Pushing Boundary-Free GroupLife

Category: Small Group Strategy (page 1 of 79)

7 Signs You Have the Wrong Small Group Ministry System

Pressure GuagesYou know how there are times when you just can’t figure out what’s wrong. Something’s wrong, but you just can’t quite put your finger on it. Like you’re driving along and the car just doesn’t feel right. Or something’s just off kilter in a relationship. Or when your back gets that feeling like it could give way at any time.

Can you relate?

It turns out there are some important signs that there is something wrong with your small group system. Might have worked fine previously. Actually, might have never really fired on all cylinders. Might have even been running rough for quite a while.

Doesn’t have to. You can do something about it, you know.

Signs You Have the Wrong Small Group Ministry System

  1. Your percentage connected is flatlined.  Whether your weekend attendance is increasing or not, a flatlined percentage connected (the percentage of your adults who are connected in a group) indicates that you’ve chosen the wrong small group system. The right system will not just make it easier to connect people. It will also be able to keep up with growth. See also, Breaking the Mythical 150% Participation Barrier and The Catch a Moving Train Scenario.
  2. You have trouble finding enough leaders.  This is a common symptom of systems that depend on selecting new leaders from the usual suspects.  Once your congregation is larger than about 250 adults it will become increasingly common that your senior pastor and platform staff will be recognized at the grocery store and restaurants by people they don’t know.  When this happens your system must be able to recruit from the adults you do not know because some of the highest capacity potential leaders will be unknown.  This phenomenon is what makes the HOST strategy and the Small Group Connection strategy so effective.
  3. You have leaders ready but not enough interest to fill their groups. This is often an indication that there are too many options on the belonging and becoming menu (i.e., Sunday school, discipleship training, Precepts, off campus small groups, etc.). It can also be an indication that your congregation sees the weekend service as everything they need. See also,Small Group Roadblock #2: A Bloated Belong and Become Menu and Determining the Minimum Required and Recommended Dose.
  4. Your coaching structure does not work. This is a common symptom of bad small group ministry system. The right system will make it easier to find the right people and enough of them to adequately care for a growing number of new small group leaders. The wrong system will make it more likely that the men and women chosen to be coaches will warm and willing as opposed to hot and qualified. See also, How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.
  5. Your senior pastor is reluctant to champion the importance of community. Although there are several other reasons a senior pastor may be reluctant to be the small group champion, a common reason is they don’t see your system as effective. The right system will produce the results that demonstrate the right design. See also, 5 things Senior Pastors Need to Know about Small Group Ministry.
  6. Your small groups deliver a sense of belonging but rarely produce becoming.  Small group systems that make it easy to connect but aren’t designed to make disciples are poorly designed.  See also, 5 Keys to Building Small Group Ministry at the Corner of Becoming and Belonging and Would You Rather: Connect More People or Make More Disciples?
  7. Only a small percentage of your new groups continue meeting after they’re launched. This design flaw is a leading indicator for flatlined percentage connected. Systems that struggle to launch and sustain new groups need an immediate overhaul.  Like a rocket launch, if massive energy is expended on the launch but the rocket’s orbit can’t be successfully sustained, there is a design flaw that must be corrected, See also, 5 Steps to Sustaining the New Small Groups You Launch.


Image by SteFou!

Top 10 Reasons My Church Has a Long Way to Go (in small group ministry)

top-10-reasons-my-church-has-a-long-way-to-goTop 10 Reasons My Church Has a Long Way to Go (in small group ministry)

I’ve shared a few top 10 lists with reasons Saddleback, North Point and North Coast have had great success with their small group ministries.

I thought it might be time for me to share why my church still has a long way to go in its small group ministry efforts before we make the who’s who list ourselves.

Depending on your own progress in building a thriving small group ministry, you might want to spend some time talking about my list and developing your own. Until we are crystal clear on the state of our own present is remains impossible to arrive at our preferred future.

