If you’ve been along for the conversation here you know that one of my core assumptions is that there is no problem free.  That is a huge help in the development of strategy.  It frees you from the pursuit of problem-free and it frees you to choose the most effective.  Very freeing.

Another very important assumption here gets a lot less mention, but is one you need to move to if you’re going to build a grouplife system that has exponential capabilities.  Here it is:

“The x factor is found near the edge of the crowd–not the core (AKA the usual suspects).”

What Does It Mean?

The simplest way of explaining the concept is with the diagram.  If you think about most churches, there are way more people involved than are there on most weekends.  For example, if you’re averaging 700 on the weekend you know it’s not the same 700 people.  If you look at the database, you’ll find that there are really 900 to 1000 people who attend over the course of a quarter.  That’s the explanation for Easter or Christmas Eve numbers.  Those are two times a year when almost everyone attends.

This is significant because there are several kinds of people within the average attendance.  There are 3 to 4 times a month people.  There are a couple times a month people.  And there are a few times a year people.  You may have never spent any time thinking about this…but there is a key in it that you need to pay attention to.  Here it is:

The people who are less frequent in their attendance have more connections to the outside than they do to the inside.

Think about that for a moment.  If you asked the folks who attend 3 to 4 times a month, “Who are your 10 best friends (in the area you live)?” you’ll discover that 8 or 9 or sometimes even all 10 are also 3 to 4 times a month people.  I represent them on the diagram as the square.  I actually say that the square represents the people that are very connected at your church.  There are two factors that are involved in their connection:  First, they’re so connected that if anything happened to them or a member of their family, someone else would find out about it within 24 to 48 hours without anyone ever calling the church.  And, second, there’s someone building into them from a spiritual standpoint…and it’s not the pastor.  They’re in a small group or they’re on a serving team and someone is paying attention to them from a spiritual standpoint; noticing when they’re growing and challenging them when they’re not.  I call these people “the usual suspects.”

Think back to where their friends are.  Remember, their best friends are also inside the square.  That’s really, really big and important for you to understand.  Now, think about the folks closer to the edge of the circle 9what Saddleback refers to as “the crowd.”  If you ask them who their friends are, do you know what they’ll tell you?  Their best friends are almost always outside of the circle.  They’ve never been to your church.

Here’s the question.  If you’re going to recruit people to host a group and invite their friends…who would be the most productive person to recruit?  If you said the people in the core, you haven’t been paying attention.  Remember, if you’re going to ask the host to invite their friends, most of the friends of the folks in the core are already connected.  If you want to connect people who aren’t already connected, you’re going to have to recruit people who still have friends who aren’t already connected.

Conclusion

There’s a lot more on this that we could think about today.  A lot more.  For today, just wrestle with the fact that the x factor is found near the edge of the crowd–not in the core (AKA “the usual suspects.”)