What Do You Believe about Groups that Actually Isn’t True?

axiomatic lock

What Do You Believe about Groups that Actually Isn’t True?

When you think about small groups and small group ministry, the way they work and don’t work, what they are and aren’t, what they can do and can’t do…what do you believe about groups, that actually isn’t true?

What do you believe about groups…that actually isn’t true?

Ever stop to think about that?

It could make quite a difference, you know. If you came to terms with what you believe is true about groups that actually isn’t it could be revolutionary.

If you carefully examined what you believe is true about groups and then acted to change anything based on a misbelief…it would almost certainly produce an immediate change in results.

Right?

Remember, “Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing (Andy Stanley).” If you don’t like the results, it may be that your design is based on a belief or two that isn’t actually true.

A personal example

In the early 90s I became aware of Meta Church Model of small groups (a largely American version of the cell model). Willow Creek embraced a version of the meta church model in the early 90s and successfully leveraged that model to connect 20,000 people in about a decade of application.

Among the most important strategic pieces of the meta church model is the value of apprenticing as both a leadership development strategy and a leader multiplication strategy. At the core of the apprenticing value was the practice that every new group had to begin with a leader and an apprentice in place and the explicit understanding that when the group grew and was ready to birth (approximately 10 to 12 members), both the mother and the daughter group would both have leaders. The expectation was that this process might take 12 to 18 months.

I embraced the model (as practiced by Willow Creek) and for 7 or 8 years not only put it to use in my own ministry but taught it to other churches that I came in contact with.

Two important notes:

  1. Apprenticing as a leadership development strategy is very effective. Experienced leaders investing in new leaders is always a good thing. It is a biblical practice. It is a stewardship practice. Everyone ought to be apprenticing.
  2. Apprenticing as a leader multiplication strategy is less effective.  Apprenticing as a leader multiplication strategy is often ineffective for two main reasons:
  • Too often the apprentice actually functions as a type of co-leader. Perhaps stepping in when the leader is out of town or taking a turn leading the discussion, but without the intention of one day helping launch a daughter group.
  • More seriously, apprenticing as a leader multiplication strategy typically takes 12 to 18 months. While they would never turn down additional leaders, most churches would not be able to close their percentage connected gap by producing a new leader every 12 to 18 months. See also, What Percentage of Your Adults Are Actually Connected?

After a careful analysis I came to the conclusion that, at least in my case and for what I was trying to accomplish, apprenticing would not be a primary tool for leadership multiplication. Valuable for leader development, yes, but multiplication, no. Other strategies are much more effective at leader multiplication.

What axiomatic beliefs do you hold about groups that actually aren’t true?

An axiom is an established rule or principle or self-evident truth.  We all have them stored away in our brains. The key is that not all of them are true…and not all of them are the kind that will always be true.

Consider this line from Gary Hamel’s The Future of Management:

All of us are held hostage by our axiomatic beliefs.  We are jailbirds incarcerated within the fortress of dogma and precedent.  And yet, for the most part, we are oblivious to our own captivity (p. 126, The Future of Management).”

This got me thinking; wondering what are the axiomatic beliefs of small groups and small group ministry?  Here’s my attempt at a top ten.  Not all of them are true.  None of these are mine.  You look them over and then use the comment section to add to the list.

  1. The senior pastor needs to lead a group.
  2. Good groups grow and birth.
  3. The optimum environment for life-change is a small group.
  4. Elders or deacons are a good source for group leaders or coaches.
  5. The longer a group is together the more deeply connected the members become.
  6. Good groups practice the open chair.
  7. The “career path” of a leader is member, apprentice leader, leader, coach.
  8. Once a group gets to about 12 members, it’s pregnant and needs to start preparing to birth.
  9. The semester idea offers more “jump in” opportunities and offers the assurance that it’s only a 13 week commitment. (The semester model is often referred to as the Free Market model.
  10. Sermon-based curriculum makes your group stickier.

