the hopes of greasing the skids, helping them have an easier invite to “do the study with me.”). See also, How to Build Crowd-to-Core Flow in Advance.
  • I will be working with our teaching team and communication team to insure absolute clarity on the message and adherence to the predetermined strategy (for example, last year we wrote a script for every reference to the campaign (sermons, announcements, preservice slides, bulletin announcements, website references, etc.).

_____________________________________________________________

GroupLifeInsider_black_141208In the next few weeks I’ll be launching a new site called GroupLife Insider.

GroupLife Insider will feature more detailed and step-by-step instruction on building a thriving small group ministry. It will also feature:

  • A backstage pass kind of look at how I do what I do.
  • Free access to every mini-course I produce.
  • Opportunity to join an invite-only video conference call to get your questions answered.
  • Video interviews with experts you will listen to again and again.

GroupLife Insider will feature a robust behind-the-scenes experience. It will be a subscription service. While the price per month will be very reasonable, it will not be free ($10 to $15 per month or an annual fee).

If you’ve enjoyed and benefitted from the strategies, tips and ideas of MarkHowellLive.com…you will probably see right away the upside of a backstage pass that would give you access to more detail and a better step-by-step explanation.

Want to find out more?

Let me know by subscribing to the GroupLife Insider list:

Image by supafly

5 Best Church-Wide Campaigns for Fall 2016

Top 5 Church-Wide Campaigns Fall 2016Have you pulled the trigger yet on your fall ministry strategy? It’s not too late, but now is the time if you plan to incorporate a church-wide campaign (an alignment between your weekend message series and a small group study).  And although there are two other windows when the impact of a campaign can be optimized, in many ways the fall is still the best of the three.  See also, When Is the Best Time to Launch a Church-Wide Campaign.

While choosing the best church-wide campaigns is certainly subjective, I’ve made these selections with over a decade of experience leading churches through the process of choosing, designing and launching powerful and trajectory altering church-wide campaigns.  See also, How to Choose the Right Church-Wide Campaign and Church-Wide Campaign Coaching.

If you’re a subscriber to MarkHowellLive.com you’ll notice some repeats from last fall’s list. The truth is that although most years offer a selection of new campaigns, some are just too good to exclude.

Here are my picks for the 5 best campaigns for fall 2016:

transformed 3DVD-driven, Transformed is a 7 session study that accompanies a 7 week message series.  Although this campaign launched in 2014, this is a potent theme and should be on your radar.   Anchored in the apostle Paul’s profound truth in Romans 12:2, this campaign will guide and grow your church by exploring what the Bible has to say about every essential area of our lives: Spiritual, Physical, Mental, Emotional, Relational, Financial, and Vocational.Like all of Saddleback’s campaigns, this one is the complete package and is a true church-wide campaign with material for the whole family.

I like Transformed because it will appeal to both the congregation and the crowd (and in many situations to the community as well). Who doesn’t sense the need to change in some way? You can read my full review right here.

finding your way

Finding Your Way Back to God: Five Awakenings to Your New Life has the most powerful  outreach potential I’ve come across in a long time. If you’ve not had a chance to spend some time with the book yet, you need to make time! I believe this might be the most powerful outreach campaign I’ve ever reviewed.

The DVD segments are very compelling and exactly the right length to grab and hold attention. Both Dave and Jon Ferguson come across as real people who genuinely care about this message. Each session also includes the compelling testimony of some who have found their way back to God. An aspect of the video segments that stands in stark contrast to some is that these people have a very familiar presence and feel like they could be your neighbors.

The resources you need to put on your own campaign (including sermon transcripts, small group participant/leader guides, teaching videos, series bumper video, and website graphic) are available from youwayback.org. You can find our more right here.

You can read my full review of the book right here.

The Miracle of Mercy, a new 6 six-week church-wide campaign, is anchored by a weekend teaching series that launched the weekend after Easter, 2016.

If you want to know how to leverage a church-wide campaign to unite your congregation around a purpose and fan into flame difference-making action…you absolutely must take a look at Saddleback’s newest spiritual growth campaign. This is very powerful stuff. Don’t miss it!

I have pointed out many times that Saddleback strategically uses their small group ministry to drive ministry initiatives (think 40 Days of Community and the P.E.A.C.E project). There has never been a better example than The Miracle of Mercy. If you want to unleash a tidal wave of impact on your community and the world, you must take a look at this campaign.

