I am regularly asked for ideas on the best ways to connect more people in groups. Having been working on the answer to this question for over 20 years, you might think I have a pat answer by now.
And you'd be right. I do have a pat answer.
A church-wide campaign is the best way to launch the largest number of new groups. A church-wide campaign is the best way to launch the largest number of new groups. Click To Tweet
A church-wide campaign is the best way to launch the largest number of new groups. And no other strategy even comes close.
But...it's actually not quite that simple. It's a little more complicated than that.
The correct answer to the question is that a well-conceived, well-planned, and well-executed church-wide campaign is the best way to launch the largest number of new groups.
A well-conceived church-wide campaign
What do I mean by a well-conceived church-wide campaign? That's a little easier to explain than to actually pull off.
A well-conceived church-wide campaign is specifically designed or chosen to do the one thing you really, really want to do.
Let's start with an understanding of "the one thing you really, really want to do."
First, a well-conceived church-wide campaign acknowledges from the outset specifically who you hope to connect.
Specifically. Laser targeted. Not broadly or generally. Not all-inclusive. Not wishfully thinking about connecting everyone.
Specifically means the exact kind of person you hope to connect.
Example #1: You might determine that the ideal church-wide campaign for fall 2021 is one that appeals to the community, crowd and outside edge of your congregation. If you choose that kind of person you'll also choose a topic that will appeal to to them (and might not tickle the fancy of the already connected).
Example #2: You might determine that the ideal church-wide campaign for fall 2021 is one that appeals to the inside edge of the congregation, committed and core. If you choose that kind of person you'll choose a topic that will appeal to them (and might not tickle the fancy of unconnected people).
Why would you do either? In determining in advance who you hope to connect, you're acknowledging that you cannot please everyone and you're landing on the specific topic that will help the demographic you choose take the step you hope they'll take.
In Example #1 you're choosing a topic that will appeal to the community, crowd and outside edge of your congregation in hopes that they'll be taking a first step into connection that will lead to more frequent attendance and the next steps that help people begin to follow Jesus.
In Example #2 you're choosing a topic that will appeal to the inside edge of the congregation, committed and core in hopes that they'll take the next steps that lead to greater commitment to Christ and the practices that demonstrate true spiritual maturity (i.e., serving in a gift-based passion-driven ministry role, giving generously, being other-centered, etc.).
Second, a well-conceived church-wide campaign might be designed and developed by you or it might be an off-the-shelf campaign.
It's gotten easier and easier to develop your own campaign when you have the right in-house team or can hire the right people for the project.
At the same time, there is a wide selection of off-the-shelf campaigns that can work very well in most contexts. See also, The Latest on Church-Wide Campaigns and Top 5 Church-Wide Campaigns for 2020.
A well-planned church-wide campaign
A well-planned church-wide campaign begins with the end-in-mind and builds in tailored steps that lead directly to the preferred future.
Well-planned church-wide campaigns aren't last minute, wild-haired ideas. There aren't impromptu work-arounds or bull-headed do-it-anyway moments.
Well-planned church-wide campaigns are calculated, shrewd and uncompromising. Anything and everything that could alter the trajectory is eliminated or deemphasized.
Well-planned church-wide campaigns begin to play out many months in advance. September campaigns are set in motion in the late spring...at the latest. February campaigns are often in play in the late fall.
A well-executed church-wide campaign
Well-executed campaigns are detail oriented to the extreme. They are designed and executed with precision and moment-by-moment vigilance.
Execution is about carrying out the plan...to an exactness that may not be customary in your congregation's experience.
Details that are often shrugged off are evaluated real-time and course corrections are swift.
Communication with all players (staff, existing group leaders, weekend service personnel, congregation) is uncompromising and exactly as planned. To the letter.
For example, all announcements (verbal, bulletin, website, email, etc,) and sermon mentions are often scripted and care is given to specific wording designed to emphasize important elements.
Example #1: In the fall of 2015 we used Saddleback's Transformed: How God Changes You as our campaign. In place of some outdated verbiage, we inserted the following lines to recruit hosts (people who would launch their own group with their own friends):
"If you have a couple friends you'd like to do the Transformed study with, stop off at Groups Central after the service today and pick up a Transformed Starter Kit. We've included everything you need to do the study with a couple friends and we've priced it super affordably."
You need to note a few things:
- The wording was very specific.
- We never referred to "starting a group."
- We made it as friend-oriented as possible: "If you have a couple friends."
- It was intended to seem easy to do.
- We never referred to the price, only "we've priced it super affordably."
This script was used dozens of times over the 8 weeks leading up to the launch of the Transformed series. Any deviation was noted and corrected immediately after the service.
Example #2: An important element of execution in a church-wide campaign is the specific narrowing of focus during the 8 weeks leading up to the launch of the weekend series. Virtually nothing else of significance competed with Transformed in 2015. On the flip side, our 2016 campaign (which was much less successful in every way) our attention slipped and too many additional items made it onto the stage for promotion.
One of my most popular video courses is How to MAXIMIZE Your Church-Wide Campaign (2020 Update). This course will guide you through the process from beginning to end. Find out more right here.