Here’s How I Lead a Small Group Connection

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me leading a connectionI’m often asked for specifics about how I lead a small group connection. See also, How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection.

Here are two general assumptions:

  • The best laid plans will sometimes need to be set aside. The connection process is something like a quarterback standing at the line of scrimmage, ready to call an audible.
  • Plenty of help from coaches and other support players will help make the event a success. In order for you to lead effectively, you need to be able to delegate certain things.

Here is a moment by moment overview of the event:

  • (6:45 p.m.) A welcome table should be in place staffed by greeters (who might also be coaches) 10 to 15 minutes before the event begins. Name tags and medium point sharpies should be available. Everyone who arrives should put on a name tag (“and we’re preferring real names”)
  • (7:00 p.m.) As the event begins I give a few general instructions: (a) We’re going to be here for about 60 to 75 minutes, (b) for the next few minutes I’m going to ask some questions to see if I can get you sorted out into “groups” around the room.
  • We are currently only launching groups for women, men and couples. This sorts them into clumps around the room: “Show of hands…how many of you are hoping to get connected with a women’s group? Great! Would you all move over to this corner of the room.”  “How many of you are looking for a men’s group? Great. Would all of you guys move over to this corner.” And how many of you are hoping to connect with a couples group? Awesome. You all can move over to this corner.”
  • There will often be a few folks that have hopes of ending up in a coed singles group or a mixed group (of couples and singles). I always want to have someone I can point them to while I move ahead with the next step. The person I send them to will attempt to handle their concern and get them situated in the right clump.
  • (7:10 p.m.) “Now, what I want you to do within your clump is a little different depending on the clump. If you’re looking for a couples’ group, I want you to find another couple you’d like to get to know, introduce yourselves and tell each other how you ended up at Canyon Ridge the first time and what made you come back. If you’re looking for a men’s or women’s group, get in groups of 4, introduce yourselves and tell each other how you ended up at Canyon Ridge the first time and what made you come back.” Note: Sometimes our coaches are quietly guiding certain matches.
  • (7:20 p.m.) “Okay, now, I want you to take your group of 4 and join with another group of 4 within your clump. Once you’ve found another group of 4 you should be in a group of 8 and I want you to introduce yourselves again and answer this question: Have you been in a group before of any kind and what was your experience? Doesn’t matter the type of group. Could have been a small group, a Bible study Fellowship group, a 12 step group, a work group. Have you been in a group before of any kind and what was your experience?” Note: your coaches can help make this happen quicker.
  • (7:35 p.m.) “Okay! Now, if you’re looking for a couples group I want you to take your group of 8 and join up with another group of 8, and pull some chairs into a circle. If you’re in a men’s group or a women’s group, pull some chairs into a circle. Once you’re all seated, I’ve got one more question I want you to answer.” Note: your coaches should be proactively guiding this move.
  • “Ready for the final question? Listen…the first two questions were softball questions. I call this the white knuckle portion of the program because this next question is not a softball question. Before I give you the question, let me set it up. The thing I love about Canyon Ridge is that every time you sit down in the auditorium you are on a row with all kinds of people. There are some folks on your row who have been following Jesus for a long, long time. And on the same row, there are some who really are brand new. They’re just beginning. And then there are some on your row that are actually there against their will. Their spouse said, ‘We’re going and you’re coming with me!’ What I love about Canyon Ridge is that it really is a come as you are kind of church. And the thing is, all of those people are here tonight, too!  In this room are people from every possible spiritual background. And we love that! Note: this disclaimer is very important! It helps ease the tension in the room.
  • Here is the final question: “Briefly answer this question: Where are you on your spiritual journey? Where are you on your spiritual journey?  Now before you answer the question, here are a couple things I want you to keep in mind. First, the word ‘briefly’ is very important! If you each take 5 minutes to answer the question…we’ll all miss tonight’s episode of the Real Housewives. Second, if you’re brand new and still trying to figure things out, say that! If your wife made you come tonight, say that! Alright! Ready? Where are you on your spiritual journey?” Note: you will need to arrive at your own way of saying this. The key is that you want everyone to answer and you want to help them relax.
  • (8:00 p.m.) When everyone is finished answering you can move ahead with choosing leaders. “Okay! Has everyone had a chance to answer the question? Awesome! I hope that was not too painful. Here’s what we’re going to do next. Believe it or not, I’m now going to help you choose leaders from your group. And you’re going to love the way we do it. Believe it or not, I’m actually going to have you point to someone on the count of three!” Note: there is always laughter right here.
  • “But before I have you choose, let me tell you what to look for. The best leader may not be what you think. For example, there might be someone in your circle who has led groups before and they might be the best leader, but they might not. You might have someone in your circle who quoted a few Bible verses and seems to know a lot about the Bible. That’s not necessarily a sign they’d make the best leader. I want to suggest that the best leader is the person that as they shared their spiritual journey you found yourself thinking, ‘I wish I could grow like that.’ Or maybe you thought, ‘I think I could talk with them about my fears or my concerns.’ The best leader is the person you thought might care about you.” Note: what you say here shapes who gets chosen.
  • “Does that help? Okay, now I’m going to teach you how to point! In a minute I’m going to have you each point, on the count of three to the person you’d be willing to follow for this 6 week study. Not yet. Before you choose, keep a few things in mind. First, everyone needs to participate. You cannot abstain! Second, this is not Chicago and you can only vote once! You can only point to one person (I demonstrate by pointing to a different person with each hand). Third, this is not Florida and you can’t change your vote! There is a natural human reaction that causes you to see who the others are pointing to and do this (I point to someone and then shift my hand to someone else). And last, you need to keep pointing until I tell you to put your hand down!” Note: This takes some of the tension out of the room.
  • “Okay, ready to choose? Before we choose leaders, I’m going to pray and I want you to pray with me. Father, tonight we’ve heard a lot of stories from a lot of brave people. Would You through Your Holy Spirit prompt us right now to remember the things that people said that could help us choose a leader. Remind us right now of how we felt at the moment they shared. Guide us Father right now. Give us the wisdom we need to make a good choice.” Note: this prayer will often still the room and add a holy element that is almost tangible.
  • “Alright, ready to choose? Here’s how we’re going to do it. You know the game Paper, Rock, Scissors? (I hit my fist against my palm three times as I say paper, rock, scissors). That what’s we’re going to do. Not yet, but we’re all going to say, ‘One, two, three, point.’  And when you point you’re going to keep pointing until I tell you to put your hands down. Ready? Here we go. One, two, three, point!” Note: Your coaches will help each group figure out which people the group is pointing to. There will almost always be more than one person chosen. 
  • At this point the coaches take over at each circle. They should move systematically, and noticing who the largest number are pointing to should ask, ‘how many of you are pointing to her? How many of you are pointing to Linda? Okay, if you’re pointing to Linda, you can put your hands down.” Now noticing who the next most people are pointing to should say, Okay, if you’re pointing to Susan you can put your hands down.” Note: Once you’ve identified the two or three obvious leaders, you can move on to the next item.
  • The coaches now should say, “Okay, now we need to figure out the night you’re going to meet and where you’re going to meet. And while we’re doing this, I’m going to ask you to each write down your name and info on this roster.” (You’ll pass the roster around the circle on a clipboard). “Is there a night that you cannot meet?” (Start by looking at the leader(s) and asking this question, then ask the group. This will often reveal the remaining best night(s)). “Okay, so it looks like Monday and Tuesday and Friday are out. Can everyone meet Thursday? Great! Now where should we meet?” Note: it is very common for someone in the group to have such a busy schedule they simply cannot meet when the leader can meet. See if you can switch them to another group.
  • Once the group has (1) figured out who the leaders are, (2) where they are going to meet, and (3) completed the roster, the leaders are asked to step over to a brief leaders meeting and the members are dismissed. Note: the coaches need to be proactive right here. It is sometimes difficult to pull leaders away from their group, but they need to move to the leader’s meeting quickly or it will prolong the event for everyone.
  • (8:15 p.m.) Once the leaders are gathered, you can affirm them, distribute the leader packets, connect them with their coach, and dismiss them. I affirm them this way: “How many of you came tonight expecting to be a leader? (there is often a hand or two). How many of you feel like you’ve been tricked? You came expecting to be IN a group and you ended up LEADING a group? (this is usually everyone else). Okay, here’s what you need to know. When you read the Bible, you’ll notice that there are no great stories of people VOLUNTEERING to lead. All of the great stories are about people being CHOSEN to lead. In fact, in the whole Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, there are stories of people VOLUNTEERING to lead. Sometimes people want to say, ‘What about Nehemiah?’ but Nehemiah didn’t volunteer to lead. He was brave and admitted concern for his homeland, but was actually chosen by the king to lead. Every other great story is about someone who was chosen. Moses? Chosen. Gideon? Chosen. The disciples? Chosen. Paul? Chosen. My favorite story is the story about how David was chosen to be the next king of Israel. The prophet Samuel came to Jesse’s house and when he told Jesse he was there to anoint the next king, Jesse did what every good Hebrew dad would do, he brought out his oldest son. And I believe the Holy Spirit whispered to Samuel, ‘It’s not him.’ So Jesse brought out the next oldest, and I believe the Holy Spirit whispered, ‘It’s not him.’ And this went on all the way through until finally Samuel said, ‘Is there anyone else?’ And Jesse said, ‘There’s David, but he’s with the sheep.’ And the Holy Spirit said, ‘It’s David.’ I believe that when we prayed tonight and asked God through His Holy Spirit to help us choose leaders…you were chosen.” Note: affirming the leaders is important.
  • Once I’ve affirmed the leaders, I quickly go over the info in the packets and turn them over to their coaches for a very quick conversation and they are dismissed. Note: the coaches essentially just exchange contact info and arrange a phone call to follow up.

