You’ve probably heard of it – 40 Days of Purpose (now called “What on Earth am I Here For?“). This small group campaign was begun ten years ago by Saddleback Church in California and has been used in thousands of churches nationwide. If you have used this campaign or others like it, you probably remember Rick Warren encouraging you to start some new groups. He asks the question, “How many new groups do you think you could start?” Then comes the challenge, “Now add a zero to that number!” So if you’re thinking of starting 1, start 10!
Many churches have the following issues when starting new groups:
- We think too small
- We do not have a deadline to start new groups (or we have a “floating” deadline)
- We usually do not have any accountability
- We do not have a plan
- The church in general does not know our small group strategy
A campaign like 40 Days helps get us on track in these areas. A campaign focuses the entire church for a season (and six weeks is about right) on starting as many new groups as possible AND inviting friends and neighbors that are not involved in church to join a small group. In other words, what we would like for our church to do all the time – we emphasize for six weeks!
I bump into people sometimes who remember A Million More in ’54 enrollment campaign that Southern Baptists did in 1954. It was tremendously successful in enrolling unchurched and lost people in Sunday School. In 1955, Southern Baptists set a baptism record that lasted almost two decades.
A 40 Day campaign is sort of like a 21st century version of A Million More in ’54. It is a plan to reach out to people who are uninvolved in church and to those who are lost by using a small group strategy. We reach out to friends and neighbors and invite them to a home or Sunday School group with the ultimate intention of introducing them to Jesus.
Like everything else, campaigns have positives and negatives. Perhaps the biggest negative is that many of the groups that you start are not going to continue past the campaign. The “failure” rate is typically 50%, but can be higher. On the positive side, if you start five groups and three continue meet after the campaign, then you have increased your number of small groups and you have expanded the number of people that you are reaching with the Gospel.
More positives from a new group campaign
- You will discover a lot more leaders this way. One of the reasons we don’t have as many leaders as we would like is that churches usually don’t provide a short-term introductory step that allows a person to experiment with being a leader. In a campaign, you can try leading a group and if you don’t like it, you can stop after 6 weeks.
- Campaigns force us to have deadlines. Put the campaign on the church calendar and then build your way into it. Accountability is not a bad, four-letter word.
- Campaigns force us to develop a plan, or a strategy. The vital parts of a successful campaign, in my opinion, are the pre- and post-campaign preparations.
- Campaigns help us think big. Too often we think too small. Thinking too small often is an issue of walking by sight and not by faith. As a reminder, the first principle of “Flake’s Formula” is know your possibilities.
- A campaign helps bring the the members into the church’s strategy of reaching people with the Gospel through small groups/Sunday School. For six weeks, the church’s entire focus is on starting new groups with the express purpose of filling these groups with people who are lost and/or unchurched.
Ultimately, there is something to be said about “intensity of effort”. Getting the entire church to focus on starting new groups and bringing friends to Christ through a new group strategy creates alignment within the church. Like a team rowing a boat, creating alignment increases intensity and speed, and it also multiplies effort.