When Should You Invite Everyone to Join a Church-Wide Campaign Group?

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I get a lot of questions about small group ministry.  Some I just answer in an email (pointing people to a blog post).  Other times the question becomes a blog post.  This is one of those times.

I got a question this week from Bill about how to connect people to a group who don’t want to host a group?  Great question.  Important question.  First…let me set it up.

In the lead article in my newsletter earlier this week I referred to the origins of the HOST strategy (I send out an e-newsletter twice a month that includes some unique content not found on my blog).   Pretty crazy idea, really, that you can just ask people who have a HEART for unconnected people, who would be willing to OPEN up their homes for six weeks, SERVE a few refreshments, and TELL a few friends…to be a HOST (see the acrostic?).

I’m with you.  I thought it was crazy when my friend Brett first told me about it.  But…it works and works big time if you do it the right way.  I’ve written extensively about the HOST strategy.  If you want more you can click here.

But Bill’s asking a very important question.  Remember, the way the HOST strategy works is that you spend several weeks prior to the church-wide campaign (think 40 Days of Purpose) recruiting HOSTs and training them.  But to Bill’s point, when’s the right time to start inviting everyone to join a group?  Because you want everyone to be part of a group when you’re doing a church-wide campaign.  Right?

Can I let you in on a secret?  Here it is.  The moment you start talking about being in a group…you’ve gotten your last HOST.  That might be a slight overstatement…but it’s only slight.  As soon as you make it possible for people to join a group…instead of HOST it…you’ve gotten your last host.

So when should you invite everyone to join a church-wide campaign group?  At the last minute…or nearly.  Here’s a really brief overview of how I do it:

  1. Set up your launch to begin asking for hosts at least 5 to 8 weeks prior to the kickoff.  You want to make the ask at least 2 or 3 weekends before you even mention being in a group.
  2. Hold HOST orientations at least 2 weekends in order to get as many hosts to attend.  Especially if you’re a web-friendly church and you’re using a small group finder…you can use attending the orientation as a way to make sure you’re only listing groups on the web that really are going to meet.
  3. Two Sundays before the launch (and after most of your hosts have attended an orientation) begin challenging everyone to be in a group.  Make sure you have a well staffed table or booth in the lobby that helps everyone who walks up find a group.  The larger your congregation the more problematic it becomes to use a sign-up sheet.  The match-making process is taxing.  Better to let members choose a group and stay out of the middle.
  4. The next day, send out a church-wide email with a link into your small group finder or a dedicated web page with a list of your host groups.

How do you connect people who don’t want to host to a group?  At the last minute.  With several hooks.  Here are a few articles I picked out that explain in more detail:

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  1. Beth Haley on August 11, 2010 at 10:28 am

    We are just now in the midst of this! We are getting ready to do the “One Month to Live” challenge church-wide and started registration and recruitment of HOSTs at the same time. We did this based on their recommendation/timeline but we are thinking that we should have worried first about HOSTs then member registration! Thanks for your post!

  2. Mark Howell on August 11, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Beth, thanks for jumping in! Depending on when your campaign begins…I’d still suggest backing off of recruiting members until you’ve really exhausted your efforts at recruiting hosts.