I had a breakthrough moment recently. A married couple asked to have coffee with me, and while we were talking they shared that they had both been Christians less than 3 months… and they wanted to start a new group! I was impressed and thrilled. As we talked about their new group, I told them that I would get a list of “prospects” from the church database along with some names of church members that currently were not attending a group. Their response stunned me, “That’s okay, we’ve already got 8 or 9 friends that have told us that if we started a new group that they would attend.” That’s 8 or 9 friends that are not church members! In fact, they started their new group a week ago with 7 people present for the first meeting.
It is an accepted belief that the longer a person is a Christian and the longer that they attend church – the fewer lost people they interact with personally. So what does this have to do with starting new groups? Just about everything!
Take a look at the two circles to the left. The inner circle of the image represents people in your church that are highly connected. These are the people that seem to know everyone, attend many of the church’s activities and events, and often know who is sick or in the hospital before the church staff does. IMPORTANT: These are also the people that we tend to select as leaders of new groups. They are solid, sound, and dependable and will often do just about anything the church asks them to do. These people represent the church’s core.
The outer circle represents those people who consider the church to be “their” church, but they are not part of the church’s core group of leaders and members. This is a much larger percentage of the church’s membership. Pareto’s Rule is in effect here: 20% of the church members are in the core; 80% are not in the core.
So which group knows the most lost people? The answer is fairly obvious… the outer circle, the 80% circle! When looking for people to start new groups, we have a choice: do we enlist people from the core that we trust to start a new group, or do we look for someone from the outer core that knows more lost people.
A person from the inner circle is going to invite people that they know to join their new group. The issue is that virtually all of their closest friends are also in the core! The further toward the outer fringe we look for new group leaders, the more likely it is that some of their closest friends are lost people, and more likely to join the new group. It is riskier, but a little supervision or coaching along the way will help a lot!
It’s obvious that the more groups you start from the “fringe” of church members the more unchurched and lost people that you are going to reach. When it comes to a new group, leaders are naturally going to invite their friends to join it. The more friends that get invited that are lost, the more evangelistic the group is likely to be.
Also, a “hat tip” to Mark Howell. After my coffee with my new group leaders, I stumbled across this post on Mark’s blog that really helped me understand what happened a few weeks ago when I had coffee with my new group leaders! He does a much better job explaining it than I do!