The X Factor Is Near the Edge

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If you've been along for the conversation here you know that one of my core assumptions is that there is no problem free.  That is a huge help in the development of strategy.  It frees you from the pursuit of problem-free and it frees you to choose the most effective.  Very freeing.

Another very important assumption here gets a lot less mention, but is one you need to move to if you're going to build a grouplife system that has exponential capabilities.  Here it is:

"The x factor is found near the edge of the crowd--not the core (AKA the usual suspects)."

What Does It Mean?

The simplest way of explaining the concept is with the diagram.  If you think about most churches, there are way more people involved than are there on most weekends.  For example, if you're averaging 700 on the weekend you know it's not the same 700 people.  If you look at the database, you'll find that there are really 900 to 1000 people who attend over the course of a quarter.  That's the explanation for Easter or Christmas Eve numbers.  Those are two times a year when almost everyone attends.

This is significant because there are several kinds of people within the average attendance.  There are 3 to 4 times a month people.  There are a couple times a month people.  And there are a few times a year people.  You may have never spent any time thinking about this...but there is a key in it that you need to pay attention to.  Here it is:

The people who are less frequent in their attendance have more connections to the outside than they do to the inside.

Think about that for a moment.  If you asked the folks who attend 3 to 4 times a month, "Who are your 10 best friends (in the area you live)?" you'll discover that 8 or 9 or sometimes even all 10 are also 3 to 4 times a month people.  I represent them on the diagram as the square.  I actually say that the square represents the people that are very connected at your church.  There are two factors that are involved in their connection:  First, they're so connected that if anything happened to them or a member of their family, someone else would find out about it within 24 to 48 hours without anyone ever calling the church.  And, second, there's someone building into them from a spiritual standpoint...and it's not the pastor.  They're in a small group or they're on a serving team and someone is paying attention to them from a spiritual standpoint; noticing when they're growing and challenging them when they're not.  I call these people "the usual suspects."

Think back to where their friends are.  Remember, their best friends are also inside the square.  That's really, really big and important for you to understand.  Now, think about the folks closer to the edge of the circle 9what Saddleback refers to as "the crowd."  If you ask them who their friends are, do you know what they'll tell you?  Their best friends are almost always outside of the circle.  They've never been to your church.

Here's the question.  If you're going to recruit people to host a group and invite their friends...who would be the most productive person to recruit?  If you said the people in the core, you haven't been paying attention.  Remember, if you're going to ask the host to invite their friends, most of the friends of the folks in the core are already connected.  If you want to connect people who aren't already connected, you're going to have to recruit people who still have friends who aren't already connected.


There's a lot more on this that we could think about today.  A lot more.  For today, just wrestle with the fact that the x factor is found near the edge of the crowd--not in the core (AKA "the usual suspects.")

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  1. Mike Wagner on June 1, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    You’re right Mark — there is a lot more to think about.

    But you’ve loaded my guns with this much.

    Wish I had known you when I was pastoring; I’d been wiser!

    Keep creating…and thinking,

  2. Mark Howell on June 1, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Thanks Mike! Always appreciate it when you drop by and comment. Looking forward to one day meeting you in person!


  3. Phil Petty on April 13, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Thanks Mark,
    I guess one day all this stuff will be a walk in the park as it seems like we are re tracing our steps to something that Jesus did very well with the disciples? We have a format where we get into the presence of the Holy Spirit and then he picks on people who we often find ourselves praying for accompanied by words of knowledge, and problem solving etc. So far we have only had one none Christian man along to a meeting however he seemed to enjoy it. Do you know of any groups reaching a lot of none Christians in the States?


  4. Anonymous on April 13, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Thanks for jumping in here, Phil. There are many group systems in the U.S. (as well as several that I’m aware of in the U.K.) that are regularly including non-Christian family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. They tend to be using crowd friendly topics (i.e., church-wide campaigns like 40 Days of Purpose or Love at Last Sight) that translate well cross-culturally. Groups that have settled into meeting the needs of believers often have a more difficult time including non-Christians.


  5. Phil Petty on April 14, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Mark Thanks loads for this advice, I will check 40 days of purpose and love at last sight.
    Some friends and I want to start a network of groups based very much in the fringes of Church hoping to attract prodigals from outside the Church and Prodigal family who are struggling. We also want to promote a format and anointing that can be franchised to other Churches that are interested. We have been running a group for men for a couple of years which has an anointing that has left us feeling activated in our Faith and all of us want to pass it on to others. We are building a website and have called the project ‘Activate Your Spiritual Self’. I guess our next step is becoming more attractive to unbelievers, do you know of any resources which could help with this? Do we need to have different types of meetings to address discipleship needs in the group?



  6. Anonymous on April 14, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    The key is leveraging existing relationships (family, friends, neighbors, co-workers) as opposed to “attracting” new relationships. The right study on a topic that appeals cross-culturally (Christians and non-Christians), like Love at Last Sight, provides an easy invitation to join us for this discussion. On the subject of the discipleship needs…you might take a look at my interview with 5 part interview with Mike Breen

  7. Solid Rock Church on March 21, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    I replied to this on twitter. It makes me thank of all the people I call friends. They are mostly all Christians. If “the core” only hangs out with “the core” we have no way of reaching the Xfactor. Jesus hung out with publicans and sinners. In today’s age, Christians seem afraid to hang out with sinners.

    In our church we do a lot of street evangelism, but I am learning that unless we integrate friendship evangelism, we are missing a large portion of the population that won’t come to church or a church-hosted event just because you gave them an invite.

  8. markchowell on March 21, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    That is the central issue, isn’t it? Many long-time Christians have few or no friends on the outside. Best thing any of us can do is to begin working with our core and congregation to simply invest in their neighbors and co-workers.