Here are my top 10 reasons we have a long way to go:

  1. Our groups pastor (me) isn’t staying 100% focused on our groups ministry. I will acknowledge that as a member of our lead team I have responsibilities beyond groups. At the same time, I must acknowledge that accomplishing our mission and reaching anywhere near the preferred future we have identified will require a much greater focus than I have given.
  2. We still haven’t narrowed the focus enough to help unconnected people know for sure what is important. We have made very good strides in the direction of a narrow focus. We’ve reduced the offerings on the buffet, but we still have a buffet. It’s not easy to find the buffet…but it’s still there.
  3. We are still figuring out how to consistently tell the stories that establish that it is essential to be in a group. This is almost entirely a matter of prioritizing the collection of stories. The stories are there. We hear them when we ask the right questions or happen to be standing in the right place. But if we prioritized their collection we’d never lack for a great story about the power of community.
  4. Too few of our coaches are effectively doing TO and FOR our leaders what we want our leaders doing TO and FOR their members. Although our span of care (the coach to leader ratio) is improving and looks much better on paper, beautiful org charts do not produce results. Span of care is important, but only if leaders are being cared for in a way that impacts the members of their groups.
  5. Our senior pastor and teaching pastors mention groups regularly but only occasionally have the stories they need to be convincing and compelling. Unconnected people are rarely convinced to put a toe in the water with hum drum announcements and pronouncements. Testimonials and satisfied customers sell more than soap and weight loss products. If we want to connect unconnected people we need to be better at collecting stories and using them compellingly in message after message, service after service.
  6. Our annual church-wide campaign has been hit or miss with focused energy and effectiveness. There is no question in my mind that a well-run and executed annual church-wide campaign provides the greatest opportunity to connect the largest number of unconnected people. It is simple to do but definitely not easy. Missteps and false starts are so common! Skillful execution can lead to a home run and be followed the very next year with an overconfident and half-hearted swing. If we want to optimize the results of this powerful strategy, I need to be much more dedicated to execution.
  7. We have relied too heavily on just-in-time leader training and haven’t invested enough energy in a leadership development system. Yes, some of our reliance on just-in-time leader training is simply the result of my commitment to make it as easy as possible to begin to lead (to build the bridge as we walk on it), knowing that we in order to connect the vast number of unconnected people (whose windows are closing) we’ve got to act now and not wait for systems to be developed. Still, we need to work harder and exert more energy in building the leadership development conveyor belt for our newest leaders to step onto.
  8. We haven’t identified the right ingredients that will help experienced leaders stay invested in their own development. It is far too common for new leaders to form groups and slip away before they develop the connective tissue, rhythm and desire for their own development. We need to be on an all out hunt for these missing ingredients.
  9. We haven’t created a compelling sense of responsibility for our experienced leaders to prioritize investing in an apprentice. While apprenticing is clearly not a strategy that multiplies groups dependably and at the pace we need, we are leaving a massive opportunity on the table. We must make apprenticing a priority and we must make it a priority immediately.
  10. We haven’t built a culture that makes leadership development both an ordinary and an extraordinary experience. This must become a system-wide preoccupation. While this is not something I can do alone, it is a preoccupation by which I must be seized.

Further Reading:

I’d love to keep you posted as things develop. Want to stay in touch?

Simple to stay in touch. Just fill in the subscribe form below and I’ll keep you posted.

How to Launch New Groups with a Small Group Connection – 2016


How to Launch New Groups with a Small Group Connection

I posted the first series of articles on launching new groups with a small group connection in 2008. At the time I wrote them, I’d been using the small group connection strategy for 8 years and had already launched almost 1000 groups.

Over the last 8 years thousands of people have read that first series of articles. It has consistently been my most popular series every year.

But last year when I wrote Here’s How I Lead a Small Group Connection I realized I’ve made some pretty significant changes in how I prepare for, execute and follow up on a small group connection. And I knew I should offer a revised and updated version of my original series.

I ended up reformatting the revised and updated version as a downloadable PDF.

You can download your copy of my newly revised and updated version of How to Launch New Groups with a Small Group Connection by subscribing to my email list below!

If you don’t see the subscription form, click here to hop over to my blog to sign up.

3 Surprisingly Simple Solutions to Big Small Group Ministry Problems

problems-solutions3 Surprisingly Simple Solutions to Big Small Group Ministry Problems

Sometimes in life (and ministry) you trip across a solution to a problem and it truly is a Eureka! moment. You know what I’m talking about?

And I guess the longer you work at something, the longer you are kind of stuck, the more amazing the moment is when you discover a surprisingly simple solution to a big problem.

Here are some surprisingly simple solutions to big small group ministry problems.

Big Problem #1: Can’t find enough small group leaders.

