Hopefully, you are recovering from NGSA (see yesterday’s post here).
Today, let me share five ways to start a new group…
Form a new group from within the existing group. Notice that if the church has one Sunday School class for 1-6 graders, the kids rarely mind if you form classes for 1-3 and 4-6 graders. The same is true in student ministry. It gets a bit more tricky with adults, but there are four more ways to start a new group for adults.
The worship attendance in many churches often outnumbers the small group/Sunday School attendance by at least 20% (more if the groups meet off-campus). Identify people groups attending worship that are not participating in a small group, such as; young pros; empty nesters, single parents, etc. Or perhaps there are people in the church’s vicinity that are not involved in church, such as people at a nearby apartment complex. Enlist a leader with some passion and go after those who are not participating in a local church.
Branching is close to idea #1 above (Form), but with an important, but different approach. First, the group leader identifies a potential leader (apprentice) from within the group and grooms him or her to become a new group leader. But rather than splitting the group, participants are given the choice of staying in the current group or joining the new group. An inner core is often enlisted by the new leader so that the new group has enough “critical mass” at the start of the new group to be a successful start. If only 3-4 people from the existing class leave to start the new group, it generally will have a deep enough core to prosper.
A connection group is usually started as a topical study. The idea is to select a topic that will draw some worship attenders, such as a parenting class or a New Testament overview. The new connection group is announced in worship for 2-3 Sundays prior to starting. The person starting the group makes the announcement. Finally, the connection group should be short-term, maybe 6-8 weeks.
Connection groups have a distinct advantage over branching because of three issues that the average person not involved in a group perceives (correctly) about the church’s existing groups.
- Closed social circles.
If an existing group has been meeting for at least 9-12 months, it has become a closed social circle. It may be a friendly group, but new people can sense that the group’s social circles are already filled.
- Do not know the group leader
New people have a great fear of being singled out by the group’s leader. “Hey, it’s so nice to have Bill as a guest with us today! He’s new! After Bill finds Habakkuk 2 and reads the first 10 verses for us, he is going to go around the room and recall everyone’s name!”
- Fear of a long-term commitment
People today tend to resist a long-term commitment, especially with a group of people that they do not already personally know. They fear joining the “wrong” group and getting stuck with it – for life!
As you can see, a connection group that is properly started addresses all three of the fears listed above. First, it is a new group so the social circles are open. Second, the leader of the new group makes the announcement about the new group so that possible participants can get a feel of the new leader’s personality. Third, the group is only a few weeks long, so they can bail out if they need to.
Pastor’s Connection Group
The best new group starter in the church is the pastor! So, rather than committing to a Pastor’s Class that meets for eternity and promises to not ask any questions, not call on anyone to read, and not ask anyone to pray (that’s a great discipleship model *insert sarcasm sign*); a Pastor’s Connection Group functions just like the connection group strategy mentioned above with one exception. After the six week study is completed, the pastor moves on after identifying and teaching a new leader for the group. This strategy has two big advantages:
- It frees the pastor so that he can start 1-2 new groups every year;
- It develops new leaders. And notice, who trains the new leader? The pastor does!
Use these five ideas to start a new small group, and avoid New Group Stress Anxiety!
Be sure to leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.