This is how I do it. It’s always fun. It’s always crazy. There is electricity in the room. And God often shows up in unexplainable moments. You can read more about the connection process right here.

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  1. dottenmiller on July 29, 2015 at 7:41 am

    I LOVE** that you share every step that you do so clearly here! Thank you!

  2. markchowell on July 29, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Glad you find it helpful!


  3. Brandon Boyd on July 30, 2015 at 9:30 am

    Great post. Very helpful. What happens if the group just doesn’t pick a leader or picks two? does the coach decide? What happens when you find out that the person chosen to be a leader really shouldn’t be one. How do you make those adjustments?

  4. markchowell on July 30, 2015 at 9:44 am

    These are a couple good questions Brandon!

    Because of the way the connection works, there is never a time when the group doesn’t pick a leader and they almost always choose 2 or more (example: 16 individuals point to who they’d be willing to follow. 9 point to Bob, 5 point to Bill, and 2 point to each other. Bob and Bill are chosen and report to the leaders’ meeting).

    It does happen that someone chosen turns out to have unforeseen issues, but it is quite rare. When it happens, the second choice would usually emerge as leader. In the extremely rare case where the group only chose one leader, the coach would help identify another leader from within the group.

  5. Ken Noble on June 11, 2017 at 9:21 am

    Why don’t you have a mixed singles group?

  6. Mark Howell on June 12, 2017 at 10:42 am

    We have in the past and may in the future…but currently, we’re finding that a mixed singles group is harder to start and sustain. Much easier to start gender specific groups for men and women.