Mass Hysteria at the Grab and Go Table

So did you do what I suggested last week?  Did you make up some Grab and Go kits and recruit another 5 or another 50 hosts?  We did.  And it was mass hysteria at the Grab and Go table!  I’ll tell you all about it…but first, a reminder about why we did it.

The reason the Grab and Go idea makes sense is that even when you’ve done a great job of recruiting hosts for your church-wide campaign…there will still be people who won’t be connected.  Most of us are still going to be trying to figure out how to get the other half of our average adult attendance to at least test-drive a group for 6 weeks.  So if we can get a few more people to say “yes” to inviting even 2 or 3 people over it’s a good thing.  If they’ll even pull together their extended families it’s a good thing.  Not problem-free.  But a very good thing.  Right?

And…as I mentioned last week, most of the small group studies you will consider using for your campaign have a built-in call to action in week one that asks each group member to think about “who else would have really enjoyed tonight’s session?”  So if you can start another 5 or another 25 groups, even if they only start with 3 or 4 people…they could easily expand to 6 or 7 people for week two.  See where this is going?

What if they don’t?  What if they don’t expand?  What if they don’t even meet?  Can I tell you something?  Not all of them will!  But don’t let that stop you.  Don’t let that even be a factor in whether this is a good idea.  Instead, look at the upside potential and count every person that picks up a Grab and Go kit as a win.  After all, even if all they do this time is take this first step…it might help them next time to take a second step.

At the same time, think about this: Some of the people who pick up a Grab and Go kit, fully expecting to only do the study with one or two friends, will end up adding a few more after the first week.  That’s good right?  Absolutely.

What can top that?  Remember, in week three or four of the first study you’re going to start telling all of your new hosts (and that includes the Grab and Go hosts) about a recommended study for them to do next.  This is one of the 5 keys to sustaining the new groups you begin and ought to be a part of how you determine whether your campaign was a success.  It’s one thing to launch 30 new groups.  It’s another thing to sustain 70% of what you start.

What Happened at Parkview?

Keep in mind, I am not a theorist.  I am a practitioner.  We actually do the things I write about.  So…last weekend my pastor did a great job of talking up the Grab and Go idea in all six services.  And immediately following the services we had mass hysteria at the Grab and Go table.  We had already recruited and trained over 200 new hosts (to go with our 130 existing groups).  When the dust cleared after our final service we’d had about 60 people pick up a kit and commit to doing the study with a few folks.

All of the DVDs were gone.  All of the curriculum was gone.  In fact, we ran out before the 11:00 a.m. service started and we had to sign people up and commit to having curriculum for them by mid-week.  The Grab and Go table looked like a swarm of locusts had ravaged the place.  Nothing was left but empty boxes and our pitiful sign.  It was AWESOME!  Not problem-free.  Awesome.

Some of those groups are going to never meet.  Some of that curriculum will never make it out of the closet.  But some of it will be used.  Some of those groups will meet.  And some of those groups will be remembered as “where I was when God finally got may attention.” And that is the point.

I am not a theorist.  I am a practitioner.  And I aspire to be the mayor of Crowd’s Edge.

Top 10 Posts for September 2010

In case you missed them…here are my 10 most popular articles for September, 2010:

  1. Top 10 Reasons Saddleback Has Connected Over 130% in Groups
  2. Groups Interactive’s New Version Take a Big Step in the Right Direction
  3. Add 5 to 10% More Hosts with This Jedi Move
  4. How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection
  5. How to Choose a Small Group System or Strategy
  6. 5 Keys to Sustaining New Groups
  7. The Why Behind the Way of Your Small Group Ministry Strategy
  8. 10 Essential Small Group Leader Skills
  9. Top 10 Articles on Small Group Coaching
  10. Cultivate Identity Before the Host Ask

Control vs Care: Coaching Small Group Leaders

Had lunch yesterday with a potential coaching candidate.  We had a great conversation as we talked about the coaching concept, his background at a well known church in the area, and some important mutual respect for some of the early leaders in the small group movement.  It was very fun interacting with such an enthusiastic advocate for groups.

And then as I described the unique aspects to the environment at Parkview, the kind of people we attract, their level of biblical literacy, their background, etc., he made a comment that triggered an alarm in my brain.

The comment?  “Span of control.”  He said something like, “How will you not have a lot of wackiness in your groups if there isn’t the safety net of a healthy span of control?”

Now, I’ve been doing this a while…so I think my well-developed sniffer kicked in without him being any the wiser.  But believe me, I was listening for any further indication that the idea of control was part of his M.O.

Why?  What triggered the alarm?  Well, you need to know that I use the phrase span of care all the time.  It’s a great term and reflects my belief that “everyone needs to be cared for by someone but nobody can care for more than (about) ten people.”  A classic Carl George line that is right at the heart of my coaching philosophy that whatever you want to happen in the life of the member has to happen first in the life of the leader.

