FAQ: Can You Recommend an 8 to 12 Week Study for a Campaign?

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FAQI get questions. I get a lot of questions. About all kinds of small group ministry topics.

Here’s a good one that I got last week:

I notice the trend for small group campaigns is 6 weeks. Can you recommend 2-3 favorite studies of yours that are 8-12 weeks?

When I asked why they were looking for a longer campaign, my reader said:

Longer campaigns have helped align small groups at our church and create more of a groups culture. I’d like to keep the momentum going.

As a follow-up question, I asked what their percentage connected was. Here’s his answer:

We still have lots of unconnected people at church and I would love to know if study length is a barrier for them.

The key ideas I wanted my reader to wrestle with were these:

Percentage connected is a good measure of who you’ve actually connected. At the risk of oversimplifying, if your percentage connected is stuck over several years, there is a good chance you are simply satisfying the needs and interests of the usual supects. Breaking through percentage connected barriers requires choosing topics/studies that appeal to unconnected people. See also, Three Keys to Connecting Beyond the Core and Committed.

The topics/studies you choose determine two very important things:

  1. Who will say yes to joining a group
  2. Who will say yes to hosting a group and inviting their friends.

Topics/studies from the hard end of the easy/hard continuum will only appeal to the already connected. Topics/studies from the easy end of the easy/hard continuum will appeal to unconnected people. See also, Warning: Your Topic Determines Two Huge Outcomes.

The length of the study is another very important factor.

  • 6 weeks is just about perfect. Short enough to persuade an unconnected person (or someone willing to open up their home and invite a few of their friends) to put their toe in the water and try a group. Pick the right follow up study and at week 4 of the launching study it is easy to encourage new hosts and new members to continue something they are beginning to look forward to.
  • Shorter than 6 doesn’t allow enough time for the connective tissue of new relationships to begin to form (and it needs to reach a certain level of anticipation and satisfaction).
  • Longer than 6 weeks sounds more and more like a lifetime commitment to an unconnected person (or someone considering hosting a group for the campaign).

Longer studies and more challenging topics can be included on your discipleship/curriculum pathway. Existing small groups that have made it into their third study can be coached to choose more challenging and longer studies/topics. Designing a discipleship/curriculum pathway can play an important role in making the kind of disciples you hope to make. See also, Small Group Ministry Myth #4: Leaders and Members Know Best What to Study.

Conclusion: Every church will make their own decision about the topic/study and the length that is appropriate for their campaigns. As a result of extensive personal experience (both in the churches I’ve served and the hundreds of churches I’ve coached and consulted), I make recommendations based on the assumptions listed above.

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  1. Andrew Mason on June 10, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Good stuff Mark! I think 6 weeks is a good length for a campaign too.

    You recently wrote a post listing your recommendations for a church wide campaign. Just an idea, I’d be interested to know if you have 4-5 recommendations for a 4-week follow-up study. I’m looking for video-driven studies (because the campaigns are usually video-driven) that have come out in the last 2 years.

  2. markchowell on June 10, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    Thanks for the suggestion Andrew! Look for that in the next week.