When you’re designing your grouplife strategy, one of the most important concepts is to think steps, not programs. I picked this practice up from The 7 Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley and Reggie Joiner (a book that everyone ought to read).
Think steps, not programs is a simple and at the same time extremely powerful. Stanley illustrated the concept in a staff meeting at North Point by taking a stack of construction paper and saying something like, “Let’s say you wanted to get from the door of this conference room to the seat at the very back. If I took this stack of paper and threw it up in the air, allowing the individual sheets to scatter all around the room and then told you that you had to step from one piece of construction paper to another to get from here to there…you might be able to do it, but your steps would take you all around the room. Some of them would require you to hop pretty far. You might have to backtrack. It wouldn’t be a simple process.”
With me so far? Stanley continued, “But, if I took this stack of construction paper and carefully laid the sheets out so that the path led directly from the doorway to the seat in the back, and if I laid them close enough together to make it easy to step from one to another…you could all do it.”
He went on to say: steps need to be easy (you need to be able to make it from one sheet to the next), obvious (you need to be able to see which one to take next) and strategic (they need to lead right to the goal).
Think Steps, Not Programs
This concept comes into play when we design our small group ministry strategy. For example, one of the toughest things for anyone to do is go from the familiarity and anonymity of a worship center to the up-close-and-personal living room of a stranger. But that’s what happens when we say to people, “It’s easy to find a group at our church. You just go on the small group finder, choose a group, and show up at a stranger’s house!”
Thinking steps, not programs would steer you towards thinking differently. You’d begin thinking things like, “What if we had an on-campus event designed to help people go from the familiarity and anonymity of the worship center to a mid-size gathering and helped them become part of a group?” By the way, that’s what a small group connection is designed to do. That’s what North Point’s group link concept is designed to do. Take people from a foyer type event (a worship service) into a living room type event (a small group connection) into a kitchen experience (a small group).
Note: This doesn’t mean there won’t be a need for a small group finder or that there’d never be times when the Host strategy makes a lot of sense. It just means that we all need to think about and design in the steps that will help people move to where they really need to be.