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Yesterday I shared three reasons why many people come to worship every Sunday but choose not to participate in the church’s small group strategy (read part 1 here). I then introduced the idea of a Connection Group that will help alleviate these three fears of small group participation.
So how does a church launch a Connection Group? Here are some essentials:
- Promote the Connection Group from the pulpit for 3 Sundays before starting. Many people do not attend every week and this gives them a chance to register.
- Place registration cards in the worship bulletin.
- Select a “high-profile” person to lead the Connection Group and have them make the pulpit announcements.
- Email and call everyone that returns a registration card before the Connection Group begins.
The Group Experience
- Select a “reproducible” 6 week series. I prefer a DVD series and my favorite is John Ortberg’s The Life You’ve Always Wanted. The title needs to be a little catchy. More on the importance of the curriculum being reproducible later.
- Use nametags, and if possible, seat people at round tables that will serve about 5-7 people each.
- Greet people at the door when they arrive.
- Ask established adult Sunday School classes to provide a “brunch” the first 2-3 weeks that the Connection Group meets.
- Be sure to have enough books on hand. Either sell or give the books away at the first meeting.
- After introductions, have an icebreaker each week to help people get to know each other.
- Play the DVD
- Following the DVD, have group discussion around the tables.
- Have them share what they learned at the their table with everyone.
- Conclude with prayer requests (either at tables or as a group).
Planning for the future
- During the first meeting, ask for volunteers to serve as greeters at the door to welcome everyone.
- Table facilitators. Originally, I’ve asked for volunteers from other established groups to serve as table facilitators and gotten pathetic responses. Instead, when the Connection Group begins – observe who rises to the top to lead at each table and ask them to become official table facilitators; or ask the people at the table itself to choose their own leader.
- After the first 2-3 weeks, begin asking for volunteers to bring the brunch each week.
- Over the course of six weeks, gradually move the responsibility of the group meetings from the leader to the group so that by the last meeting, the group is self-supporting.
- The ultimate strategy is to turn this 6 week group into an ongoing Sunday School group or small group.
- It is vital that the curriculum be reproducible. A 45 minute sermon by the pastor or leader is not a teaching style that is reproducible. This is the main reason why I encourage you to use a 6 week DVD series – it is a reproducible model. Almost anyone can turn on a monitor, push “play”, and then lead a discussion of 5-6 questions.
- The goal is for the leader to lead the group for six weeks, and then hand off the group to one or more of the leaders who have emerged from within the group (usually as table group leaders). The members that want to keep meeting form an ongoing Sunday School or small group.
- Leaders of the new group(s) will model their leadership from the style of the leader of the Connection Group (so do it right!).
- Using this model, a pastor could effectively start one or two new groups a year.
Another idea is to start a Connection Group immediately after a Discovery Class or New Members class so that these people are quickly directed into group life.