This is a big problem for many small group ministries. Apprenticing rarely produces new leaders fast enough to meet the need. Tapping shoulders and individually inviting/challenging potential leaders relies on increasingly limited knowledge of who’s got potential. Planning and holding new leader training sessions produces mixed results with a few graduates who will easily succeed, a number of others who might succeed, and a few who clearly won’t.

What’s the solution?

Surprisingly simple solution: Hold events designed to help groups identify their own leader (from amongst themselves).

The small group connection strategy relies on two key ingredients:

  1. Natural human ability to quickly recognize potential. If you’re familiar with the premise of Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, people can accurately assess other people very quickly.  In my experience, adults can easily identify the relative shepherd after a 45 minute conversation.
  2. Skillful addition of spiritual guidance to fine-tune leader selection. The small group connection strategy does an excellent job of clarifying for a group who they ought to choose. All the facilitator has to do is help the group understand the qualities of the right leader.

See also, Design a System that Identifies Potential Leaders.

Big Problem #2: Can’t find people with the right stuff to be effective small group coaches.

This is a BIG problem. And it’s a problem almost everywhere. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten emails or comments here on the blog about the difficulty of finding the right people to serve as coaches. I’m sure most people just give up and abandon the idea altogether.

Surprisingly simple solution: Implement a “test-drive.”

This really was a Eureka! moment for me. How simple! I simply combined my growing awareness of how to identify a potential coach with a simple strategy that leveraged a reasonable favor. Once I combined those two things, the big problem disappeared! An amazingly simple solution.

Now, you do need to know how to identify a potential coach. There’s no substitute for that. And you need to know how to correctly and skillfully ask the right person for the right favor. But once you have those two things down, you too will be amazed at how simple this solution really is.

See also, Skill Training: How to Identify a Potential Coach and Skill Training: How to Recruit a Potential Coach.

Big Problem #3: Can’t persuade unconnected people to join a small group.

This also is a big problem in most churches. You know your congregation need to be connected in groups. You believe it is the optimal environment for life-change.

And despite your knowledge of what they need, you can’t persuade them to join a group. It’s actually like they say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

Can I add the horse-sense add-on phrase? “Unless you put salt in his oats.”

Surprisingly simple solution: Plan on-campus “studies” that lead to off-campus groups.

This is another really surprisingly simple solution. It helps to think about the big problem this way:

Unconnected people are mostly comfortable sitting in rows in the auditorium. Many of them have a longing to belong and to be known, but they don’t connect that longing with joining a small group. After all, who wants to go over to a stranger’s house!

How do you “salt their oats”? The surprisingly simple solution? Simply plan an occasional 6 week on-campus study on an attractive topic for each affinity you need to connect.

  • Do NOT call it a small group study.
  • Pick the right topic.
  • Hold the study at a convenient time.
  • Offer childcare where necessary.
  • Seat attendees by affinity around tables.
  • Let attendees experience the beginnings of being known and belonging for 4 or 5 weeks.
  • Encourage everyone to consider continuing to meet off-campus if they are enjoying the group.
  • Provide a great follow-up study for groups that want to continue.

See also, Take Advantage of This Short-Term On-Campus Strategy

Image by Susan Smith

4 Ways the Cultural Shift Impacts GroupLife

culture-shift4 Ways the Cultural Shift Impacts GroupLife

Has it happened yet? If it hasn’t, it’s just a matter of time. Most likely, it will happen before you see it coming.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about ways the culture shift impacts grouplife.

4 ways the culture shift impacts grouplife:

  1. Biblical illiteracy is on the rise. Yes, most Americans still have more than one Bible in their homes. They simply don’t read or understand their Bible. At a minimum, this immediately affects both the selection of studies you offer and the way you must train and resource group leaders. If you haven’t already begun to shift your strategy, you are behind.
  2. A Christian worldview cannot be assumed. This is not just about the arrival and growing influence of other world religions. It actually has just as much to do with the decades long trend to simply include popular wisdom and practices of celebrities (think Oprah), politicians, philosophers, and social activists. Syncretism is “the combination of different forms of belief or practice.” If you haven’t already adjusted your leader training to anticipate this you are behind.
  3. Moral ambiguity is pervasive. Remember when that was only done in secret? Remember when that could only be said in an R rated movie? Or when everyone knew you just didn’t do that?  This challenge is not reserved for those who haven’t joined a small group. If you haven’t begun to help group leaders learn to help members set appropriate guardrails, you are behind.
  4. Marital status debates, sexual preferences and gender issues are not just in the news. These issues are also not reserved for those outside of the church. If you haven’t already felt the impact in your small group ministry, it is moments away. If you’re not already equipping your group leaders and coaches you are behind.