Here’s the thing about axiomatic beliefs.  If you want to break through to a better way of helping people connect, grow spiritually, and impact their world…you’re going to have to debug your thinking and begin proactively developing paths that lead from where you are to where you want to be.

Remember, “Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing (Andy Stanley).” If you don’t like the results, it may be that your design is based on a belief or two that isn’t actually true.

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My Top Small Group Ministry Learnings 2016 – 2017

I like to think of myself as a learner. On the StrengthsFinder tool I am also futuristic with a twist of ideation. I’ve been called a mad scientist (and it’s one of my favorite tags). At one stop I almost convinced my boss that my new title should be The Destructor of the Status Quo.

Here’s my list of top learnings from the 2016-17 ministry year:

  1. The best time to connect a new leader with a coach is at the very beginning. And I mean the VERY beginning. When a new leader is chosen at one of our Life Group Connections, they are introduced to their coach in the stand-up meeting that follows the connection. See also, Skill Training: The Best Way to Connect a New Leader with a Coach.
  2. We don’t yet know how to sustain a high percentage of “host” groups. By “host” groups I mean the groups that we launch by inviting people to “do the study with a couple friends.” We’ve regularly launched hundreds of new “host” groups in conjunction with our fall church-wide campaigns and always sustain some of them into a follow-up study. We’ve tried coaching them with a weekly  email and invited them to our host rally…but clearly have room for improvement. See also, Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again.
  3. Language matters. This is more of reminder. Whether you’re inviting people to consider “doing the study with a couple friends” or challenging them to join a six-week Life Group where they can get everything possible out of the message series,” language matters. Every word matters and results are quantifiable. See also, 5 Tiny Language Tweaks that Make a Very Big Difference.
  4. We need to do a better job of identifying the lead measures that predict discipleship outcomes. We are clear on the relationship between design and results. We have a good understanding of the lead measures that result in toes-in-water, we’ve only partially identified the steps that lead to better disciples. See also, FAQ: What Should We Be Measuring (to build a thriving small group ministry)?
  5. We need to codify the things that must be done to and for leaders. What some on our team do intuitively must be defined in a way that can be learned and is transferable. Translation: Everything must scale. See also, 7 Things You Must Do TO and FOR Your Small Group Leaders.
  6. Building an effective coaching structure doesn’t make caring for leaders easier. Adding a layer of high capacity leaders who do to and for leaders what you want leaders to do to and for members creates a challenging environment that requires greater attention to personal discipleship. The outcome of an effective coaching structure is greater capacity to make better disciples, but intensifies the effort required from top to bottom. See also, Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Leaders.
  7. Transitioning from silos to full alignment is a never ending process. Aligning affinities (couples, singles, men and women) is step one and easier to understand and compel. The payoff of aligning broadly (missions, next generation, evangelism and worship) is temporary and quickly forgotten. Enduring alignment is conversation intensive, painstaking, and never ending. See also, Insight: Repositioning Affinity Ministries Helps Create Alignment.
  8. Adding a multi-site philosophy is a beast unto itself. Like the alignment transition, developing and supervising is a daily endeavor. It is conversation intensive, painstaking, and never ending.

4 Things Small Groups Are Not (or shouldn’t be)

4 Things Small Groups Are Not (or shouldn’t be)

I’ve written a lot about what small group ministries should be (to thrive, to be effective, etc.). But I don’t think I’ve ever written about what small groups aren’t or shouldn’t be. See also, 10 Powerful Benefits of a Thriving Small Group Ministry.

Take a few minutes and look over my list of 4 things small groups are not (or shouldn’t be). You may discover you’ve landed on a system, model or strategy that focuses attention on a limited outcome.

Here are 4 things small groups are not (or shouldn’t be):

Simply about connecting people. Far too often, small group ministry becomes the primary place to connect people and what happens there is limited to fellowship alone. Yes, connecting unconnected people is very important and makes sense strategically to be step one on the making better disciples pathway. But…the most effective small group ministries learn to connect people and make disciples in the 21st century.

