No matter how many apprentices you've recruited and trained, you're not starting new groups fast enough to keep up with the number of small group sign-ups.
No matter that you even launched a record number of groups with your church-wide campaign, you're not sustaining enough of them to keep up with your church's attendance growth.
Know the feeling? I call it the "Catch a Moving Train" Scenario. All you know is that it feels like you're on the train station platform watching the train roar by and disappear into the distance. And as it does, in the back of your mind you're realizing that starting a few new groups will never catch that train. Or how about this one: birthing new groups will never catch the train at the rate you're reproducing.
Here's my favorite. You've just recalculated how many adults are actually attending your church and realized that you don't really have 50% in groups...you've got 25% (read Clue #1 When Designing Your Small Group System for more on recalculating). Everything you've done over the last 24 months has really moved you from 18% to 25% and meanwhile average adult attendance grew by 10% over those two years.
Moving train. Roaring by. Disappearing into the distance.
How to Catch a Moving Train
It's easier to tell you why you'll never catch the train (see above). The reality though, is that the results you're currently getting from the strategies you're using are not a fluke or an anomaly. They are the result of the design. And...tweaking what you are doing will not significantly change the outcome. Better to acknowledge you're using the wrong strategies...if you want to catch the train.
The results you're currently getting from the strategies you're using are not a fluke or an anomaly. They are the result of the design. And...tweaking what you are doing will not significantly change the outcome. Better to acknowledge… Click To Tweet
There are two churches that have caught the train. Willow Creek and Saddleback.
- Willow Creek began a decade-long attempt to catch the train in 1991. Switching to an adaptation of Carl George's Meta Church model, they assembled a staff team that have since become many of the most recognized grouplife names (Bill Donahue, Brett Eastman, John Burke, etc.). Retooling from a intensive system that took members through a two-year process, Willow built one of the best examples of Meta Church model and in 2002 announced that they had more adults in groups than they did at their weekend services. Two important items to note: (1) it was a decade long effort and (2) it was a photo finish moment that they have not sustained.
- Saddleback, much like Willow, switched strategies in 1997 with the arrival of Brett Eastman. Adopting the small group connection strategy as the primary way they added new groups, they quickly moved from 70 groups to nearly 800 groups in less than four years. Although the strategy worked well, it was clear that it wasn't working on the scale it needed to in order to catch the train. In the fall of 2002 Saddleback innovated again and introduced the HOST strategy for launching church-wide campaigns (see Exponential Thinking: The Power of Adding a Zero for a little behind the scenes on how Saddleback made the switch). This has become their primary method for launching new groups and in the fall of 2010 they broke the 4500 group threshold with over 130% of their weekend adult attendance in groups. Notes: (1) Saddleback takes a snapshot during their fall campaign when group involvement is at its peak and again later to see where group participation settles out. (2) This model is still being implemented, but there is always the possibility of a next strategic innovation.
Want to catch a moving train? You're going to have to do new things.
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Image by Matthew Black