Culture shift is right at the heart of why I’m holding GroupLife Southwest, a new small group ministry conference. See also, 5 Reasons I’m Launching GroupLife Southwest.

Further Reading:

Image by Anders Sandberg

Top 10 Reasons North Coast Has Consistently Connected Over 80%


Top 10 Reasons North Coast Has Consistently Connected Over 80% (of their average weekend adult worship attendance)

One of the most effective small group systems is the one made popular by Larry Osborne’s Sticky Church. Osborne is the Senior Pastor of North Coast Church, a multisite church in southern California.

Every system has a distinctive (or several). North Coast’s is what I refer to as a semester system (participants sign up for a semester). Another very important distinctive of their system is that most of their groups use a sermon-based study developed to accompany the weekend message.

A very important distinctive of the North Coast system is that they consistently connect more than 80% of their average adult weekend worship attendance in groups. And by consistently I don’t mean sometimes or even most of the time. They have consistently exceeded that percentage as long as I can remember.

How have they consistently connected over 80% of their weekend worship adult attendance in groups?

Top 10 Reasons North Coast Has Consistently Connected Over 80%

  1. Senior pastor Larry Osborne has consistently championed involvement in a growth group as one of two essential commitments that lead to spiritual growth (the other being a commitment to God and the Bible). By the way, all churches with truly effective small group systems have senior pastors who are champions of the importance of small group participation.
  2. The sermon-based aspect of their growth group strategy allows their teaching team to consistently make the case for joining a group as a way to understand and apply the principles they’re learning about on the weekend. While this is a benefit I point to during a church-wide campaign (typically six weeks), at North Coast is is virtually a year-round benefit.
  3. They’ve very consistently run their system over many years (I first became aware of their system and strategy in 2003). There may be innovative tweaks from time to time, but attenders at North Coast know what to expect.
  4. The semester system offers a consistent set of onramps over the course of the year. New attenders are never more than a couple months from the next onramp.
  5. Every semester is promoted aggressively and extensively over a period of weeks. It is very difficult for even the most infrequent attenders to miss the invitation and challenge to join a growth group.
  6. The 10 week commitment to a growth group is short enough to feel like a reasonable test-drive (While I prefer a shorter initial commitment, 10 weeks is still a reasonable length of time).
  7. Signing up for a 10 week semester also has the upside of a hard stop.  While most members reup for the next semester with the same group, if the group turns out to be a poor match for a new member, it is a simple matter to simply not sign up for the next one.
  8. They have consistently high quality promotion (see below) that peaks the interest and engages the kind of people they attract and hope to connect.
  9. The content for the weekend message series is developed far enough in advance to allow the team that creates the growth group study material to produce an excellent discussion guide. This is an important reason behind their system’s effectiveness. While many churches like the benefit of deepening their members’ understanding and application of the weekend message content, few churches are as disciplined as North Coast at the production of quality material in advance.
  10. North Coast provides their group leaders with the resources they need to facilitate a great discussion. In addition to their Leader Notes and Homework Guide, they also produce a weekly Growth Group Leader podcast to further resource their leaders. See their Leader Tools page here.

See also, Top 10 Reasons North Point Has Connected Over 72000* in Groups and Top 10 Reasons Saddleback Has Connected Over 130% in Groups.

Growth Groups: Narcolepsy from North Coast Church on Vimeo.



The True Measure of “Effective” Ministry Systems, Models and Strategies

true-measureThe True Measure of “Effective” Ministry Systems, Models and Strategies

How do you truly evaluate the effectiveness of ministry system, models or strategies?

I have this conversation all the time (and you probably do too). Particularly when a change initiative is in the works and at least a few of the architects or caretakers of an legacy system are still at large.

I love a couple treasured lines from favorite wordsmiths:

“Every company is in the process of becoming an anachronism, irrelevant to the future, or the harbinger of the future.” Gary Hamel

When I read this line I long to be a harbinger of the future.