See also, Top 10 Posts on Discipleship and Making Disciples in Groups.

Mostly about learning about the Bible. Some small group ministries gravitate to the role of being an environment where people go to learn about the Bible. Yes, learning about the Bible is important. But learning about the Bible ought never be the sole purpose or reason for small group ministry.

Without intentionality, small groups naturally gravitate to two of the five purposes (fellowship and discipleship, to use a Saddleback understanding) while ministry, evangelism and worship are left on the sideline.

With intentionality, small groups can be encouraged and assisted to “balance” the purposes and more effectively make better disciples.

See also, Balancing the 5 Purposes.

Where serious disciples congregate. Some small group ministries become the place where serious disciples gather. Setting the entry bar too high and limiting participation to those who are ready to “take up their cross and follow Jesus” as opposed to simply being open to “coming and seeing” skips the preliminary stage that Jesus modeled with his own disciples.

Effective small group ministries make entry attractive and appealing to unconnected people and once connected provide the natural steps for greater commitment.

See also, Diagnosing Your Discipleship Strategy and Moving from “Come and See” to “Come and Die”

A stage to be completed. A simplistic understanding of Willow Creek’s Reveal study is that small groups are most important during the Exploring and Growing in Christ stages and less important during the Close to Christ and Christ-Centered stages.

The conclusion for some has been that groups are only beneficial for those exploring Christ or growing in their relationship with Christ and that once a person matures beyond that stage, they no longer need community. However, even a cursory review of Reveal’s findings reveal that more mature believers often develop more organic relationships that accomplish the desirable effects.

See also, Ever Noticed Reveal’s Crowd-to-Core Wrinkle?

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

5 Things You Need to Know about Connecting Unconnected People

5 Things You Need to Know about Connecting Unconnected People

(This post originally posted May 1, 2013. A core element of my philosophy of ministry…I decided to run it again).

There are a few things I know about connecting unconnected people.  And let me tell you something.  While there are definitely exceptions to just about every rule…if you can think of examples counter to these five you are thinking of exceptions.  Build your ministry off the rule and not the exception.

I’ve said many times that unconnected people are one tough thing away from not being at your church. Loss of a job.  Divorce or separation.  A devastating diagnosis.  A child in trouble.

Unconnected people are one tough thing away from never being at your church again.Unconnected people are one tough thing away from never being at your church again. Click To Tweet

Here are 5 more things you need to know about connecting unconnected people:

  1. Unconnected people have different appetites and rarely respond to menu items that appeal to the core and committed.  If you’re finding it hard to connect beyond the usual suspects, you might need to take a careful look at the topics of studies you’re offering.  See also, How to Choose Curriculum That Launches Groups and Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer.
  2. Unconnected people are wary of long commitments.  When you promote a short-term study that’s 13 weeks (Financial Peace, Experiencing God, some Beth Moore studies), you need to know that unconnected people hear “lifetime commitment.”  What’s the right length?  I’ve found that 6 weeks is just about ideal.  Lyman Coleman has said many times that 6 weeks is short enough to commit to and long enough to help people begin to feel connected.  Lyman’s right.
  3. Unconnected people respond to test-drives and putting toes-in-the-water.  In addition to offering shorter short-term opportunities, making it clear that it’s “just a test-drive” helps unconnected people feel more comfortable putting their toe in the water.  If they know they can have a taste and opt out if it’s not for them, they’ll be much more likely to give it a try.  Language is so important.  The power of the right words cannot be overstated. See also, Test-Drives, Taste-Tests and Toes-in-Water.
  4. Unconnected people connect easiest when the first step out of the auditorium is familiar.  Listen to very many new attendees at your church and you’ll often learn that just getting up the nerve to come to a weekend service was a real challenge.  I’ve talked with many who’ve told me they drove by many times before they ever pulled into the parking lot.  I’ve had a number tell me they made it to the parking lot more than once and couldn’t get out of their cars.  Want these same people to join a small group?  Better give them a way to attend an on-campus study or small group connection as their first step.  See also, How Would You Rate the First Steps out of Your Auditorium? and How to Calm an Unconnected Person’s Second Greatest Fear.
  5. Unconnected people attend less frequently than connected people.  Have a connecting opportunity coming up?  If you want unconnected people to hear about it, you better keep in mind that promoting the event several weeks in a row is essential.  See also, Why You Must Make the HOST Ask Several Weeks in a Row.

