Clue #2 When Designing Your Small Group System

Last week I began a series on important clues when designing your small group system.  I really want you to catch this.  I believe there is a best system for your church.

I don’t mean a problem-free system (see my article on the pursuit of problem-free if you’re unfamiliar with this learning).  I mean, there is a system that will best fit your culture (or the one you aspire to cultivate).

Last week I said that the first clue when designing your small group system was an understanding of how many adults are already connected and how many are unconnected.  I believe this is crucial information as you develop the design for your small group system.

Clue #2: Build Next Steps for Every Participant and First Steps for Their Friends

We’ve talked about Saddleback’s concentric circles in the past.  This diagram is a great way to understand several different aspects of ministry.  Seriously.  It’s amazing.  But only if you really get it.

Here’s how it works for me.  These are the definitions:

  • Community: These are people who don’t yet attend your church.  They may know about you.  They may have friends that attend.  But they’re not connected in any way to what you’re doing.
  • Crowd: The crowd represents people who may only come a few times a year.  They may only come twice a year (Christmas and Easter).  Still, while thinly connected to your church, they consider your church to be their church.
  • Congregation: These are people that attend more regularly.  They may come 2 or 3 times a month.  They may serve occasionally (for instance, when you add greeters for Easter).  They may give sporadically.  But mostly, they’re more frequent consumers of what you’re producing.
  • Committed: These folks are very involved, are actively serving in a ministry, are regular givers, and attend most Sundays.  They may be playing a leadership role on a team or lead a small group.  They’ve moved out of the consumer role into a contributor role, but they’re more often on the team than leading the team.
  • Core: This last group is generally the most mature spiritually, are often sacrificial givers, and are playing key roles on boards, teams, and ministries.  They are most definitely contributors…in every way imaginable (with time, talent and treasure).

What does this have to do with designing your small group system?

While you probably already get this, a little review may go a long way.  Here’s what I want you to catch today:

  • Your average weekly adult attendance is a mix.  It’s made up of people from the core, committed, congregation and crowd.  All of them consider your church to be theirs.
  • Every church will have its own unique blend of the four circles.  Some churches will have huge crowd constituencies.  This is often the explanation of Easter attendance of 150% of average.  Other churches will hardly see a bump (commonly a reflection of a much smaller crowd segment).
  • Pay attention to the fact that specific activities (or topics) will appeal to less committed, spiritual beginners, while other activities (or topics) will more readily appeal to more committed, more mature believers.
  • Be careful who you’re listening to when you’re evaluating the effectiveness of an event or curriculum.  It’s very common for a critical review from an unintended participant to skew the feedback.
  • An unexpected reality in the concentric circles diagram is that the deeper into the environment a person moves, the more connected within they become.  At the same time, they become less connected to those outside.  With few exceptions, folks in the crowd have more connections in the community than anyone else.  That’s a very significant detail when you’re designing your host recruitment strategy.  It’s also a very important reason that the x-factor is near the edge.

Key Takeaway: You must develop an understanding of the kind of people that make up each of the segments.  I often suggest identifying a person or two from each segment.  Getting to know them, learning to anticipate their needs and interests, will help you design a system that offers next steps for all of them and first steps for their friends.

Here’s Clue #3 in my series.

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