Steve Gladen on the Power of HOST Gatherings

Share via:
steve-gladen-e1328876116556I had a great phone call with Steve Gladen (Saddleback’s Pastor of the Small Group Community) last week, thinking that I’d glean enough to turn around and create an overview of the host rally event.  I was right…I got a ton of great ideas…but there was so much good stuff that I decided to post an edited transcript and a link to my recording of the phone call.
Spoiler Alert: Waaay longer post than normal.  My suggestion, read along while you listen to my recording of the phone call.  Here’s the audio: Steve Gladen on the HOST Gathering.
MH: At Saddleback, you always seem to be working to improve the way you do what you do and the church-wide campaign seems to be no exception.  One aspect that I’m really curious about is the post-campaign host rallyWhy hold a rally?
SG: First off I want to say a couple things.  Our language is more of a “host gathering.”  And we really do two different gatherings.
  • First, we do a gathering prior to the launch and we’ll do this with both our existing hosts, to get them familiar with what we’re trying to do and why we’re trying to do it.  We’ll also do one for brand new hosts and give them an opportunity to get their materials first.
  • On the backside we’ll do another event that is for celebration, Rick will love on them a lot,  and also get them new curriculum for what’s going to happen next.

MH: What are the key ingredients of the rally?  It would be good to know things like how long it is? what’s the program like? with as many hosts as you have do you have more than one time? does each site have their own rally? how are the hosts seated? is it a meal? etc.

There are three main ingredients to the gathering.

  • Appreciation: We want to appreciate and honor long time hosts.  We want to have a prayer time for new hosts and celebrate them.  They’re standing and we all applaud them.  Everybody needs appreciation.  It’s the fuel for motivation and taking next steps.  You have appreciation and then you have vision.
  • Vision casting: This is where Rick comes in and plays a big role.  The other beautiful thing is the he’s very scriptable and is the first one to ask what you need said.  How can I help you. This is about vision casting from the senior leader.  And the other major ingredient is recruitment.
  • Recruitment: A lot of times when you think of recruitment you think of just gathering people that you can bring along with you on the journey, which is very, very true.  But also part of recruitment is mentally getting the hosts into that next phase of what we want them to do.

Pre-rally it is clear, bring somebody with you.  Nobody comes alone.  At our last rally for our new hosts we had 100 to 130 of their invitees in the room sign up to lead groups themselves.  We’ll do the same thing on the post-side.

But also recruitment is getting them to take the next step and continue on.  Part of that is having curriculum available, having our bookstore in full operation and they can buy online or onsite.

MH: So there are three main components.  Appreciating and honoring.  You’re casting vision.  And then recruitment is really more than to the next curriculum or what your group is going to do next.  It has to do with what the leader or the host’s next step might be.

SG: We never miss an opportunity to take people from where they’re at to where we want to take them.  A great thing I haven’t talked about yet is that at our rallies we know that everybody is at a different place in their spiritual journey so we will give hosts an opportunity to step across the line of faith.  Because we engage people who aren’t even followers of Christ yet, as long as they have two friends, we don’t advertise their groups, but if they have two friends, we’re going to engage them and let them be a part of our community.  Rick will clearly say, “And if you haven’t stepped across the line of faith, you need to do it.”  We will also have our baptismal ready, for those that want to make a public declaration and share that with everybody that is there that night.  They can have an opportunity after the gathering to get baptized.  (Here’s a sample of this year’s “My Spiritual Next Steps” commitment card)

The net is somewhat wide in that aspect because we’re always trying to say at everyone of our gatherings we’re saying what is the next step?  Because we do this so wide, we keep the funnel wide at the top, and it narrows as it gets through.  We will meet them where they’re at, they come because of the content, but they stay because of the relationship.

MH: When the post-rally happens, and the campaign is over but the group might not have had their celebration yet, how do you help the people that said, “Yes, I will open my home 6 times” take their next step to a group that will continue?  And the role of your leadership pathway?

SG: In all sales, people need to hear things 7 to 9 times, before they make that little aha, that connection, that actual step through.  So the rally is emphasizing what has been emphasized all along. During a campaign, hosts are getting multiple touches:

  1. One is on the DVD itself we have “helps for hosts,” that are always trying to encourage them to their next steps.  So, about two thirds of the way through the campaign, the helps for hosts are saying, “hey be thinking about your group, what could be your next study?” We’re not asking them to decide whether they’re going to continue or not, we’re asking them to think about their next study.
  2. Also, in the weekly tips that either I send out or Rick sends out, we do the same thing.  We’re saying “be thinking what’s that next step you could do with your friends?  what is that you would want to do?  Here are some great curriculums.  If you’re brand new, here are some other ideas.”
  3. We’ll also have our community leaders that are calling through all of our new groups and trying to do three touches throughout the campaign.  On their second touch, they’re saying, “Hey be thinking about what you can do.”

So when they come to the gathering, whether it’s online or at one or our sites, the powerful thing is that they’re getting that same reinforcement only their call to action is a little more prominent because they’ll have the curriculum there, that they can buy right then and there for their group.  We will have a little more of that pastoral push because both myself who will host it and Rick who will be there will be giving that emphasis to it.”

MH: You guys have a vision about how you develop a host into a leader, how do you help them take the next step from a leadership standpoint?  Is there something in the rally that moves them?

SG: You have to know where the escalator is going.  We are clear and precise on where we want to take them on our leadership pathway.  Inside the pathway you’ve got to have a cognitive arm and a relational arm.  For our relational arm there are community leaders that are coming alongside new hosts.  This is about trust and trust takes time.  There’s also the cognitive arm that is our training that we will do with our group leaders.  Inside the DVD curricula there are guardrails that are set up.

What the gatherings do, they give motivation, they give hope, they give inspiration, they give vision.  When you’re in your group you just need that injection of something bigger than you.  We inject fun.  We inject serious moments.  We inject next steps.  We script our rallies so they have a flow.  They help move people along.  We try to orchestrate a next step for every type of host who will be present, whether they’re brand new, maybe need to respond to Christ, be baptized.  Experienced hosts as well, that they would be able to take a next step.

MH: Any lessons that you’ve learned from previous gatherings?

SG: First, people often come to me and say my pastor isn’t on board yet.  If that’s you, just ask your pastor to come by the gathering and say “hi.”  Make it easy for them.  Also, it’s easier for them to edit than create.  Give them 3 things that they could say and let them shape it.  Think crawl, walk, run.

Also, engage people who are better at creating fun than you are.  Have them work on making it fun.  Find people who are great recruiters and talk about how to get more hosts there.  Get decorators involved.  Think through not only the event but what are they going to walk away with.  Make sure you have a commitment card with next steps for your hosts with the different steps for them to take.  If you just have the gathering and no way to respond, you’ve missed a great opportunity.  (Here’s a sample of this year’s “My Spiritual Next Steps” commitment card)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email