We know that we need to connect as many people as possible to an on-campus Sunday School or off-campus home group. We also know that many churches have 50% or more of their worship participants who are not connected to a group, and to connect them we need to offer opportunities that they will respond to. (Look here and here for parts 1 and 2 of this series where we discuss the “why” in part 1 and the first “how” in part 2.)
A second way to connect people in worship that are not participating in a group is through a Connection Fair. North Pointe Baptist Church in Alpharetta, GA has something similar called a “Group Link”. A Connection Fair helps address two of the biggest fears that a new group leader has… 1) How will anyone know about my new group; and 2) Will anyone show up for the first meeting?
Essentially, it works this way:
First, if your church has a large number of worship attenders that do not attend a group, it is only natural that the best time to connect with them is right before, and especially, right after worship!
Second, unlike a Connection Group in which the new group leader is selected from within the group; in a Connection Fair new group leaders are already enlisted to begin a new group.
Realize that in order to engage people in worship to a group, the church must go the extra mile to make the connection. Unconnected people are generally not going to put forth the extra effort to get connected. Basically, instead of waiting on unconnected people, the church needs to take the initiative and be proactive.
Next, have your Connection fair one to two weeks before the new group or groups are going to start. Provide each new group leader with a booth (table) in either the church foyer or Fellowship Hall (Church Commons, Atrium, Greens, etc). Whatever room the event is held, it needs to have close proximity to the Worship Center. Have the following at each booth:
- The curriculum or study that the group will use;
- Location of the new group (address, room number, etc);
- A card with the leader’s name, phone, and email address;
- A registration card for potential members to complete;
- And of course… most importantly, the group leader!
Food is a must!
I recommend that each table provide some sort of finger food or snack. An option here would be to have the food in a common area surrounded by the booths.
As people enter or leave the Worship Center, they walk through the Connection Fair and can meet the leaders of the new groups, ask questions, look through (or take) a Bible study sample, get information about the group and location, and even register to join or ask for more information about the group.
As has been mentioned in previous posts, two of the biggest reasons people are not participating in a group is that they do not know the leader; and pre-existing social circles in the current groups. By allowing time for people to meet the leader and learn a little about the intent of the group, a Connection Fair will address these two reasons.
Be sure to coach the leaders of the new groups to do the following:
a) Smile. Be friendly and greet people. This is no time to stand at the edge of your booth and watch people walk by. Leaders need to engage and encourage folks to stop by their booth, get a snack, and learn a bit about the leader and the group. If nothing else, a simple greeting followed by, “Can I share some information with you about our new group?” (Notice the use of the inclusive word “our”.)
b) Put together a decent display at their booth. A bare booth communicates poor planning, and nobody wants to go that kind of group. Some finger foods, several copies of the study that people can take with them, a card with the leader’s information, and pens/pencils helps communicate preparation.
c) It is vital that the church provide some type of registration card that includes the name, address, email, and mobile phone that potential group members can provide.
d) Do not be too pushy or overly aggressive. Again, leaders need to be engaging.
This type of fair usually works well in early autumn, early January/February, and also at Easter.
Large church option – Make the Connection Fair a luncheon immediately following worship. Invite everyone that is not currently participating in a group to attend. In addition to the booths, allow each group leader two minutes to share about the new group they are about to begin.
Small church option – Many small churches are going to start one group, not several groups. Position a table/booth in the foyer or the location that most people will use to exit the worship service. The new group leader can offer snacks, mints, or finger foods as people exit and engage them in joining the new group. Again, be sure to have curriculum samples, registration cards, and writing utensils available.
You are the champion of the church’s Sunday School or small groups. The announcement for the Connection Fair must be made by you. Challenge people to meet you at the fair and tell the congregation that if they are looking for a group, you will be at the Connection Fair to help them find find a group. During your announcement, remind people that joining a group is the best way for them to meet new people and make friends. For most people, the option to make friends is a powerful motivation.