“There are always two parties, the party of the past and the party of the future; the establishment and the movement.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I read this line I deeply desire to be part of the movement.

Whether you long to be a harbinger of the future or deeply desire to be part of a movement…you must learn to truly evaluate the effectiveness of ministry system, models or strategies.

How do you truly evaluate the effectiveness of ministry system, models or strategies?

First, we need to agree on a couple terms:

  • Effective: “Producing a result that is wanted. Having an intended effect.” Clearly…this definition explicitly indicates a result or effect that was determined in advance.
  • True: “Being in accordance with fact or reality.” Not wishful thinking, rose-colored glasses, or “ministerially speaking.”

Second, in order to truly evaluate the effectiveness of a small group systems we’d need to:

  1. Agree in advance about the desired results. For example, it has long been my ambition to have more adults in groups than our average adult weekend worship attendance. This is shaped in large part by my belief that since people are attending less frequently, the average adult weekend worship attendance isn’t an accurate reflection of the size of our crowd (let alone our congregation).
  2. Fairly and objectively examine the results. By taking an annual (or semi-annual) snapshot of our true percentage connected (number of adults connected) divided by the number of adults at our Easter or Christmas Eve services we can know whether we are gaining ground or losing ground.
  3. Be good stewards of the opportunity and take personal responsibility for the results. A good steward keeps track of the inventory. They know that there is a window of opportunity for every person. They take personal responsibility for the many and the one. They know that every number has a name.
  4. Make adjustments in our system to:
    • Optimize what is right
    • Fix what is wrong
    • Clarify what is confused
    • Add what is missing

Want to be a harbinger? Long to be part of a movement? Commit yourself (and your team) to a true evaluation of the effectiveness of your ministry system, model or strategy.

Further Reading:

Image by Ricardo Cuppini

5 Keys to Keep in Mind When Choosing Your Small Group System


5 Keys to Keep in Mind When Choosing Your Small Group System

Yesterday’s post, Top 10 Reasons North Point Has Connected Over 72,000 in Groups*, prompted me to think about the similarities (and the differences) between North Point system and Saddleback’s system. In the midst of that process I thought about North Coast’s successful group strategy (consistently over 80% of their adults in groups) as well as a couple other significantly successful churches (i.e., Life.Church and Willow Creek in the 90s).

There are similarities between them. There are also some fairly significant differences.

Can we learn from them? Are there some common threads in the fabric of successful systems?

I think there are.

Here are 5 keys to keep in mind when choosing your small group system:

  1. Successful small group systems are championed by the senior pastor. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking at Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, Larry Osborne or Craig Groeschel, when it comes to owning the small group champion role, they are very, very similar.  As the most influential people in their respective congregations, they own the champion role. They talk about their own group involvement and they regularly challenge everyone to join a small group. See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.
  2. Churches with successful small group systems run virtually the same playbook year round and year after year. This is significant. When you look closely at the churches who are best known for small group ministry success, they have chosen a system and ridden that system for many years. The way the system works is familiar to all but the least frequent attenders. It doesn’t change from one year to the next. See also, 5 Toxic Small Group Ministry Moves.
  3. Churches with successful small group systems regularly evaluate the effectiveness of their strategies. Any and all variables are carefully evaluated and subject to modification. This may sound counter to the second key, but it is actually their commitment to the recognition that results are a product of designs. If you want different results, you must alter the design. Saddleback’s HOST strategy was about altering the design. Saddleback’s “if you have a couple friends” strategy was developed to alter the design. The addition of North Point’s short-term group offering was about altering the design. See also, Orchestrate and Evaluate Everything.
  4. Churches with successful small group systems have a clearly defined engagement pathway. Small groups are not necessarily the only next step they offer, but the importance of both being in a small group and how to join one is clearly articulated. While the size of the “become and belong” menu is quite different at Saddleback and North Point, it would be impossible to attend either without knowing exactly what to do right now. See also, How Would You Rate the First Steps out of Your Auditorium?
  5. Successful small group systems have powerful rhythms that connect people in waves. When you look closely at the systems of churches with successful small group ministries, it is easy to spot the fact that they aren’t connecting unconnected people one at a time. Match-making is the exception. The rule is that North Point’s GroupLink starts waves of new groups twice a year. Saddleback’s annual church-wide campaign starts hundreds of new groups every year. North Coast’s semester system offers an easy way to join in three times a year. See also, Saddleback’s Not-So-Secret Strategy of Launching New Groups in Waves.

