To build a small group ministry in a church with a Sunday School culture, you’ll need to think multiple steps. That means looking beyond the first step to the next and the next after that. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. But…very much like the way a NASCAR driver must learn to think about the turn after the one just ahead, you’ve got to think about the steps after the ones just ahead. Why does a NASCAR driver need to think about the turn after the one just ahead? The simplest answer is that they need to come out of this turn with the next one in mind. The best drivers are always thinking about what’s next.
How does this apply to building a small group ministry in a church with a Sunday School culture? As I often say, “You’re not going from A to Z. You’re going from A to B…on the way to Z. Don’t call where you are ‘Z.’ Call it B and 1/2.”
Here are a few of the pieces you’ll need as you begin to plan your steps:
- Start with a “pilot.” Easter is a great opportunity to start a few “toe-in-the-water groups (Late September/early October or late January/early February are other good times). The key is simply to pick a time when you can promote the opportunity for several weeks. The idea of a pilot is that it gets a few unconnected folks connected and gets you a few great stories to use later.
- As these groups are meeting be sure and capture the best stories of how much it means to both group members and leaders. If possible, capture these stories on video for later use. How to Develop Video That Recruits Members or Leaders tells you how to do this. These stories can be a very powerful tool that will help a next wave respond to a group life invitation.
- Use the video you capture to recruit hosts and members for a fall launch. You’ll find more information about how to integrate a video into your small group ask right here.
- Select a church-wide campaign for your major launch effort. Make it not just for those who aren’t yet connected, but for everyone. Although you can simply let your on-campus groups use the curriculum there, it is almost always more effective to ask everyone to be part of a group that meets in a home for these six weeks. You can assure your classes that although you value what they have in the class, for the purpose of giving everyone the full experience, it will be best if they participate too. And it’s only six weeks. Done right, this can become an annual event. Nothing gives you as much leverage as an alignment that leverages sermon topic and small group discussion. Here’s the script: “In order to get everything possible out of this season in our church, you need to be in a group…that’s using the curriculum…that goes along with what we’re talking about on Sunday.” That is huge.
- Watch for any of your already connected folks (who may be longtime Sunday School members or leaders) who have a memorable experience in a group and choose to stay with it. Their stories often become the best encouragement for others from your core to take a test-drive themselves.
- Select several DVD-driven studies to recommend as follow ups to the launch study. Plan on recommending a best choice for all your newest groups in week 3 or 4 of the launch study.
A two pronged caveat through it all.
- Be careful to talk about group life as a way of doing what we all know is important. Spending time with other believers, building solid relationships, studying the Bible, serving together, You can talk about the benefits without slighting the more traditional approach.
- On a parallel track begin working with your Sunday School leadership to develop small group components there. Learning that leads to practical application. Sharing that leads to authentic life-change. Two-way communication as opposed to a master teacher/listener format. Enhanced out-of-classroom time. Clarifying what a win looks like in every environment will make it easier to genuinely suggest that life-on-life is essential and you can get that more than one way.