But it’s not about control.  It’s about care.  You’re not going to build healthy leaders by controlling them.  Health is a function of balance and you’re only going to help someone move toward balance as a result of care…not control.  Building an effective coaching structure is all about care, not control.

Add 5 to 10% More Hosts with This Jedi Move

Tis the season where churches everywhere are launching church-wide campaigns.  And churches everywhere are looking for ways to add a few more host homes, a few more open locations where a few more unconnected people can finally come in out of the cold.  That’s the motivation, right?  That’s what we’re all trying to do.

Your church might be one of those churches that are trying to figure this out!  Here’s the Jedi move that will add another 5 to 10% to your total:  Lower the bar one more time.

You heard me right.  Lower the bar one more time! Here’s how to do it:

  • Figure out what 10% of your total number of hosts is (i.e., whether you’ve already recruited 30 hosts or 300 hosts we’re talking 10% of that number) and prepare enough host kits to make a “grab and go” table in the lobby.
  • The “grab and go” host kits should include 4 books, the DVD, and a Jump Start Your Group handout (see below for handout information).  You don’t need a lot in the kit.  Just enough to help a few new hosts see how easy it could be.  You should also have a very simple card for them to fill out (name, telephone, email).
  • Station some friendly people at the “grab and go” table in the lobby.  Their whole job is to say “yes.”  For example, “Can I do this with just my husband and our best friends?”  “Yes.”  “Can I do this with just my family?”  “Yes.”  “Can I do this with just a few friends from my bunco group?”  “Yes!”  I think you get the idea.
  • Add this idea to your pastor’s spiel during his message:  “We’re so excited about everyone being in a group for the 40 Days (or whatever campaign you’re doing) that we’ve made it really easy for you.  Even if you can only do this 2 or 3 other people, if you can only do it with a few friends that can meet when you can meet, or if you’d like to do it with a few members of your family…we’ve got a host kit for you at the “grab and go” table in the lobby.
  • Say the spiel again at the end of each service and really sell the idea.  Then get ready for a few people to stop by the table.

Important Background Information:

There are a two background items that make this a good idea.

  • There are two groups of people who have been unmoved by your recruiting efforts over the last few weeks.  Introverted people who are afraid of a houseful of strangers.  Influential people who are very busy and hard to pin down initially to get involved.  Both groups will say yes if you make it easy to do with just a few friends or family.
  • Most of the DVD-driven studies that you’d be using include a very important idea at the end of session one.  They ask the group to think about “anyone else who would have enjoyed this discussion.”  Many studies actually have a blank at the end of that question for people to write in the name of a friend or two.  It’s very possible that these groups will double in week 2.

Jump Start Your Group Handout

I’d be glad to send you my Jump Start Your Group handout.  Just email me and ask for it!

Be sure and read about what happened next:  Mass Hysteria at the Grab and Go Table

Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer?

Developing a deep understanding of the business you are in is one of the most important things you will ever do.  Right on its heels, you must develop an awareness of who your true customer is.  Without an accurate understanding of those two certainties…your only chance for success will be based on chance (or providence, depending on your world view).

The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members -- William Temple
This is very, very important.  And it is not the way many of us think.  For the sake of time, I want to skip ahead to the customer issue today.  Although you might have a different idea, let’s just say that the business we are in is building environments where real life change can happen.  Once we have that understanding, the next conviction we must develop is an awareness of who our true customer is.

So the question today is, who is your true customer?  How you answer that question will determine a lot about the way your small group ministry comes together.  For example, if you determine that your true customers are the members of your existing groups, you will often choose topics or curriculum that they will request, not realizing (or at least not acknowledging) that their tastes and interests do not reflect the interests of those who are not yet in a group.

Now, you get to choose who your true customer will be.  You get to choose whether your true customer will be the people you’ve already connected or the people who have not yet found grouplife.  Sometimes right here I know I need to acknowledge that there are advocates for the idea that to grow your business you need to focus on delighting your current customer.  Let me say that while there is truth to that…it’s not a very biblical notion (Philippians 2:3-4).  That’s part of the reason  I’ve always gravitated toward the great William Temple line that “the Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.”  That said, I determined a long time ago that my true customers are those who aren’t yet in a group and I make decisions about topics based on that understanding.  By the way, embracing the notion that there is no problem-free makes this understanding acceptable.

Stop and think about the topic you’ve chosen for your upcoming connection or church-wide campaign?  Who will be attracted to that topic?  Will it primarily appeal to the people in your congregation who are already in a group?  Or will it appeal to those who aren’t yet in a group?

