Posts Tagged series
By Allen White
You’ve either just launched groups in your church; you’re about to launch groups; or you don’t know what you’re doing. How does that feel? If you just launched groups, you’re coming up for air. Your January fire drill has come to an end. The sprint you just ran has left you panting. Once you catch your breath, you’ll be at it again. But, what if you didn’t have to lose your mind every 12 weeks to have the leaders and groups you needed? It’s simple math: 12 months gives you more time than 12 weeks. The challenge is that it’s hard to work in it and on it at the same time. Here are some reasons to focus on 2018 instead of 2017:
1. Plan for Four Times Your Current Groups in 2018.
Many of us run our group launches hand to mouth. We get the groups going that we need, then have to start getting ready for the next go ’round hoping that many of the groups will stick, but not knowing for sure. What you do know is that you’ll have to recruit leaders again in a few weeks. You just don’t know how many yet. It’s hard to think ahead when you’re living “paycheck to paycheck.” It’s hard to come up for air.
But, what happens when your church grows larger and your groups well outnumber what you’re dealing with now? Imagine that you’re a church of 200 people and your growth takes you to 800 people. You can’t hire a bunch of staff. At least, I never could. Would you stop placing people into groups, or would you ignore your family working late nights? Would you twist the arms of the usual suspects to lead groups and get another short term win? How are you going to manage four times as many groups when you probably don’t feel like you’re doing a great job managing them now?
Stop and do the math. What does 4 times look like in your church? What would you stop doing that you’re currently doing? Stop placing people into groups. Stop handpicking leaders. Start asking your senior pastor to recruit leaders. Start your coaching structure and build on it. You would definitely need to change your process.
Here’s the point: Start leading like you have 4 times as many groups now. If you wouldn’t place people into groups then, then stop placing them into groups now. If you would ask your senior pastor to recruit leaders from the pulpit, then start doing that now. If you would back off of coaching leaders yourself, then write down three names right now of people you would invite to help you coach new leaders. Write them down.
2. Build a Coaching Structure Over Time.
If you have 10 groups, you don’t need 8 coaches today, but when you have 40 groups you will. Start preparing your group leaders to coach new leaders. Observe how they handle issues in their groups. Notice the ones who genuinely care. Effective coaching is built on a relationship. Who’s good at forming and maintaining relationships? You can train on skills, but you can’t make people care.
Don’t worry about your current leaders. If they have successful lead a group without a coach, then they will be great potential coaches. Don’t feel obligated to attach every leader to a coach just to fill in an organizational chart. The chart will look pretty, but the coaching will be pretty ineffective.
Give new leaders a coach. Remember, you’re headed to 4 times as many groups next year. How many coaches will you need? Start preparing them now.
3. Think Sequence, Not Series.
Any church can generate a lot of excitement over a six week series. It’s like inflating a balloon. Building up to a six week campaign, the balloon gets bigger and bigger and bigger, then it POPS! Now what? If your balloon has already popped, then you’re asking the “Now what?” question too late.
Start groups with an expectation that they will continue. In order for them to continue, they need a next step. Before you launch the first series, plan for what they will study next. If you offer the next step during the first six week study, then 80 percent or better should continue. If you offer the next step after the series has ended, you won’t do so well.
The best seasons of the year to launch groups are Fall, New Year, and Easter. But, to retain groups, you need to plan for 52 weeks, not just three 6 week series. Now, it’s not 52 weeks of meetings. There’s variety. There’s ebb and flow. Keep the groups informed on what’s next, and they will take the next step.
I would even go so far as to say if you don’t plan a next step for your groups, then abort your group launch now. Don’t get into the Ground Hog Day phenomena. Don’t connect them into groups only to watch them ungroup, then later try to regroup them. If this is what you’ve been doing, no wonder they’re turning you down now.
Launch. Next Step. Repeat. (except for Summer)
4. Recruit Leaders for 12 Months, Not Just a Few Weeks.
If you’re focused only on your next group launch, then you need to recruit leaders for your next launch. You’re playing the short game. If they won’t lead for this round, then maybe you ask them again for the next round. But, won’t you need leaders 6 months from now? Won’t you need leaders a year from now?
Years back I was recruiting a member of our church to oversee our support groups. He was a great guy who led groups well. He was also a licensed counselor, which would be perfect for coaching our support groups. I called him and invited him to help these groups. He told me he couldn’t do it. Between completing a degree and the season his family was in, he just couldn’t do it. But, he might be able to take on the role in 2 years. I put a date on the calendar.
Two years passed, then I called him. He said, “I knew you were going to call me.” The timing was better, so he said yes. He was the right person for the right position, but it was the wrong timing when I asked the first time. Rather than twist his arm, I waited for the right timing. It was certainly better than having someone lead under duress or not have time to lead at all. It was also better than having the wrong person in the role because I was running a fire drill.
Ask yourself this: Am I interested in achieving my goals, or am I committed? There’s a difference. John Assaraf says, ” “If you’re interested, you come up with stories, excuses, reasons, and circumstances about why you can’t or why you won’t. If you’re committed, those go out the window. You just do whatever it takes.”
I know that you are committed. You have given your whole life over to God to be used for His service. I understand. I have too. But, I spent so many years spinning my wheels in season after season only to find rather pathetic, incremental results. Out of that frustration was born a more impactful way of doing things. I would love to join you in your journey.
The new year is an awesome time for new starts. Everyone is planning to lose weight, lose debt, learn a foreign language, and of course, grow in their faith. The new year is an ideal time to start new groups too. Why not leverage the momentum before mid-February hits and new year’s resolutions crash and burn?
