Do you have things you intend to do...but don't? You know what I mean, right? Things that you know deep down are important but somehow procrastinate, forget or remember too late every time?
I bet you struggle a little with this too. Because I still catch myself from time to time intending to do something and just forgetting (or remembering too late). And there are things I don't do because I put them off until tomorrow.
Now, if you lead a small group ministry long enough, you usually figure out a little bit of a system to overcome or compensate for forgetfulness or procrastination. And I've been doing this long enough that there are some things I've learned to automate (to get done systematically; without requiring me to remember).
Your understanding of what needs to be done coupled with a system to get them done will make it happen.
Here are a few small group ministry practices you should automate (and how I've done this):
First, develop a year-round calendar of connecting strategies and leader development.
This calendar stays remains the same year after year with anticipated adjustments depending on things like next year's Easter date or changes the school district might make in their calendar (when they begin and end and any other built-in long weekends).
We can always make adjustments to take advantage of natural alignment opportunities with message series or other events, and we do this as often as possible, but our team knows the rhythm and rhyme of our calendar and plans accordingly.
Second, develop very detailed timelines and sequences well in advance.
Especially when we're preparing to launch a church-wide campaign, but more and more often when we're planning a large life group connection, we develop a very detailed timeline months in advance.
For example, our next church-wide campaign is scheduled for late February, 2019. The series (40 Days of Prayer) is scheduled to begin on February 23-24. The weekend prior is President's Day weekend, which means our Life Group Connection events will happen on the 10th, 12th, 13th, 14th, and 16th and the event will be promoted in-service on January 26-27, February 2-3 and 9-10. An church-wide email from our senior pastor regarding the life group connections will be sent on Tuesday, January 29th and February 5th.
We'll begin leveraging the "if you've got a couple friends" strategy on January 5-6, and continue on 12-13 and 19-20. and hosting 40 Days of Prayer Central at all campuses on those weekends (distributing host kits).
Third, add coach and leader communication into the year-round calendar and rhythm of the year.
Leaders and coaches do better with great communication. Great communication is timely and informative.
We've learned to begin promoting church-wide campaigns 3 to 4 months in advance. That means our leaders and coaches will need to begin hearing about an upcoming campaign 4 to 5 months in advance. Our normal approach is to host group leader briefings about 4 months in advance between weekend services. Group leader briefings include a short cameo appearance by our senior pastor and enough inspiration and information to help our leaders begin thinking about what's coming.
Fourth, build coach and leader development into the year-round calendar and rhythm of the year.
While this is the fourth item on my list, it is just as important (if not more important) than anything else. It shouldn't be an afterthought, but without automation it often is.
We've learned over and over that it is becoming more and more difficult to hold centralized development and training events. We still hold two centralized development and training events a year, but have learned to see a smaller percentage of leaders participating as a win (i.e., our target might be 50% of all leaders and we would view 35% as a win).
At the same time, we're convinced that developing our coaches, both one-on-one and in their huddles, will build the best capability for leader development (and ultimately for group member development). Our language for this is that whatever we want to happen in the lives of group members, must happen to group leaders first. And that informs how we develop coaches (because coaches will be investing in leaders).
This conviction has shaped the job description for coaches and the expectation that they will gather centrally twice a year and with their affinity huddle three times a year. As you can see, all of that needs to be calendared well in advance and skillfully communicated.