Who is generally considered to be the best person in the church to start a new group? If you answered, “The pastor,” then you would be correct! As a general rule, the pastor is the church’s best choice when it comes to starting a new group. No other person in the church is as well known as the pastor. Also, the pastor is considered to be the church’s best Bible scholar. In addition, lots of people would love to hang out with the pastor! The pastor could announce that he is starting a new group at 6:00 am on Thursday and people would show up!
Here is another observation: most churches have many more people attending worship than Sunday School or small group. I am sure that the pastor and the Sunday School director have pleaded with these folks to get involved in a group, with pleas such as: “You will make new friends.” “You were made for community with others.” “Studying the Bible in community will help you grow spiritually.”
Still, they sit in the pew…. unmoved!
There may be many barriers why worship attenders are not attending a group, but let me give you three primary barriers:
Barrier #1: Closed social circles
People sitting in the pew know that the church’s groups are actually closed social circles. These groups have been around a long time and.. well to be honest, breaking into an existing group is just hard. In fact, it can be downright clumsy and painful.
Barrier #2: Do not know the group leader
Many people will not go to an existing Sunday School or small group because they do not know the group leader. In the back of their mind, they fear that if they ever do attend a group, the leader will call on them to find and read from Habakkuk, and pronounce a bunch of Jewish names that do not have any vowels! And this is happening while the regular group members have already found the passage and are watching while the newbie is looking up the page number for Habakkuk in the “Table of Contents”.
Barrier #3: Long term commitment
Finally, many worship attenders (correctly) view participation in Sunday School as a long-term commitment. And it is! They fear that if they ever join a group, they have to attend every week and if they don’t show up…? the dreaded phone call with “Where were you last week?” by a well-intended group member. Like it or not, we live in a culture of short-term commitments.
But… what if we could offer a group that leverages the pastor’s position as the best starter of a new group to address the barriers that worship attenders have that are not participating in Sunday School? In other words, let’s address a need with a strength!
A pastor’s class? Absolutely NOT!! In fact, it is my opinion that the Pastor’s Class is usually not the best use of the pastor’s time, and… it is not the best strategy for discipleship! Plus, once the pastor starts his Pastor’s Class, he has started a new group, and is now locked in so that he can not start any more groups. (My apologies to all the pastors who teach a Pastor’s Class.)
So what is it? Call it what you want, but I like to call it a “Connection Group” and it meets for 6-8 weeks and is offered 1-3 times a year. Here is the basic plan behind a pastor-led Connection Group (new group).
- It is new! That means that there are no existing social circles in the group. People are all getting a fresh start to make friends and be an integral part of the group.
- It is pastor led. The pastor is the best person to begin a new group, and everyone in the church already knows the pastor to some degree.
- It is a short-term commitment. Six to eight weeks long (12 tops).
You probably noticed that a pastor-led Connection Group addresses the three primary barriers preventing people from attending Sunday School.
In the next post, I will share some suggestions on how to start a pastor-led Connection Group.