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

Image by Jan Nagalski

To Do List: Start These Projects Before Summer

Earlier this month I posted 5 Things You Can Do in May that Lead to WAY More Groups This Fall.  Whether you acted on that list or not, here are the projects you should be starting before summer:

Pitch or Plan a Fall Church-Wide Campaign

If you haven’t pitched or planned a fall church-wide campaign…NOW is the time to do it. A church-wide campaign is the very best way to connect the largest number of unconnected people and start the most new groups. And fall is the very best time to leverage the exponential power of a church-wide campaign.

It’s not too late, but you really need to act now. Campaigns are all-in kinds of things. Obviously, your senior pastor and teaching team must be on board and in this discussion. That is a given. But, because a campaign is church-wide, don’t wait any longer! You want to grab the other areas of your church’s ministry to maximize the impact.

I can help you several ways.

Second, HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR CHURCH-WIDE CAMPAIGN is a start-to-finish mini-course that really does help take the complication out of this strategy.

Third, CHURCH-WIDE CAMPAIGN COACHING is a personal coaching program that is customized to your unique situation. I’ve been doing this with a few churches every year for the last 10 years.

Identify and Recruit Additional Coaches

If you’ve recognized the importance of building an effective coaching structure…NOW is the time to make a list of the best possible candidates and recruit them to a test-drive!

There is no better time than right before summer hits to make a list of high capacity candidates, make appointments for coffee or a meal, and begin having the conversations that lead to yes!

Listen. All churches have people who have been gifted to lead leaders. Yours is no exception!

Need help? My most popular mini-course is HOW TO BUILD AN EFFECTIVE COACHING STRUCTURE – 2016 VERSION. Even if you’ve tried more than once, this four-session course will help you get it done. And NOW is the time to make it happen.

Find the Stories that Cast Vision for Community

You have success stories about the power of community! Whether you know it or not, the most powerful advertisements for community is not an announcement (verbal or print) and it’s not something your senior pastor says. The most powerful advertisement is a satisfied customer.

Finding those stories now can lead to testimonies that get right to the heart of the matter. And once you’re at the heart…making the ask, inviting test-drives is an entirely different thing.

How to Develop Video or Live Testimony that Recruits Members or Leaders is one of my most popular posts. It provides a how-to AND several examples.

5 Signs It’s Time to Reroute Your Small Group Ministry

GPS systems have been around for some time now. These days you’ve got one in your pocket whether you use an Android or an iPhone.

The first time I used a Garmin (GPS) I was driving from Charlotte, NC, to Abingdon, VA.  My commuter flight from Charlotte had been cancelled and the next flight would have meant a late start at the church I was to visit the next day.  My host said, “Just rent a car and drive over.  It’s about a two and half hour drive.  Get a GPS…it’ll make it easier.”

So far, so good.  It was easy to turn on the GPS and enter the address of the church in Abingdon.  Looked like it’d be simple.  Only two problems.  Didn’t have a map of the area and didn’t know you could set the GPS for “Interstate Highways.”

If it had been a 48 Hours  or Primetime segment the narrator would have said, “Mark couldn’t have known he was about to take a windy, 28 mile detour through moonshine country and the Appalacian Mountains.”

Everything was fine for the first 45 minutes…and then I saw the first detour sign.  Of course, GPS systems don’t know anything about detours.  And I didn’t know how to turn the voice off…so for the next hour I heard, “Recalculating.  Make a u-turn in 100 feet.”  What was supposed to take two and half hours took almost four.  And the movie Deliverance came to my mind more than once.

