What’s Next in GroupLife?

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Ever wonder what’s next in grouplife?  Have any ideas?

In 1996 I heard about an experiment at Willow Creek called a Taste of Community.  Knowing only a little bit about it, I held a connecting event and sorted attendees out by the style of music they listened to.  Seriously.  It actually worked.

I remember first hearing about something at Saddleback called a small group connection.  You should’ve seen the look on my boss’s face at Fellowship of The Woodlands when I wanted to try it.

“Let me get this straight.  You get a bunch of people to come to an event.  You group them by affinity…around tables…and they have a conversation…and at the end of the event they choose their own leader by pointing on the count of three?  Right….”

Over the next 15 months we connected over 1500 people into 120 new groups using the connection.  Amazing, huh?

I remember arguing with Brett Eastman about the host strategy.  “How could it possibly be better than the small group connection?”  Of course, when we launched over 250 new small groups in the fall of 2002 with a home grown campaign called Once Upon a Town, it was like scales fell off my eyes and I could see.

Ever had that happen?

What do you think is next?  Do you think there’s something on the horizon that will break grouplife wide open?

I love the Thomas Friedman line that says,

“Big breakthroughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately necessary.”

Isn’t that a great line?  There’s so much that is desperately necessary.  How will we reach the 60% that are unreachable with the attractional model?  What must happen in order for us to connect people no one else is connecting?

Any ideas about what is suddenly possible?

What do you think?  Have an idea?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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  1. Steve on August 16, 2012 at 7:50 am

    I heard Bill Hybels comment at the Leadership Summit last Thursday that they are looking at forming groups from where people sit in worship on Sundays.  I have not heard of that particular method before-have you?

  2. markchowell on August 16, 2012 at 7:53 am

    That’s a perfect example Steve!  I’m hoping to post about that next week!


  3. Wayne Hedlund on August 17, 2012 at 11:28 am

    I’ve never heard of this particular way of splitting people up. What a great idea! And fun too. I think people probably just loved that you were doing something new, different and fresh. I imagine you had a lot of zeal in the room!

    I think motivating people to get connected with others they DON’T know is perhaps one of the biggest challenges faced by churches today.

  4. markchowell on August 17, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Thanks for jumping in here, Wayne!

  5. Rick Howerton on August 17, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    I think we’re about to see churches head down one of two paths, two very different paths…

    1. Due to biblical illiteracy and lack of doctrinal understanding, it seems many churches are giving heavy attention to making disciples. Some studies that are being used are full of information that is to be stated prior to starting a discussion and particular doctrinal leanings are being taught to group members. This is a small group of churches at present but the numbers seem to be growing.

    2. At the same time… More and more senior pastors are expecting their small group pastor to engage very high percentages of people in groups. The senior leadership is judging the work of the small group pastor on what percentage of people are in groups rather than what is actually occurring when groups meet. In these settings the goal is simply to make sure people have a community that they are attached to. So… in these churches anyone can lead, any experience that keeps people coming to church gatherings is okay, and doing whatever it takes to get people signed up is blessed.

    Either can make a huge difference in lives. These are just trends that I’m seeing that may become the future of groups.


  6. markchowell on August 17, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Well said, Rick! And I agree with you that these are the two main ideas. Thanks for jumping in!