This is a really big understanding.  And don’t kid yourself either.  Although there are topics that connect with both…they are not easy to find.  This is why the 40 Days of Purpose had broad appeal and Walk Across the Room did not.  It is all about an awareness of the customer and careful selection of topic based on that understanding.  Is there anything wrong with offering Walk Across the Room?  Definitely not.  Just understand that that topic will not have broad appeal (regardless of how much you believe the Great Commission is for everyone).  If your target customers are the people who aren’t yet in a group…better choose the right topic.

Putting the Concept into Practice (Case Study):

One of the classic illustrations of this important principle was a church preparing for a church-wide study that had chosen as their topic the idea that the Holy Spirit could provide power for daily living.  Based on the Book of Acts, their title was Catch the Wind and the cover art was a very cool image of a sailing ship with full sails.  See where they were going?  Is the concept true?  Absolutely.  Would it interest people who aren’t yet in a group?  Maybe.  You might be able to engage folks who are already attending church but not yet in a group.  What about friends or neighbors who aren’t yet attending the church?  Not a chance.

How’s Your Understanding of the Customer?

This is one of the first discussions I have with many churches.  You can find out about my consulting and coaching opportunities right here.

Assumptions: What’s Probable and Possible for Existing Groups

When I consult with churches about building small group ministry, one of the first discussions we often have is about what’s probable and possible for existing small groups.  Almost every church as groups already in place; many times these groups have been around a long time and often predate the pastor or small group director.

Why do we have the discussion about what’s probable and possible for existing groups?  Mostly because I believe there’s an upside and a downside to everything and I want to help them manage their expectations.

The Upside for Existing Groups

Here’s what I believe to be the upside and downside for existing small groups:

One upside is that existing groups are often a great source of encouragement for a churches most involved members.  They are often the one place, the one activity where they are not the leader or not serving.  Instead, it is an opportunity for them to receive.

Another upside is that every church has people who are naturally drawn and attracted to community.  For them it is an essential ingredient…it’s actually the most important part of the of their spiritual life and actually trumps the worship service.  They end up in small groups whether a church provides any help or not.  They’ve often been in groups elsewhere, loved the experience, and know how to pull together others who have the same bent.

Finally, a third upside is that existing groups provide a level of care that has made a significant difference for many of their members.  When they’re asked why they love their group they will quickly tell you that “when I had surgery” or “when my wife left me” or “when I lost my job”…my group helped me through the toughest time of my life.

The Downside of Existing Groups

Remember I mentioned that there is an upside and a downside to everything?  Here’s the downside of existing groups:

Existing groups are very poor connecting opportunities for unconnected people.  Once a group has been meeting longer than about 4 to 6 months an almost impermeable membrane forms around them that makes is extremely difficult for anyone new to break through.

Existing groups only rarely see the needs of unconnected members as their concern.  Remember, this is often the one place that members of existing groups are receiving.  This is where they get refreshed.

Existing groups are often repositories for some of the most capable potential leaders (that you know about).  Drawn to community, they end up in groups together and are unaware of what they are missing.

What’s Probable and Possible for Existing Groups?

Although there are always exceptions, these assumptions about the upside and downside of existing groups are the probable.  What’s possible?  Here’s what I’ve found:

  • Given the right motivation, some members of existing groups will be open to short-term ideas like taking a small group vacation in order to help start new groups.  The best part?  Some existing group members who take a vacation will see their own contribution potential in a new way and will not be able to go back to being just a consumer (i.e., they’ll want to stay with the new group).
  • Stories about the experiences of members who previously ventured out of existing groups, helped launch new groups, and saw God use them in the lives of newly connected people offer a very compelling pathway.  The willingness to “give it a try” often comes in waves the next year.

Q & A: How Can I Break the 50% in Groups Barrier?

Have you ever been stuck and couldn’t figure out what was keeping you from taking a next step or reaching a next level?  All of us are there at one point or another.

I had a comment on one of my articles this week that led to an email exchange with a small group director.  In the email she made this comment:

We seem to be stuck at the 50-60% mark and I’m not sure how to get past that.  Our groups usually meet for 6 weeks in the fall and 6 weeks beginning in February.

When I read that line I immediately formed a diagnosis.  You might have, too.  Here it is:

  1. Whether you’re launching new groups or getting existing groups back together after the summer or after the holidays, it is essential to give them a curriculum to do next in about week 3 or 4 of a 6 week series.  Lyman Coleman said, 6 weeks is short enough for people to commit to and long enough for them to begin to build community.  I’ve found that one of the most important keys to building grouplife is to keep groups meeting beyond their first 6 weeks (in fact, it is one of the 5 Keys to Sustaining New Groups).
  2. Although this might be a totally new philosophy, it is essential to begin thinking about the year…not just the next season.  My article, How to Build an Annual GroupLife Calendar provides some important help with this task.
  3. You might want to look at the kind of curriculum you’re choosing.  It may be that choosing a similar topic every season is limiting your reach to the usual suspects.  If you want to connect new people, you’re going to have to try new things (How to Connect People No One Else Is Connecting).