If You’re Hearing “Rerouting”

It could be that you’re beginning to hear, “Rerouting…,” from your GroupLife System.  Here are 5 signs you really should consider rerouting:

5 signs you really should consider rerouting

  • You’re adding new groups every year but your “adult percentage connected” (number of adults in groups divided by average weekend adult worship attendance) is dropping or remaining the same. See also, What Percentage of Your Adults are Actually Connected? and The “Catch a Moving Train” Scenario for more).
  • You’re not identifying leaders fast enough to meet demand and the stack of member sign-up cards continues to grow. See also, 3 Strategies that Launch New Groups in Waves.
  • You’re connecting only the usual suspects (the core, committed and inside edge of the congregation and very few from the outside edge of the congregation, crowd and community. Since die hard fans of community will connect even when you do nothing to encourage them, your system may need rerouting in favor of a strategy designed to connect unconnected people. See also, Top 10 Ways to Launch New Groups.
  • You struggle to find any real stories of life-change when you’re looking for testimonies. Long term groups without intentionality tend to function like zombies (i.e., dead and don’t know it). Newer groups formed purely for connection without discipleship intentionality share stories of comfort and family, but not life-change.  See also, Can You Tell If Your Group Might Be a Zombie.
  • Members of your coaching team are very fulfilled (love coming to your meetings) but aren’t very fruitful (reporting only ineffective attempts to connect with their leaders). See also, Three Keys to a Coaching Tune-Up.

These are just a few of the most important signs that your grouplife system may need to reroute.  The key to remember is that “your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you’re currently experiencing.” (Andy Stanley).  Don’t like the results?  Hearing “rerouting?”  Might be time to reroute your system.

Making THIS Decision Now Will Connect WAY More People This Fall

Making THIS Decision Now Will Connect WAY More People This Fall

Did you know there is a decision you can make now that determines how many people you connect this fall?

Well, there is. And it actually is a simple decision. It’s sometimes not easy, but it is simple.

The reason so many of us grimace at the thought of it is that it’s a simple decision with some consequences that affect constituents (odd word, I know, hang with me).

Here’s the decision

The decision? Focus on launching new groups this fall.

Focus on launching only new groups this fall.

Why the big deal about new groups?

Easy. Focusing on new groups leads to a growing number of groups and people connected in groups. Focusing on adding people to existing groups leads to treading water (both in number of groups and number of people connected).

Focusing on new groups leads to a growing number of groups and people connected in groups.Focusing on new groups leads to a growing number of groups and people connected in groups. Click To Tweet

Frequently asked questions about prioritizing new groups:

“What if I have a semester system?” You can prioritize new groups. It just adds a wrinkle to your registration process. You may need to figure out a way to fill the new groups first or deemphasize the groups that are continuing for another semester.

“What if we usually have a small group fair that allows existing groups to add new members?” You can still prioritize new groups. Maybe you position the new groups nearer the front and position the existing groups further from the front? Maybe you run the fair two weeks and the first week is new groups only? The key is that prioritizing new groups leads to a growing number of groups and number of people connected.

“What if existing groups are counting on me to “restock” them with new members when old members drop out or move away?” You may need to retrain your existing group leaders to fish for themselves. See also, Skill Training: Top 10 Ways to Find New Members.

Bottom line: 

If you want to increase your percentage connected, you must focus on launching new groups.

If you want to increase your percentage connected, you must focus on launching new groups.If you want to increase your percentage connected, you must focus on launching new groups. Click To Tweet

Further Reading

Image by Alon

5 Things You Can Do in May that Lead to WAY More Groups This Fall

5 Things You Can Do in May that Lead to WAY More Groups This Fall

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.The things you do in May and June often predetermine how it goes in September. Click To Tweet

Special Note: I am assuming you’ve already chosen the strategy you will use to launch new groups this fall. Whether you are planning a church-wide campaign, a really well-executed small group connection or simply the best promoted fall semester ever, the 5 simple things I’ve included will lead to MORE groups this fall.

