Of all the things that a church can do to expand the Kingdom, put more of its members into leadership, and connect more people to Bible study and ministry; starting new groups has got to be the most effective! I have traveled across the state of Oklahoma for the past six weeks and met with pastors from 20 associations. Even though almost all of these leaders recognize the need to start new groups, very few of the churches represented have started at least one new group this year.
As I have listened at these sessions, one of the things I have learned is that there seems to be a perception that there are only one or two ways to start a new group. In fact, there are at least five ways to start a new group!
So this week on the blog, we are going to focus on starting new groups. I am going to give an overview of the five ways to start a new group in today’s post. Then, on each of the next four days I will drill down into the three best strategies to start a new group and also share some insights I have been learning lately about starting new groups.
Are you a pastor of a smaller attendance church? Let me encourage you! If your church has an average attendance of 50 or less, then you should consider starting one or two new groups every 3-5 years. I realize that in churches that have three or four Sunday School classes, starting a new group every year would be 25% growth every year. For most of us, that is not a realistic expectation, even in a mega-church.
Here are my top five methods of starting a new group…
Divide and Conquer
Although this method of starting a new group is probably the one many lay people think about when someone mentions “new group”, it is absolutely my least favorite method. People just don’t like being treated this way. The “Divide and Conquer” method means that you divide or split groups. Really, the only way this works is if there is a large age span in the group (like 20+ years) and it just makes sense to form a younger group and an older group.
If you have enlisted a new group leader (teacher) that does not have a group of people to start the new group with, then a paper class is a good option. Many churches have lots of members sitting on the sidelines. Some of these members, for one reason or another, are too embarrassed to go to an existing group. But a new group means a fresh start. If the new leader will make enough phone calls and contact enough people, he or she will be able to start a new group in this manner.
An effective corollary to the Paper Class is to simply start a new group from scratch! We started two new groups in our church yesterday. One of them was a new young adult group. They had eight people show up and five of them are unchurched. The leader simply invited some of his friends to help him start the group.
More effective than the previous two methods of starting new groups is to multiply an existing group by training an apprentice leader from within the group. The group leader intentionally equips the apprentice so that the apprentice knows such basics as: how to prepare and present a Bible study; how to minister to people in the group; how lead a person to Christ, etc. When the apprentice is ready, the leader of the group announces that they are starting a new group and that the apprentice is going to be the new group leader. A launch date is set for the new group. Generally, several people from the existing group (who may be friends with the apprentice or just want a new experience) will leave to help start the new group. We will talk in more detail tomorrow (Tuesday) about starting a group through multiplication.
Yesterday, I started a Connections Group at FBC-Moore, where I am serving as interim education minister. In a Connections Group, people are invited to a short (6 week) class. The intention is to help the people in the Connections Group make some relationships and then spin off a new group or two out of the short-term class. Our first group meeting was a huge success! I’ll be sharing more of what I did to start this group on Wednesday, but I believe that this kind of group start will work for almost any church.
If your church needs or wants to start a lot of new groups in a hurry, then you need to do a campaign that focuses on new groups. A campaign that focuses on starting new groups is the most effective way to do this because it aligns the entire church with the goal. For a short sprint (about 6-7 weeks), the church sets its sites on starting as many new groups as possible. I’ll explain how a campaign works on Thursday.
Leave a comment today…
I will have a drawing from the comments today for a Read the Bible for Life leader kit (value: $100).
Tune in tomorrow, when we will go into more detail on starting a multiplication group.
And be sure to check back every day this week as we feature New Groups Week on the blog.