Along with my diagnosis, I want to point out that 50 to 60% in groups is nothing to sneeze at.  It actually puts you in a pretty high category…if it’s based on real numbers.  To determine that, I think you have to use your adult attendance for Easter or Christmas Eve, which in most cases is larger than your average Sunday adult attendance.

Why do you need to use that number?  If you’re like most churches, it’s not the same group of adults every Sunday.  Depending on the kind of people you’re reaching, it might be that your average adult might only come 2 or 3 times a month.  That’s why you need to use Easter or Christmas Eve.  Those are services that nearly everyone attends at the same time.

Got a Question?

I love answering questions.  Got one?  Use the comment section or send me an email.  Your question is probably one that is shared by many other people.

Review: Not a Fan

Ripped open the packaging for Not a Fan earlier this week.  For me, not many small group studies are as eagerly anticipated as anything new from Kyle Idleman and the crew at City on a Hill Productions.  The first production that I ran across was H2O and it was really groundbreaking.  Not at all a talking head, it was a much more cinematic experience.  H2O was followed by the Easter Experience…again a beautiful production.  I wrote a review of the Easter Experience right here.

Much like their two earlier projects, Not a Fan is a very dramatic effort.  Great storytelling keeps you engaged in the core message: Jesus is not looking for fans.  He’s looking for followers.  Followers who understand that:

  • There is no forgiveness without repentance
  • There is no salvation without surrender
  • There is no life without death
  • There is no believing without following

Each of the 6 episodes follow the life of Eric Nelson, in a kind of contemporary version of a gospel story.  For example, the story of Matthew unfolds in the telling of a modern day failure.  Gary’s life is a mess.  He comes to the place where he figures out that his life of regret is killing him.  Interspersed with Idleman’s narration, the 25 minute segment flies by, setting up a great discussion.  And a key to this study might be, once you start watching…it’s very hard to stop.  You’ll be drawn into a very familiar story.  There will definitely be many very recognizable situations.  And you’ll find yourself thinking…that could be me.

After making the distinction between a fan and a follower in Luke 9:23, the series takes a look at Matthew, the Rich Young Ruler, a series of might be followers who needed to “count the cost” in Luke 9:57-62.

One challenge for many churches will be the cost.  The base price of $69.99 per DVD is expensive when compared to most of the other DVD-driven curriculum.  Although there is a discount with larger purchases (a purchase of 10 DVDs reduces the price by 15% to $59.99 a DVD), it might be prohibitive for some congregations.  Still, when you consider that a DVD can be used more than once, it could be a great investment.

Another challenge might be the level of leadership required to really pull off the kind of discussion that leads to personal action.  Believe me, there will be discussion.  In that sense, this series will ignite conversation and passionate discussion, much like a great movie will leave people with a genuine desire to talk about it.  At the same time, the level of leadership will determine whether it was a great 6 weeks or the beginning of a new and different lifestyle; whether the members of the group remain fans…or truly begin to move toward follower.

Despite the challenges, this is a great new DVD-driven curriculum and there are definitely going to be raging fans of Not a Fan.  Better, this is a series that will mark lives.  Not a Fan, maybe like an Alpha experience designed to produce fully devoted followers, will help fans become followers.

You can find out more about the series right here.  You can even watch a little bit of a sample.  I think you’re going to be captivated.

I review a new study almost every week.  You can read my reviews right here.  While you’re here, why not sign up to get my free updates?  You can subscribe to my blog right here.

Bush on Small Groups

Sponsored Post

Have you seen this video?  It’s worth checking out.  Available over on worship house media, I think you’ll be asking yourself, “Is it really W?”  It could be used for your next small group campaign or for a leader training event.

You can click here to take a look.  And don’t ever misunderestimate the value of a good video!

Now Is the Time To Think About What’s Next

Here’s reality.  The best way to sustain the momentum of what you are about to do…is to be ready for the turn at the end of this straight-away.  Much like a NASCAR race, there are straight-aways and there are turns in every ministry season.  Preparing for and then launching a church-wide campaign (or a fall kick-off) can generate a lot of momentum.

Eventually…you come to the end of the campaign and it’s time for what’s next.  The time to begin to make the turn is not when you reach the bend in the road.  Like what happens in a NASCAR race, you need to start thinking about the turn before you get there (so you’re in the right spot to begin making the turn).

Here are a few things you need to be thinking about now (before you even hit full speed on the straight-away:

These are just a few of the most important questions you should be asking right now.  And trust me…right now really is the time to be thinking this way.  If your church is like mine, you really don’t want to get into the turn to start thinking about coming out the other end.

If you’re still working on the details of a church-wide campaign, here are my Top 10 Articles on Church-Wide Campaigns.  You might also want to take a refresher Thinking Strategically About the Fall Season.