With that in mind, here are 5 simple things you can do today:

  1. Make a list of small group leaders who could help 2 or 3 new small group leaders get off to a good start. It’s not complicated. Think through your small group leaders and simply ask the question, “If they came alongside 2 or 3 newbie leaders for the first 8 to 10 weeks of their new group…would it make a difference?” Make a list of the leaders for which that is true and invite them to help you launch some new groups this fall. By the way, this is the essence of what I do to recruit potential coaches. See also, Recruiting Additional Coaches for Church-Wide Campaigns.
  2. Invite your existing groups to take a small group vacation. Right now is the perfect time to cast a simple vision to your existing small group leaders and group members to consider taking a vacation from their small group this fall. Instead of meeting together as a group of 12, would they consider pairing up with another couple or a few others and help launch a new group? Just for the six weeks of a new study. Then they can go back to their original groups. That’s the essence of the small group vacation strategy and it leads to more new groups all day long. See also, Take a Small Group Vacation.
  3. Think through the members of your existing groups. Try to identify 10 to 20 members who really should be leading a group. The fewer groups you have today the easier this assignment is. It’s very common for your largest and most successful small groups to have several potential leaders in them. Often these potential leaders serve in another ministry and view their group as the way they “get fed” or cared for. Once you have your list of members who should be leading groups, ask them if they’d be “willing to help get a new group started, just for a six-week study, then they can go back to their group.” Assure them that you’ll help them identify a leader from the group they gather. This is a slight variation of the Vacation idea. I’ve used this in combination with the small group connection strategy to help jump start new groups. See also, How to Launch New Groups with a Small Group Connection – 2016.
  4. Look ahead at the sermon series and messages planned for August and early September. The 6 weeks from early August through mid-September provide the best opportunities to craft special “asks” for small group HOSTs and unconnected people. Well-crafted and even scripted “asks” or invitations will help more people say yes to “inviting a couple friends to do the fall study with them.” Carefully developed challenges will help more unconnected people respond to the opportunity to join a group that is using the study that goes along with our fall message series.” See also, Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again and How to Make the HOST Ask: The 2012 Version.
  5. Think through your existing small group leaders and small groups for inspiring stories. Few things are as motivating as the inspiring story of a small group leader who said “yes” and then felt God’s “well done.” Or a small group member who finally said yes to joining a group and then God used that group to meet their needs in the way only community can. Adding these “stories” to the HOST ask and join a small group invitation will have an exponential effect on outcomes. See also, How to Develop Video or Live Testimony that Recruits Members or Leaders.

Resources that will supercharge your fall ministry season:

Looking for more ideas?

Supercharge Your Fall Ministry Season

Supercharge Your Fall Ministry Season is a four week mini-course designed to help you:

  • Connect way beyond the usual suspects
  • Build easy next steps for everyone you connect
  • Launch more groups than ever
  • Sustain more of the groups you launch
  • Finish the season ready for an exciting New Year and a powerful 2018!

If you want to dramatically increase the impact of your fall ministry season…I hope you’ll take advantage of this course. Click here to find out more.

Maximize YOUR Church-Wide Campaign

How to Maximize YOUR Church-Wide Campaign is a four week mini-course designed to help you:

  • Recruit way more leaders than you ever thought possible
  • Launch more groups than ever before
  • Connect WAY beyond the usual suspects
  • Recruit and train the coaches you need in order to sustain the new groups you launch

If you’re planning a church-wide campaign this fall and you want to maximize your results…I hope you’ll take advantage of this course. Click here to learn more.

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.

