One of the most important strategic decisions a church can make is to narrow the focus, a concept that is explained very well in the 7 Practices of an Effective Church. Essentially, to narrow the focus is to concentrate on one thing (or a very few things) in an effort to conceive, develop and promote the opportunity that will have the greatest impact.
Narrowing the focus is an easy concept to understand…and a great challenge for churches to pull off. What makes it so hard is that one of the Top 10 Fantasies of Churches with Groups is that “it is enough to promote small groups once a year, annually every fall, along with everything else that’s starting up with the new ministry season.” As you can see, there are two parts to this fantasy. First, that promoting small groups once a year will actually get the job done and second, that you can promote small groups along with everything else that’s starting up for the new ministry year.
In this article I want to concentrate on the second part of the fantasy and suggest that if you want to become a church of groups…you must narrow the focus to only promote the opportunity to host a group (for the weeks that you are recruiting hosts) or joining a group (for the weeks that you are encouraging everyone to be in a group. And to clarify, I’m really only talking about what you’re highlighting. You might have other opportunities mentioned in the bulletin or on the website…but even there it would be clear what the big thing is.
Only Promote One Thing at a Time
I want you to be sure and catch what I just pointed out. In fact, go back and read the previous paragraph. Notice that you start by only promoting the opportunity to host. You’re not talking about hosting (or leading) OR joining a group. Once you begin talking about joining, you’ve recruited your last host. Few, if any, sign up to host a group if you give them the chance to simply be a member. Now back to the point.
The Real World
I want you to stop there and think about your church. How likely is it that on the weeks you’re doing those things (recruiting hosts or recruiting members) that those are the only things you’re doing? That those are the only things you’re promoting?
See the problem? If you’re launching a church-wide campaign or ramping up for a small group connection, you will have the greatest impact if you are narrowing the focus to only promote those opportunities. If you are also promoting the Beth Moore Bible study and the Men’s Fraternity along with the season opener of DivorceCare, GriefShare, Celebrate Recovery, Bible Study Fellowship and Community Bible Study…you’re going to have real trouble getting traction in any of those efforts. Most importantly, you’re not setting up a scenario that leads to a church of groups. By promoting everything, by promoting a buffet, you’re making it more difficult for your congregation to say “yes” to a group.
If you want to become a church of groups, you’ll need to narrow the focus (at least when you’re in launch mode) and really highlight grouplife opportunities. Once the launch is secure you can begin to promote other opportunities.
Developing an Annual GroupLife Calendar
While we’re on the subject, let me add an important clarification. You really can’t become a church of groups if you’re only working on it once a year. Understanding the ebb and flow of seasons and taking a longer view is very important. Developing an Annual GroupLife Calender is essential.
Getting to There
Are you already there? Are you promoting the one thing that matters most when you come into a strategic season? Or are you still living in fantasyland? If you’re already on the way to a church of groups…good for you. If you’re stuck in fantasyland, maybe scheduling an exploratory conversation about narrowing the focus for impact is the best next step. It might be that bringing in (by phone or in person) a strategic outsider with fresh eyes is the ticket. This is a role I play all the time. You can find out more or schedule an opportunity right here.