Preparing to launch a church-wide campaign? Or maybe wondering if you can still pull it off with the time you have remaining? While not easy...it might be simpler than you think. You'll need to make some strategic decisions and depending on when you're reading this, you may need to act decisively, but you can do it.
10 Simple Steps to a Great Church-Wide Campaign
1. Choose the best launch date for the message series.
I've found that there are two great options and one good option. In my opinion, the very best times to launch are mid-September to early October and early to mid-February. Both of these times take advantage of the natural rhythms of our culture (getting back to a routine in the fall and turning over a new leaf in January).
The very best times to launch a church-wide campaign are mid-September to early October and early to mid-February. Both of these times take advantage of the natural rhythms of our culture (getting back to a routine in the fall and… Click To Tweet
Note: Many churches mistakenly use the date school's back in as an indication of when to start the campaign. Don't be fooled. If you want to connect people you've not yet connected, you need to wait until after Labor Day (see #3 for more on the calendar).
After Easter can also be a good time (but not great). Early Easters provide a barely long-enough window before summer hits to help new groups get off to a good start. Late Easters can be tricky and if launching and sustaining new groups is an important objective, this is not the best time.
2. Select the right campaign with your objectives in mind.
This is an important step and often misunderstood or underestimated.
Church-Wide campaigns are not created equally. Some appeal to a very broad range of people (crowd to core) and others appeal to a narrower range (for example, only to the already connected and deeply committed). Some campaigns can be described as plug-and-play and require very little of the group leader. Others call for a higher level of commitment and more preparation from the leader.
In order to maximize participation of new group leaders and new group members both the topic of the series and the degree of difficulty to participate must be taken into consideration. If part of your objective is connecting unconnected people, take their needs and interests into consideration as you select the topic and degree of difficulty. If your primary objective is rallying the committed to a cause or a deeper commitment, choose a topic that accomplishes that (and then don't be disappointed if you don't attract the outer edge of the congregation and crowd).
If part of your objective is connecting unconnected people, take their needs and interests into consideration as you select the topic and degree of difficulty. If your primary objective is rallying the committed to a cause or a deeper… Click To Tweet
Another aspect to this decision is the choice of an off-the-shelf campaign that is plug-and-play versus developing a campaign in-house (or hiring a content developer) based on the sermon series of your choosing.
There are many great campaigns and plenty of them have sermon outlines, powerpoint slides, artwork, and marketing suggestions that are downloadable or included on a resource CD. Many are also readily available in the quantity you need and at very good prices.
3. Develop a timeline to maximize the outcome.
After choosing the start date and the specific church-wide campaign, developing the timeline is the next important piece. A well-chosen, well-executed campaign has the potential to change the trajectory of your church. A well-designed timeline will make greater impact more likely.
After choosing the start date and the specific church-wide campaign, developing the timeline is the next important piece. A well-chosen, well-executed campaign has the potential to change the trajectory of your church. A well-designed… Click To Tweet
For maximum impact, early promotion, communication with group leaders, and recruitment of launch-phase coaches should begin several months prior to the launch date.
Pencil in a message series 7 to 9 weeks prior to the launch date that will allow 3 weeks to recruit HOSTs. There are a wide range of topics for this series that will work.
Following the host recruitment series, plan 3 weekend asks to join a group and offer an easy way to join (i.e., hold a small group connection, etc.).
4. Schedule a HOST recruiting message series
Planning a short three week message series that lends itself to naturally inviting/challenging some in your church to consider doing the campaign study with a couple friends offers the potential to maximize connection.
Two important keys are that the best recruiter is your senior pastor and the best time to recruit is during a message. Compromise on either key and your recruiting potential will be greatly reduced. You will be tempted to make the host ask during announcements only and have someone other than the senior pastor make the announcement. Big mistake and always costly.
Important Note: Do NOT mention joining a group during the three HOST recruiting messages.
This may seem counterintuitive, but as soon as you begin talking about being in a group (as opposed to hosting a group) you've recruited your last host (see #6 for when to begin recruiting members).
During the 3 weeks of HOST recruiting, supply a Host Kit that even a caveman can use with a few friends or even family members. You'll find the details in Add 5 to 10% More HOSTs with This Jedi Move and Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game...Again.
