Yesterday's post, Top 10 Reasons North Point Has Connected Over 72,000 in Groups*, prompted me to think about the similarities (and the differences) between North Point system and Saddleback's system. In the midst of that process I thought about North Coast's successful group strategy (consistently over 80% of their adults in groups) as well as a couple other significantly successful churches (i.e., Life.Church and Willow Creek in the 90s).
There are similarities between them. There are also some fairly significant differences.
Can we learn from them? Are there some common threads in the fabric of successful systems?
I think there are.
5 keys to keep in mind when choosing your small group system:
1. Successful small group systems are championed by the senior pastor.
It doesn't matter whether you're looking at Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, Larry Osborne or Craig Groeschel, when it comes to owning the small group champion role, they are very, very similar. As the most influential people in their respective congregations, they own the champion role. They talk about their own group involvement and they regularly challenge everyone to join a small group.
2. Churches with successful small group systems run virtually the same playbook year round and year after year.
This is significant. When you look closely at the churches who are best known for small group ministry success, they have chosen a system and ridden that system for many years. The way the system works is familiar to all but the least frequent attenders. It doesn't change from one year to the next.
See also, 5 Toxic Small Group Ministry Moves.
3. Churches with successful small group systems regularly evaluate the effectiveness of their strategies.
Any and all variables are carefully evaluated and subject to modification. This may sound counter to the second key, but it is actually their commitment to the recognition that results are a product of designs. If you want different results, you must alter the design. Saddleback's HOST strategy was about altering the design. Saddleback's "if you have a couple friends" strategy was developed to alter the design. The addition of North Point's short-term group offering was about altering the design.
See also, Orchestrate and Evaluate Everything.
4. Churches with successful small group systems have a clearly defined engagement pathway.
Small groups are not necessarily the only next step they offer, but the importance of both being in a small group and how to join one is clearly articulated. While the size of the "become and belong" menu is quite different at Saddleback and North Point, it would be impossible to attend either without knowing exactly what to do right now.
5. Successful small group systems have powerful rhythms that connect people in waves.
When you look closely at the systems of churches with successful small group ministries, it is easy to spot the fact that they aren't connecting unconnected people one at a time. Match-making is the exception. The rule is that North Point's GroupLink starts waves of new groups twice a year. Saddleback's annual church-wide campaign starts hundreds of new groups every year. North Coast's semester system offers an easy way to join in three times a year.
Need help choosing the best small group model for your church? How to Choose the Best Small Group Model for Your Church is designed to provide a step by step method of choosing a model that will have the greatest impact. Find out more right here.
Image by Thomas Angermann