Every system has a distinctive (or several). North Coast's is what I refer to as a semester system (participants sign up for a semester). Another very important distinctive of their system is that most of their groups use a sermon-based study developed to accompany the weekend message.
A very important distinctive of the North Coast system is that they consistently connect more than 80% of their average adult weekend worship attendance in groups. And by consistently I don't mean sometimes or even most of the time. They have consistently exceeded that percentage as long as I can remember.
How have they consistently connected over 80% of their weekend worship adult attendance in groups?
Top 10 Reasons North Coast Has Consistently Connected Over 80%
1. Senior pastor Larry Osborne has consistently championed involvement in a growth group as one of two essential commitments that lead to spiritual growth (the other being a commitment to God and the Bible). By the way, all churches with truly effective small group systems have senior pastors who are champions of the importance of small group participation.
2. The sermon-based aspect of their growth group strategy allows their teaching team to consistently make the case for joining a group as a way to understand and apply the principles they're learning about on the weekend. While this is a benefit I point to during a church-wide campaign (typically six weeks), at North Coast is is virtually a year-round benefit.
3. They've very consistently run their system over many years (I first became aware of their system and strategy in 2003). There may be innovative tweaks from time to time, but attenders at North Coast know what to expect.
4. The semester system offers a consistent set of onramps over the course of the year. New attenders are never more than a couple months from the next onramp.
5. Every semester is promoted aggressively and extensively over a period of weeks. It is very difficult for even the most infrequent attenders to miss the invitation and challenge to join a growth group.
6. The 10 week commitment to a growth group is short enough to feel like a reasonable test-drive (While I prefer a shorter initial commitment, 10 weeks is still a reasonable length of time).
7. Signing up for a 10 week semester also has the upside of a hard stop. While most members reup for the next semester with the same group, if the group turns out to be a poor match for a new member, it is a simple matter to simply not sign up for the next one.
8. They have consistently high quality promotion (see below) that peaks the interest and engages the kind of people they attract and hope to connect.
9. The content for the weekend message series is developed far enough in advance to allow the team that creates the growth group study material to produce an excellent discussion guide. This is an important reason behind their system's effectiveness. While many churches like the benefit of deepening their members' understanding and application of the weekend message content, few churches are as disciplined as North Coast at the production of quality material in advance.
10. North Coast provides their group leaders with the resources they need to facilitate a great discussion. In addition to their Leader Notes and Homework Guide, they also produce a weekly Growth Group Leader podcast to further resource their leaders. See their Leader Tools page here.