I have another post appearing today about starting new groups at SundaySchoolLeader.com and thought I'd write sort of a companion piece here. New groups are absolutely essential for a church to reach its community and minister and disciple its folks. Here are some random thoughts about new groups:
1. Use the word "branch" instead of split, divide, or start. Even "birthing" doesn't sound like fun to me (I was in labor for 12 hours waiting for my wife to have our first child!) But "branching" seems to connect for me. When you branch off a new group, it seems to still be connected to the other branches but still have its own identity. And it's a natural process. Branching off is what trees and plants are supposed to do when they are healthy, right.
2. I prefer to give people a choice when starting a new group. They can either stay in the current class or leave to start the new group. I like to be treated like an adult, and most adults don't like to be told what to do! But if you give me a couple of reasonable choices, now that's a better option.
3. Generally I've found it best if the leader of the new group comes out of the existing class, if possible. This process does several things. First, it requires the current leader to reproduce him or her self. Second, it makes the new leader more comfortable if they have been trained to be a leader from within the Sunday School class to begin with. Third, if the new leader comes from within the existing class, then his friends will leave the class too in order to help their friend succeed. Finally, it makes the whole process organic. The class reproduces itself.
4. If possible, start the new group off with a fellowship first and invite everyone who might be interested in joining the new group to the fellowship. This includes guests and friends who are not church members. Have food, have fun, but be sure to let everyone know why you are having the party. It would be a good idea for the leader to share for a few minutes about what is going on in his heart. People connect with passion and they connect with a story. Share yours!
5. Start right! Be on time, be prepared, have some coffee and food, and share God's Word. Call every person who attended and thank them for being there. Contact some possible guests and invite them to come next week. It's easier to do it right from the beginning when expectations are high and momentum is building. Once a group meets for 6-8 weeks, the class begins to establish an identity and if you don't start right, it will be hard to break a group of lowered expectations. People become skeptical quickly.
What are some of your experiences in starting new groups?
Or, if you have never started one, what seems to be holding you back?