FAQ: I Need Some Help with Small Group Strategy!

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FAQ largeI get a lot of questions.  A LOT of questions.  And I love it!  Sometimes I can just point to a blog post.  Other times I’ll answer with an email.

Here’s an email from a reader with some questions I thought you might be helped by my answer:

I read several books before starting and adopted the Sermon Based Strategy and also allowed members to sign up for a 12 week period (probably read Sticky Church).

At the beginning, we would break up the small groups after 12 weeks and we did this for a while but I realized that sometimes momentum drops in getting back together afterwards.

Now that we don’t break up, people seem to be tired that we didn’t break up after 12 weeks.And i’ve been asked when we are going to break up.

What is your opinion about breaking up and regrouping after 12 weeks?

There are several great questions!  How would you answer?  Here’s how I would answer:

You’re describing the strategy used by North Coast and described in Sticky Church.  It’s a sermon-based strategy that uses the semester approach.

The semester strategy can work, but it is a lot of work.  It does provide multiple onramps per year.  Advocates of the strategy also like the fact that it provides easier off-ramps for people that don’t like the group they ended up in.  I don’t really see either of those as advantages that are exclusive to the semester strategy.  See also,  An Analysis of the Free Market Strategy.

The sermon-based strategy has its own advantages and disadvantages.  It does enjoy the year-round benefit of one conversation (studying and talking about the weekend sermon).  The strategy also allows a little more certainty about what is being discussed in groups.  I actually think there are disadvantages that need to be considered.  For example, unless the weekend sermon is very attractive to outsiders, it will be extremely difficult to invite neighbors and friends to join the group.  In addition, limiting available study topics also limits who will say “yes” to leading a group or joining a group.  See also, My Analysis of the Sermon Based Strategy.

My preference is to launch groups with an annual church-wide campaign and connecting events that meet weekly and stay together.  In reality they meet 3 times a month on average (often will miss a week here or there for holidays or something).  See also, Church-Wide Campaign-Driven Small Groups and How to Launch Groups with a Small Group Connection.

I’ve found that the average lifespan of a group is about 18 to 24 months.  Also, it’s not uncommon for groups to last longer but be so comfortable with each other that life-change ceases to take place.  See also, Can You Tell If Your Small Group Might Be a Zombie?

For this reason, I like to encourage group leaders to rotate facilitators and meet in more than one home.  I also train them to share the load, asking other group members to bring snacks, manage the prayer list, etc.  See also, Skill Training: Priming the Leadership Pump.
Once a year we do a church-wide campaign (like 40 days of Purpose) and as we prepare for the campaign I ask my pastor to challenge the congregation to consider hosting a small group and invite their own friends to join their group for the study.  When this is done well, it actually causes some group members to leave their existing groups in order to “host” a group of their own.  See also, My Top Three Ninja Ideas for Recruiting Small Group Leaders.
What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.
Image by Photo Steve
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