Image by Thomas Angermann

Top 10 Reasons North Point Has Connected Over 72,000* in Groups

north point ministriesOne of the churches you ought to be paying attention to when it comes to small group ministry is North Point Community Church (technically, North Point Ministries, which is their name for their 6 Atlanta churches and global network of more than 30 strategic partner churches). Led by senior pastor Andy Stanley, North Point has accomplished some amazing things and is on an incredible trajectory.

Full Disclosure: I have long admired Andy Stanley and the North Point team and strategy. A capstone statement Andy made in 2012 sums it up for me:

Let’s say that something happens to me, all the staff, and all the buildings simultaneously explode.  Let’s make it worst case scenario.  There’s no staff.  There’s no buildings.  And there’s no me.  Here’s what would happen.  On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of the following week, thousands and thousands of adults would gather in homes all over the city and pray together, and do Bible study together and take care of whatever family members are left over and the church is going to go on.

Because at the end of the day, circles are better than rows.  And from day one, we’ve been committed to creating a culture that’s all about circles and not rows.  We are famous for our rows.  But the strength of our churches is what happens in circles.

Here are my top 10 reasons North Point has connected over 72,000* in groups:

  1. Andy Stanley has consistently championed the importance of being involved in a small group. The champion role has never been delegated. In addition to the role of champion, Andy talks regularly about his own small group involvement and the difference it makes in his life (and his family’s life). See also, 18 Great Lines from Andy Stanley and Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.
  2. They’ve had consistent point leadership in Bill Willits (Executive Director of Ministry Environments for North Point Ministries) for their entire 20 year history. One of 6 founding staff members, Bill has provided strategic leadership, helping their team to meet the challenges and dynamics of one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the country. Bill Willits is a featured speaker at GroupLife Southwest, a new small group ministry conference launching 3/27-28/16.
  3. They have consistently kept a narrow focus and offered small groups as the lone menu item to connect people and help them grow spiritually. This is deceptively significant. The fact that they’ve never had to take apart a legacy system from a previous paradigm is more than the result of just turning 20 years old. In addition, they’ve made wise decisions based on their strategy (and not on sentimentality). See also, Narrowing the Focus Leads to a Church OF Groups.
  4. They’ve consistently made getting connected easy, obvious and strategic. A quick look at their website easily demonstrates the win they’ve clarified. See also, How Would You Rate the First Steps out of Your Auditorium?
  5. They’ve had one numeric goal (to have 100,000 in groups) for 20 years. A singular focus has helped them determine time and again what is important and what is sideways energy.
  6. They’ve prioritized small group ministry in their budget. Stanley has said their one numeric goal “has shaped everything. It has shaped everything including our budget. Your goals shape where the money goes. Groups is the best bet.” As an example of their commitment to groups, recognizing the importance of the coaching component, they’ve staffed a “groups director” position that is essentially a coach to 60 to 80 small group leaders. They’ve also budgeted to help tackle the childcare challenge and offered reimbursement for childcare expenses for groups.
  7. GroupLink (their connection event) is a powerful twice a year engine that connects unconnected people in massive waves. Although there are other ways to start groups and other ways to get connected, their focused energy on this twice a year strategy is like a laser beam. See also, Three Observations that Made Me a Fan of North Point’s Closed Group Strategy and Distinctives of Three Types of Small Group Connecting Events.
  8. They regularly use baptism testimonies and virtually all of them point to the significant role played by the small group in  spiritual development. This is not a new development. Recognizing the power of story-telling happened early and is a time-tested strategy.
  9. They are committed to evaluation and regularly review their strategies and tactics for improvement. For example, after evaluating the length of time between when an attender begins to attend the weekend service and then joins a group by attending GroupLink (which has a 12 to 18 month commitment), they were concerned about the length of time and made a strategic adjustment. Adding a short-term group option, with only a 6 to 8 week commitment, shortened the time between beginning to attend the weekend service and joining a short-term group. See also, Breaking: North Point Increases GroupLife Participation by Adding an Easier Next Step and Three Important Distinctives of North Point’s Access Group Strategy.
  10. They are committed to acknowledging that results are directly related to design. Andy Stanley said, “Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.” Translated: Your results are not a fluke. They are produced by your design. If you want different results…you must change the design. This is always present in their thinking. They’ve relentlessly abandoned less productive strategies and programs (i.e., KidStuff and 7:22). See also, 5 Signs Your Small Group Ministry Design Is Inadequate.

