Breaking: Add This Host Orientation Idea to Your Bag of Tricks

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You know how when you’re watching certain shows on TV they tell you, “Don’t try this at home?”  I think you’re going to want to try what I’m about to tell you.

Now most of you will hear the idea, feel a strong pull to try it right away, and then listen to the other voice that says, “Wait until the beta is over and the after effects are known.”  But some of you will hear it and do it this fall.

If you’ve been along for much of this ride, you know that I love adapting ideas that are beginning to work somewhere else and testing them on our own system here at Parkview.  I tripped across a couple hints of how this could work back when I interviewed Steve Gladen about Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway.


(I regularly post about the latest ground-breaking developments at churches that are working hard to connect more people into groups.  Don’t want to miss the news?  You can sign up for my updates right here.)


A Few Concepts That Make a Change Inevitable:

There are several factors converging that make it obvious that a change is needed:

  • People are busy and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to get new, toe-in-the-water hosts to make time for an orientation.
  • It’s more and more common for people to come from further than 20 minutes away, making meeting times even more difficult to schedule.
  • Mobility is a key to training and leader development.  If you’re not yet providing mobile options for training yet, you will have very little choice in the very near future.

Here is what we’re testing:

  1. We’re still using a series of Host “asks” embedded in our weekend messages in August.
  2. There will still be an insert in the bulletin and those who respond to the invitation to host will be asked to fill out a very simple form (Name, email, phone) and to exchange it at the door for an “orientation packet.” Note: This is a significant change.  Previously, those responding were encouraged to “drop the host sign-up form into the offering at the end of the service,” sent a letter the next day informing them of the orientation schedule, and asked to RSVP for one of several identical 75 minute orientations, conveniently offered after multiple services over several weekends.
  3. At the doors, those interested hosting (or finding out how it works) will be given a packet that includes a DVD with 6 to 8 simple training videos.  They don’t have to be elaborate or academy award winning production values.  (Don’t believe me?  Here is the Saddleback version we were inspired by:  The orientation content will also be available on our website.  The packet will also include an FAQ with a set of very common questions and a form to be completed and turned in at the GroupLife booth in the lobby in exchange for a host kit (with curriculum, a card with a listing of available coaches for each area and affinity, group launching resources and a set of 20 invitations).

It’s such a simple idea.  Not problem-free.  You’ve no doubt already picked up on a few issues that will have problems.  At the same time, there are a number of distinct advantages to the new format:

  1. A  packet at the doors ensures that those who are spur-of-the-moment people will be handed a packet (instead of depending on them to make it to the small group booth in the lobby).
  2. Offering host orientations in a format that can be completed anywhere, anytime, will encourage more people to be willing to do it (Steve Gladen noted more than once in the last year that a larger number completed training online than actually attended the centralized training the Saddleback was offering).
  3. Since the training will also be offered online it will be possible for people completely outside our area to host a group where they live.
(I regularly post about the latest ground-breaking developments at churches that are working hard to connect more people into groups.  Don’t want to miss the news?  You can sign up for my updates right here.)

What do you think?  Got a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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  1. Greg Lee on July 28, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    I really like this idea. Maybe I can get more host’s by bringing the training to them. Its worth the effort! 


  2. Anonymous on July 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    We must move toward mobile and decentralized if we’re serious about giving people first steps.


  3. Elise Minor on August 1, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Mark – awesome ideas… Really feeling the one about the card exchange for a DVD – might have to run with this on both sides of the fence (getting people connected AND getting group leaders)!

  4. Anonymous on August 1, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Thanks Elise! Keep in mind, I recommend running the normal host strategy for several weekends and then, at the very last, use this “even lower bar” to add another 5 to 10% new hosts.