Take Advantage of This Short-Term On-Campus Strategy

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If you’ve been paying attention you know that we tripped across the essence of a very intriguing idea at the 2012 re:group conference.  North Point was testing a short-term group experience (6 to 8 weeks) designed to be an easier first step into community (without the 12 to 18 month commitment required of the groups that form out of GroupLink).  See also, Breaking: North Point Increases GroupLife Participation by Adding an Easier Next Step.

The more we thought about the idea the better it looked and in early 2013 we took our first run at a connecting strategy that is now in it’s 5th iteration.  We call them Base Groups and I think it’s something you might find pretty helpful.

Here’s the basic idea: Two or three times a year we offer a menu of short-term on-campus studies that are designed to lead to an off-campus small group.  We offer these studies at the end of January and also in October (scheduled to end before Thanksgiving).  Depending on Easter’s date, we may offer a post-Easter opportunity.

Important assumptions and details to understand about the strategy:

  • We believe many adults in our auditorium will not connect if the first step is a stranger’s living room.  See also, How to Calm an Unconnected Persons Second Greatest Fear.
  • We’ve chosen 4 studies we believe will grab the interest of unconnected adults in the auditorium. The same studies are offered 2 or 3 times a year.  We offer the same studies because we don’t want to create a destination.  We want to produce off-campus groups.  See also, A Smörgåsbord of Destinations vs Sequential and Tailored Next Steps.
  • We’ve re-allocated on-campus space to prioritize short studies that lead to off-campus groups.  The best rooms and the best times are reserved for Base Groups.
  • Attendees are seated at the same tables each week for discussion. We separate adults who are already in a group from those who are not in a group (this is discovered in the registration process).  This eliminates the disappointment that happens when not everyone wants to continue meeting.
  • Natural leaders emerge at every table.
  • In week 3 or 4 we promote the possibility the groups continuing to meet, doing a follow-up study off-campus.

This strategy has developed into an additional way we can connect people several times a year.

What do you think?  Have a question?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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  1. brent on September 10, 2014 at 6:00 am

    The thorny question… How are participants children dealt with? Child care or not?

  2. markchowell on September 10, 2014 at 6:04 am

    Hi Brent…thanks for jumping in. We offer childcare for Base Groups. There is a registration fee (to cover the cost of the study guide and snacks). There is a separate charge for childcare. When a Base Group decides to continue meeting and move off-campus, we include a handout called “What to Do about Childcare” in the leader’s packet: http://www.markhowelllive.com/what-to-do-about-childcare/

  3. brent on September 10, 2014 at 6:06 am

    What does that handout include?

  4. markchowell on September 10, 2014 at 6:07 am

    It’s all in the article I just referred to.

  5. Stephanie Sanders on September 10, 2014 at 8:19 am

    What are the 4 study choices that you have seen that grabs the attention of unconnected adults?

  6. markchowell on September 10, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Great questions, Stephanie. We’re currently using Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, Seven Questions that Rattle in the Minds of Most Men, Frazzled Female, and this time we’re trying out Life’s Healing Choices.

  7. Chris on November 4, 2015 at 6:15 am

    This is great Mark, thank you. I love your idea using the same material to ensure groups don’t become a destination. May I ask what process do you use for forming the initial individual campus groups? Do you organize by geography? Age range? Some other sorting factor?


  8. markchowell on November 4, 2015 at 8:44 am

    We really only do one thing as we form the table groups. We ask everyone who registers whether they are already in a small group. If they are already in a group, they get seated at tables with other people who are already in a group. Those who aren’t currently in groups, we seat at tables together. That way, when we get to week 4 and begin talking about the possibility of the table group continuing off campus, the people who are already in a group don’t spoil it for those who need to be.

    If you had a large enough turnout, you could certainly maitre d people to tables by life stage or geography.

    Great question!