This is my list of the top 10 reasons North Point has connected over 72,000 in small groups. Can I add a bonus reason? My bonus reason is likely to turn out to be very significant in the coming season. Recognizing that a different day is here (not just on the horizon), they’ve determined that in order to be true to their ambition (for everyone to experience life-changing community) they needed to make space in groups for people with a variety of lifestyles and theological beliefs. See also, Community for Everyone.

*North Point Ministries includes students and children who are in small groups.

See also, Top 10 Reasons Saddleback Has Connected Over 130% in Groups and Top 10 Reasons North Coast Has Connected Over 80% in Groups.

Image by North Point Ministries


5 Tiny Plan Alterations that Lead to Completely Different Destinations

destinations5 Tiny Plan Alterations that Lead to Completely Different Destinations

Have you ever noticed that you only have to miss one turn to end up at an completely different destination? Happened to me most recently in London’s Harrods department store.

I don’t know whose idea it was to go to Harrods to shop for toys for our grandkids…but we went. And in the middle of our endless exploration of the toy section of this massive store…I needed to use the restroom.

“Excuse me…where’s the closest restroom?” I said to the clerk.

“Go through these next two sections and when you get to the hmm hmm turn right and then right again at the first hallway,” she said pointing in the direction.

“I’m sorry. What?”

“Go through these next two sections and when you get to the hmm hmm turn right and then right again at the first hallway.”

“Ohhkaaay…I’ll give it a try.” And I did find one eventually. Just not the one right after the “hmm hmm.”

Seriously, have you ever noticed that you only have to miss one turn to end up in an completely different destination?

Have you ever noticed that tiny plan alterations lead to completely different destinations?

I regularly get emails from  readers trying to figure out what went wrong in their church-wide campaign (or small group connection, identifying, recruiting and developing coaches, etc.). Maybe you’ve emailed me.

A little detective work almost always reveals the #1 reason strategies don’t work: Tiny plan alterations lead to completely different outcomes.

The #1 reason strategies don’t work: Tiny plan alterations lead to completely different destinations.

Here are five examples:

  1. Instead of spending three weekends exclusively recruiting hosts for your church-wide campaign and then three more weekends recruiting sign-ups for your small group connection…recruit hosts and sign-ups for the connection on the same weekends. What could be the harm, right? Actually, if you want to recruit the largest number of hosts you must segregate the host ask weekends from the member sign-up weekends. Once you begin talking about “being in a group” vs “inviting a couple friends to do the study” you’ve recruited your last host. See also, Top 10 Reasons Church-Wide Campaigns Miss the Mark.
  2. Instead of sticking with the pure small group connection strategy (that guides new groups to choose leaders from amongst themselves), allow leaders of existing small groups that need a few new members to attend the connection and use it as a fishing pool. Disastrous! Instead of starting new groups (which is an essential activity if you want to build a thriving small group ministry) you end up simply propping up dying groups that have never learned to fish for themselves. See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs Start New Groups.
  3. Instead of the hand-to-hand combat of recruiting busy, high-capacity leaders as potential coaches, simply announce that you need a few coaches and then accept those who are willing to serve. Again…disastrous! Settling for warm and willing when you only need hot and qualified (high capacity and passionate about groups) leads to a completely different coaching structure. It is one of the main reasons attempts to build effective coaching structures #fail. See also, 5 Assumptions that Set Small Group Coaching Up to #Fail.
  4. Instead of making the host ask (or the member ask) within your senior pastor’s message, simply include the ask in the list of your announcements. This little plan alteration has led to more train wrecks than I can remember. Never allow your senior pastor to delegate this essential activity. See also, How to Make the HOST Ask.
  5. Instead of scheduling the host ask (or the member ask) on weekends your senior pastor is preaching, make the ask on the weekends you’ve scheduled a visiting missionary or student-led Sunday. Please don’t miss the significance of who makes the ask. Your senior pastor is almost always the most influential person in your church. Substituting anyone else to make the ask always leads to a different destination. See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.

Image by renee_mcgurk

Older posts