In an earlier article (What's the Best Way for People to Sign Up and Commit to a Group?) I made the case for providing year-round opportunities to connect to new groups and recommended matchmaking only as an exception or a last resort.
Still, the natural pull for many of us seems to be toward finding homes for new people in existing groups. And while all of us feel the pressure from existing group leaders ("Could you send us a couple new couples? The Smiths and the Joneses moved away"), the best practice really is to focus on launching new groups and at the same time training existing leaders to learn to "fish for themselves."
I believe doing otherwise is one of the main deterrents to growing the total number of groups and the total number of people in groups. While I'm a fan of offering small group finders (like ChurchTeams), making it possible for unconnected people to get connected 24/7, I have to acknowledge that with few exceptions only very extroverted people confidently use a finder. The rest are very reluctant to show up in a stranger's living room.
And that leads me to this list of the top 5 advantages of new groups:
Top 5 Advantages of New Groups:
First, in a new group, everyone starts off on a level relational playing field.
This is a huge advantage! I can't overemphasize the importance of this point. When you add new people to existing groups, even the best intentioned existing groups, it is extremely rare for a new person to really break through the impermeable membrane and fit in. The longer an existing group has been meeting, the more difficult it becomes. The exceptions to this rule are exactly that: exceptions.
When you add new people to existing groups, even the best intentioned existing groups, it is extremely rare for a new person to really break through the impermeable membrane and fit in. Click To Tweet
Second, roles have yet to be established in a new group.
New groups can begin with fresh outlook. There is no status quo! It's all a new beginning. When you add new members to existing groups, you're requiring them to fit into available roles...as opposed to a custom fit for their interests and capabilities.
Third, new groups come with openings for new leaders.
Yes, new groups require that you figure out how to recruit new leaders (this is where the Small Group Connection and church-wide campaigns come in). Adding new members to existing groups instead of launching new groups stunts the development of new leaders. After all, praying for God to send workers (Matthew 9:37-38) and then limiting opportunities for new workers to engage seems like a dangerous stewardship issue (Matthew 25:14-28).
Fourth, new groups provide greater connecting efficiency.
New groups provide greater connecting efficiency (especially when launched at connection events or as part of a church-wide campaign). Matchmaking is time-consuming, rarely overcomes the difficulties and challenges of fitting new people into existing groups, more often than not leads to frustrated leaders and often results in stalemated small group pastors (as the stack of placement requests grows).
Fifth, new groups have room for everyone to bring a friend.
The first few meetings of every new group almost always include a "who do you know that would have loved being here tonight?" moment. Bringing a friend along for the next meeting is a sign that they already value the group as a good thing! A benefit they want to share. On the other hand...there are few moments more awkward than when the new member of an existing group unexpectedly shows up with a friend!
What do you think? Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.