How do you help unconnected people find a group? Are you a matchmaker? Do you provide an individualized, custom designed fitting for each person looking? Or are you more of a self-serve, off-the-rack location? The way you help unconnected people find a group combined with the number of groups you have and the number of unconnected people will determine your effectiveness and your sanity. Here’s what I mean. Let’s start with the back end of the equation.
In a small church, with a few groups and fewer sign-ups it is simply a matter of a call or two every now and then. In a medium to large church with a good number of groups but lots of unconnected people, providing a custom fit for everyone inquiring about group life can be a challenge. In a large church it can be a challenge that leads to lots of sign-ups and few successful matches. In many cases it leads to a stack of unfulfilled requests and some seriously unmet expectations. What’s the solution? In most cases the solution is a web-friendly funnel that handles most requests in an automated way and reserves matchmaking for a few more challenging situations.
There are a number of ways to make the groups in your system “findable” and even “searchable.” In a smaller operation simply adding a page to your website with a list of your groups (type of group, contact person, phone, day and time of meeting, and area they meet in) might be all you need. Combine that with a Sunday morning table featuring a list of available groups for interested people to take with them and you’re in business.
In a medium to larger church you may want to add an application like ChurchTeams or GroupsInteractive that allows people interested in a small group to “click here” and see available groups. Many applications allow searches based on the day of the week, type of group, zip code or city, or study topic. In addition to the search function, your small group webpage can feature an FAQ, a testimonial quote or two, and instructions for what to do if after searching help is still needed.
One important key is to decide when you’ll take paper signups and what you’ll do in response. For example, you may use a “welcome card” that includes an opportunity to indicate interest in a small group. You’ll need to decide whether that will prompt a phone call or a letter with instructions (or both). You may decide to take signups only for certain events or campaigns and use the small group finder as the primary option the rest of the year.
How you choose to operate should be based on more fundamental decisions. Clarifying what a win will be for your small group ministry will be an important beginning. Designing steps that lead to the win is next. Sticking with the strategy determines effectiveness and sanity!