5 Reasons Your New Groups Are Short-Lived (i.e., die before their time)

5 Reasons Your New Groups Are Short-Lived (i.e., die before their time)

Do you find yourself launching plenty of new groups but watching too many of them die before their time? There are some important reasons why that happens. And there are some steps you can take to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Here are my 5 reasons new groups are often short-lived:

First, you’re not choosing the right launching study.

The right launching study is critical for the short-term survival of new leaders and new groups. Choosing a study that is too challenging, has too much required leader preparation, or is simply not what new members will find engaging or satisfying leads to the premature demise of many, many new groups.

Choosing the right study to launch new groups is an important key to help this fragile new life off to a really good start. Minimal leader preparation allows the new leader to focus their attention on helping new members build healthy relationships. The right topics (from the perspective of new participants) make conversation seem easy and spontaneous. The right topics easily promote conversation that doesn’t pit one point of view against another.

The right launching study is critical for the short-term survival of new leaders and new groups.The right launching study is critical for the short-term survival of new leaders and new groups Click To Tweet

Second, you’re not encouraging (or requiring) leaders of new groups to begin with a co-leader.

Not encouraging (or requiring) leaders of new groups to begin with a co-leader is often deadly. Not only is it deadly, but death often comes too quick as the new leader’s expectations aren’t met. Keeping a new group going is challenging and often too hard for one person to pull off. Beginning life with someone else (other than a spouse) to help shoulder the challenge makes it much easier.

Not encouraging (or requiring) leaders of new groups to begin with a co-leader is often deadly.Not encouraging (or requiring) leaders of new groups to begin with a co-leader is often deadly Click To Tweet

Third, you’re not giving your new leaders a coach from the very beginning.

Not giving your new leaders a coach from the very beginning may need to classified as a crime! A crime? Really? Yes. For two very important reasons:

  • Having a seasoned veteran leader walking alongside, especially in the first 6 to 12 weeks, helps new leaders tackle some of their toughest challenges. Having even a short weekly conversation about what’s working and not working in their new group helps new leaders quickly adjust to ensure the health and viability of their new group.
  • Almost more importantly, new leaders working with a coach from the beginning ensures that once they no longer feel the need for a coach they will have established a solid relationship with someone a few steps ahead of them spiritually (doing TO and FOR them whatever you want the leader doing TO and FOR their members).

Not giving your new leaders a coach from the very beginning may need to classified as a crime!Not giving your new leaders a coach from the very beginning may need to classified as a crime! Click To Tweet

Fourth, you’re not giving your new leader a study to next.

Not giving your new leader a study to next (right after the launching study) puts their new group in serious jeopardy. Why? New groups often aren’t strong enough to survive the challenge of a discussion, debate or disagreement about what they should study next.

Trust me, every new group has someone in it that will either suggest a study that is simply to hard or challenging for the new leader to lead or one they’ve recently heard plugged by Oprah Winfrey.

New groups don’t yet have the connective tissue they will soon have. Giving them a study to do next (that is similar-in-kind to their launching study) will help them build strength of connection that will soon help them choose for themselves what to do.

Not giving your new leader a study to next (right after the launching study) puts their new group in serious jeopardy.Not giving your new leader a study to next puts their new group in serious jeopardy. Click To Tweet

Fifth, you’re not helping your new leaders and their new groups begin with a load-sharing mentality.

Not helping new leaders and their new groups begin with a load-sharing mentality often leads to leader discouragement as everything falls on them to do. Everything, from getting the house ready to providing refreshments, and from calling or emailing reminders about the meeting to being ready to be a gracious host, often becomes quickly overwhelming.

Far better to set new leaders and new groups up to win by helping them understand from the very beginning that everyone can help in some way. Creating a simple set of expectations that is shared at the very first meeting will help new leaders make what can be an awkward moment more satisfying for everyone.

Not helping new leaders and their new groups begin with a load-sharing mentality often leads to leader discouragement as everything falls on them to do.Not helping new leaders and their new groups begin with a load-sharing mentality often leads to… Click To Tweet

Further Reading: 

Image by Stacey