Who are you trying to connect? Have you ever slowed down long enough to figure out who's already in and who still needs to be connected? There might not be a more essential next step than this one. In fact, many grouplife point leaders miss this step altogether and are mystified why they're not seeing the results that are happening elsewhere.
John Kotter, a noted authority on organizational change, points out that the inside-outside disconnect "always reduces an organization's sense of urgency (p. 67, A Sense of Urgency)." You may not feel like you're in an urgent situation, but if you've been paying attention to the widening 60% who are unreachable by attractional model you'll be aware that even churches that boast a high percentage of connection aren't really connecting beyond the usual suspects.
I've written about this in other places. For example, Breaking the Mythical 150% Participation Barrier is my response to the Leadership Network article about breaking the 50% participation barrier. My review of Larry Osborne's excellent book, Sticky Church, is my reaction to North Coast's 80% connection track record with the sermon-based model. And my review of Activate, Nelson Searcy's "we'll help you connect 100% of your weekend adult attendance" promise. As impressive as that is, in my opinion, it falls short of the real opportunity. More importantly, it falls far short of the real need.
What's the real opportunity? Connecting beyond the usual suspects is about leveraging the power of belonging first to include friends and family, neighbors and co-workers. But can I tell you something? Until we learn to be preoccupied with the needs and interests of those still on the outside...we'll miss this opportunity to connect beyond the usual suspects.. Until we really pay attention to the fact that unconnected people rarely care about "between the lines understandings of Paul's letters"...or "working our way through the Book of Acts," we'll miss out on any chance of connecting them to a life-change opportunity.
What's involved in becoming preoccupied with the needs and interests of outsiders? It's thinking about things like the easy/hard continuum. It's asking the right questions of the right people. It's developing the ability to say "no" to studies that assume prior knowledge or a special vocabulary.
Yesterday I talked about the importance of a bias toward new groups. Today...if you want to connect people at crowd's edge, you better become preoccupied with the needs and interests of the right people. In my next article I talk about developing an openness to new ideas.
What do you think? See how a bias toward new groups could make a difference in your small group ministry? Want to argue? Got a question? You can click here to jump into the conversation.