5. Provide a simple set of How to Help Your Study Get Off to a Great Start Ideas, Tips and Suggestions
This is a significant change from my earlier top 10 list. While there is still a benefit to even a drop-in host orientation/briefing, the impact of high quality, well-conceived, just-in-time training and encouragement cannot be argued against.
Start by including a Jump Start Your Study card in the Host Kit. Anticipate in the development of the handout that many of those who "have a couple friends they'd like to do the study with" will appreciate simple suggestions that make everything easier (from thinking through who to invite, how to invite them, choosing when and where to meet, etc.). Think "just-add-water."
Incorporate a card to be completed when picking up the host kit. Building an email list of those who pick up the kit enables additional just-in-time coaching to happen as the study begins and continues.
Simple how-to videos can be developed to provide need-to-know coaching on timely topics. The videos can be linked to on a webpage dedicated to leader development.
See also, What's In a Host Kit?
6. Schedule 3 weekends of all out efforts to challenge everyone to be part of a group that is using the study that goes along with the message series.
Remember when I told you NOT to mention joining a group until after you were finished recruiting Hosts (see #4 above). This is when to recruit everyone to be part of a group.
Just like recruiting Hosts, this begins as a senior pastor "ask." If you want to involve the largest number of unconnected people, you need the influence of the most influential person in the church. You need your senior pastor to be the champion calling everyone to be involved.
It should also involve hijacking the promotional bandwidth. That means for these three weekends "joining a group" should be the only thing emphasized. This is not the time to also advertise the Beth Moore Bible Study and the Men's Wild at Heart Retreat. Also not the time to recruit volunteers for children's ministry. The more you can emphasize joining a group while deemphasizing everything else...the greater the response will be.
This window is also the time to leverage all media channels. Website, bulletin/program, announcements, church-wide email, etc. I recommend scheduling two church-wide emails from the senior pastor to all unconnected people in the database highlighting an upcoming opportunity to join a new group (see #7 below). These emails should be sent on the Tuesday following the first and second weekends of the "join a group" phase.
7. Hold an event designed to launch new groups.
There are several small group events that are designed to launch new groups. The Small Group Connection strategy and the GroupLink strategy both do an excellent job of inviting unconnected people to events that form new groups and identify new leaders.
If your church uses a semester small group system currently, consider offering a connection as one of the options in the catalog.
This is also a good opportunity to offer a short-term on-campus option for specific segments of your congregation and crowd (for example, younger couples with preschoolers are more likely to attend when there is childcare).
8. Recruit a set of launch-phase coaches that can help your new HOSTs get off to a great start.
A launch-phase coach is what I call an experienced group leader, recruited to an 8 to 10 week commitment to take a few newbie leaders under their wing. It may lead to a long-term commitment, but it begins with a defined mission: Help a few new group leaders get their group off to a great start.
One of the earliest tasks on the timeline is to identify and recruit enough launch-phase coaches to help your newest group leaders and hosts get off to a great start.
Ideally, launch-phase coaches can handle 5 to 10 HOSTs each (with a 1 to 2 hour a week commitment for the 8 to 10 weeks of the campaign).
9. Provide a last-minute make-up connection for stragglers.
Be sure and add a last-minute make-up connection event/opportunity for unconnected people who want to join a group on the weekend your campaign begins. The least connected people are often the most infrequent attendees. It's very possible they will be just hearing about the campaign on the weekend you begin.
Be sure and add a last-minute make-up connection event/opportunity for unconnected people who want to join a group on the weekend your campaign begins. The least connected people are often the most infrequent attendees. It's very… Click To Tweet
Depending on the number who attend, you may be able to form a single new group or several. It may also be that you can easily add them to the new groups you formed two weeks earlier.
10. Choose a study to do next that is similar in kind to the first study.
If you recruit on the strength of "easy to use" and "just add water," you'll need to help your newest HOSTs choose a study that they have the skills to do. Choosing the right follow-up study and beginning to promote it publicly in about week 3 or 4 of your launching series makes it even easier to sustain a high percentage of the groups you launch! You'll find a lot more on this topic in 5 Keys to Sustaining New Groups.
How to MAXIMIZE Your Church-Wide Campaign - 2020 Update provides everything you need to get everything you need out of your campaign. Newly revised and updated to include the most recent strategic innovations, this mini-course will give you what you need.
P.S. I've written on this topic before, but never quite from this angle (see also How to Sequence a Small Group Launch and How to Develop a Timeline for Your Church-Wide Campaign).
Image by Lachlan Hardy