COVID-19 Note: This is one of my most frequently asked questions. And this article, written in 2016 still provides a very accurate answer. However, I took some time this morning to revise and amend my four points to reflect my current thinking (circa COVID-19).
I get questions...a lot of questions.
If I've been asked this once I've been asked a thousand times (or maybe more).
"How often do I need to offer opportunities to join a group?"
Can I give a little background. I'm usually asked this question in response to my assertion that starting new groups is the best way to connect unconnected people and that matchmaking (finding the existing group that best fits the needs of an unconnected person) is one of the 5 stupid things that small group pastors need to stop doing.
See how it gets there? I've just suggested that the best way to connect unconnected people is to start new groups and the obvious dot that begs connecting is how often can I really start new groups?"
How often do I need to offer opportunities to join a group?
First, every church should have a well-designed first step out of the auditorium that runs on a regular basis year-round. The first-step should be designed to provide clear next steps like connecting to a small group, serving, and baptism. How often? It depends on a number of factors (size of your church, number and frequency of first time families, etc.).
COVID-19 Note: Even when online only (and maybe especially while online only), this first step out of the auditorium must be staffed with friendly, welcoming men and women who are naturally inclusive. They need to be the kind of people who easily put the interests of others ahead of their own. Extroversion is not enough. Friendly and others focused are the key traits to look for.
Even when online only (and maybe especially while online only), this first step out of the auditorium must be staffed with friendly, welcoming men and women who are naturally inclusive. They need to be the kind of people who easily put… Click To Tweet
Second, develop an annual grouplife calendar. Think about the year and drop in strategies that will start new groups at the key times of the year. For example:
- a church-wide campaign every fall
- a small group connection in late January/early February
- another small group connection after Easter in years with an early Easter
- a women's and men's book club off of Mother's Day and Father's Day
- a slate of base groups once or twice a year at other times
COVID-19 Note: Isolation and loneliness are also at epidemic levels. Therefore we must embrace two new practices. New short-term starter groups can be formed more frequently (weekly, biweekly, or once a month) depending on the size of your church and your percentage of unconnected people, with as few as 4 to 6 people (much smaller critical mass). And it can easily happen online.
Isolation and loneliness are also at epidemic levels. Therefore we must embrace two new practices. New short-term starter groups can be formed more frequently (weekly, biweekly, or once a month) depending on the size of your church and… Click To Tweet
Third, develop a method of helping unconnected people who just can't wait (until the next opportunity) connect with existing groups that are open to new members. A high-tech solution would be a small group finder (like the one offered by ChurchTeams) or a low-tech solution like a handout with the contact information of the leaders of open groups. Either way, the only groups that should be included are those who are led by leaders who are in line with the direction you are going (connected to a coach, attending your leadership gatherings, updating their information, etc.).
Finally, get comfortable with the fact that it is okay to not offer the on-demand solution expected. Generally speaking, most unconnected people (whether they are brand new to your church or have been infrequent attenders for a long time) don't know what they really need. If you have a well-designed plan they will respond quickly to the next step you offer.
What do you think? Have a question? Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.
Image by Dennis Skley