You can read my full review right here.

Wonderlife: A Not So Perfect Guide to Who You Are and Why You’re Here is the newest resource from Mike Foster and the folks at SecondChance.org.  The study is designed to take people on “an authentic journey through their not-so-perfect stories to find their sacred calling.” Based on the principles of Psalm 139, the small group workbook, DVD and weekend series can easily be used as a church-wide campaign.

Covering the kind of topic that makes an easy invite for friends, neighbors, co-workers and family, it is designed to generate a fairly personal discussion. At the same time, it comes at it from such an exploratory angle, it ends up being fun and engaging at the same time.

If you’re looking for a study that makes for a great outreach opportunity, take a look at Wonderlife: A Not So Perfect Guide to Who You Are and Why You’re Here. I think you’ll like what you find. I loved this study and I think you will too!

what keeps you up at nightWhat Keeps You Up At Night: How to Find Peace While Chasing Your Dreams is the latest study from Pete Wilson, founding and senior pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN.

Based on Pete’s new book by the same titleWhat Keeps You Up At Night hits the bullseye of what I call a cross-cultural study. After all, doesn’t everyone have things that keep them up at night? That’s not a topic that only Christians care about. This is a study that neighbors, friends, co-workers and family will readily identify with and it will make a very easy invite.

I love this line from the website: “Today’s world, with all its expectations, responsibilities, and shortcomings, has created an environment ripe for the kind of uncertainty that has shackled an entire generation. This small-group Bible study helps participants activate faith and trust in God that will propel them forward through fear and anxiety to peace, faithfulness, and trust.”

You’ll find many ideas for your own message series by watching the series given at Cross Point in April, 2015. You can read my full review right here.

What if you could start 10 times as many new groups-

Unleash a Powerful Wave of Impact with The Miracle of Mercy: Saddleback’s Newest Campaign

miracle of mercyIf you want to know how to leverage a church-wide campaign to unite a congregation around a purpose and fan into flame difference-making action…you absolutely must take a look at Saddleback’s newest spiritual growth campaign. This is very powerful stuff. Don’t miss it!

I have pointed out many times that Saddleback strategically uses their small group ministry to drive ministry initiatives (think 40 Days of Community and the P.E.A.C.E project). There has never been a better example than The Miracle of Mercy. If you want to unleash a tidal wave of impact on your community and the world, you must take a look at this campaign.

The Miracle of Mercy, a new 6 six-week church-wide campaign, is anchored by a weekend teaching series that launched the weekend after Easter and is happening as I write this review. You can watch the first three messages right here.

The first few lines of the study set the tone and direction:

“Did you know that God’s mercy is his number one characteristic in the Bible? More than his sovereignty, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence or any other fancy words about him–more than anger or justice or judgement–more than anything else, the number one attribute of God in scripture is his mercy (from session one).”

DVD-driven, the small group study features Rick Warren’s engaging teaching. Although the segments are 27 to 31 minutes long, the topic and delivery does a good job of grabbing and holding attention.

The study guide includes both the small group study and a 40 day devotional guide; everything needed for a great study. A teaching outline is included in each session to capture the key ideas from the video teaching. A well-written set of discussion questions makes it easy to shift into discussion after watching the DVD together.

Every session of the study also includes personal and group assignments to put learnings into practice (that participants will not just be hearers, but doers also). At Saddleback, where the teaching series is in progress as I write this review, groups are being directed to choose projects from this mercy project page. The project page presents an inspiring example of what your church could do.

More than a small group study, The Miracle of Mercy is a church-wide spiritual growth campaign and includes everything you will need to take your congregation on the same journey.

The campaign starter kit includes:

  • 1 Study Guide
  • 1 DVD Small Group Curriculum
  • 1 Bookmark Sample
  • 1 Campaign Resource Disc
  • Downloadable Campaign Success Guide
  • Downloadable The Miracle of Mercy Sermon Series (***available April–May 2016***)
  • BONUS: FIRST …the debut worship album from Saddleback Worship

As I write this review, the Miracle of Mercy is happening right now at Saddleback. Although the downloadable sermon series is in progress and not yet complete, the starter kits are available now.

I love The Miracle of Mercy! If you want to unleash a tidal wave of impact on your community and the world, you must take a look at this campaign.