The way you launch groups in the new year, however, will greatly affect your success. While this is an ideal time to form new groups, how and when you form groups will largely determine whether or not those groups last for more than one series, or in some cases, even get started. Here are some mistakes to avoid in new year’s launches.
Mistake #1: Launching in Early January.
Senior pastors love to start new sermon series after the first of the year. While the first Sunday of the year may be for vision casting or giving a “State of the Church” address, when it gets to the second Sunday, they are ready to get their preach on and dive into a new series. This is great for sermon series timing, but terrible for group timing.
If your church launches groups in early January, it forces you to form groups in December. Have you lived through a December at church? No one is thinking about January. If they were, then they wouldn’t be buying so many Christmas presents on their credit cards.
Over the years, I’ve tried to recruit and train new small group leaders in December. I’ve also found myself standing in an empty room wondering if I had missed God’s calling on my life.
People don’t think about the new year until they are actually in the new year. To effectively launch groups in January, you need to use the first three weeks to form groups, then launch in late January, or better yet, launch in early February.
Mistake #2: Failing to Leverage the Christian Holiday of Super Bowl Sunday.
I know some of you might immediately be objecting to associating something as holy and spiritual as a small group with something as hedonistic as Super Bowl Sunday. After all, promoting anything about the Super Bowl will only weaken the attendance of the Sunday night service. At least, that’s the way I grew up.
But, think about this: how would your members respond to the idea of small groups if it resembled something that looked more like their Super Bowl parties and less like what they fear a small group might be? No one calls the church to see who they should invite to a Super Bowl party. They invite their friends, co-workers, neighbors and family members. That’s the same group they should invite to their, well, group. In fact, if groups were launched after the Super Bowl, maybe the Super Bowl party could serve as an “open house” for a group and then the next week, the study could start.
You may be saying, “Well, not every Super Bowl party would be suitable to introduce people to small groups. They might overeat or something and be a bad witness.” These things could happen. But, what if a small group became more “normal” to the average Christian’s life?. That would be a huge win.
Mistake #3: Launching Groups in January without an Easter Plan.
The downfall of most church-wide campaigns, including some I’ve launched over the years, is you can experience great success for 6 weeks, then the whole thing falls off the cliff. But, it doesn’t have to. If in the middle of your post-Super Bowl series (formerly called “New Year’s series”), you announced a next step series which would run between the Christian holidays of Easter Sunday and Memorial Day, you could easily retain 80 percent of the groups that start in your Super Bowl series. By offering a next step, your groups are given a good reason to stay together.
Now, if your church is about to launch groups this Sunday, it might be time to take a timeout and regroup. Call an audible. Do what you need to do before you have to throw a Hail Mary or punt!
If you try this, you should get at least 50 percent of your people connected into groups. If you don’t, call me. We’ll figure something out!
By Allen White
Now that your group has spent a few weeks together in the Fall study, you probably have a sense of whether or not you actually like each other and want to continue as a group. Your first thought might be “Continue? What? I thought that this was a six-week commitment.” And, you’re absolutely right, this was only a six-week commitment. I want to thank you for honoring your commitment. This six weeks has been significant in the lives of your group members.
This is not bait and switch. Six weeks is six weeks, fair and square. If you aren’t planning to continue with your group, we do need to think about a couple of things:
1. Is there anyone in your group who has shown interest in continuing the group? If you group has passed around the leadership each week, you probably have a sense of who would be capable of moving the group forward. Who truly cares about the group? Who has attended the most faithfully? Who called when they couldn’t make it? These are the people who care the most about the group and very well could lead the group forward.
2. If there is no apparent leader, are there other groups that you can recommend to your group members? Check to see if there is another group like yours or if there is another group that meets nearby. Don’t just send your group to the wolves, I mean the web. Point them to a couple of specific choices.
If you want to continue with your group, now is the time to decide on your next study. This is the fourth week of the study. It usually works best for groups, especially new groups, to decide on their next study before the current study ends. There are so many choices for studies out there that a period of indecision, even just a couple of weeks, could easily cause your group to falter.
If your group would like to follow the next series at Brookwood Church, we will spend the eight weeks following The Me I Want to Be series looking at the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-13). There are a couple of options that I would like to recommend for your group:
1. Life's Healing Choices is an 8-week study from Saddleback Church. Rick Warren teaches on the DVD. There is also a hard cover book that you can read along with the study.
2. Living a Blessed Life by Lance Witt, a teaching pastor at Saddleback Church, is a 6-week study. This study is an enriching, verse-by-verse discussion of the Beatitudes. A teaching DVD is also available.
Click Here for more information on Living a Blessed Life.
3. Message Discussion Guide. The discussion guide is written and posted every Sunday nearly year-round. The guide will help your group apply the teaching from Perry's messages to your daily life. It is available as a download at brookwoodchurch.org/discussionguide
Now if your group has been around for a while or if none of these studies interest you, you are welcome to study what your group is the most interested in. We have a wide variety of Small Group DVDs at the Brookwood Bookstore including studies by Andy Stanley, John Ortberg, Chip Ingram, and many others. You can check the DVD out of the Small Group Library, and then just order the books that you need for your group. When your order comes in, your group members can purchase the study guides from the bookstore.
The most important thing is to make a decision in the next week. If your group is new, you may find that they don’t have much of an opinion about the next study at this point. That’s okay. Just choose one of the options I mentioned for the Beatitudes study and go from there. If you have any questions, your coach will certainly help you.
SERIES SCHEDULE The schedule for this study is different than what we typically do, in that, Perry is starting the series one week before the small group study begins. Here is the schedule
|September 12||Living by the Spirit||
|September 19||Renewing my Mind||
|September 26||Redeeming my Time||
|October 3||Deepening my Relationships||
|October 10||Transforming my Experience||
SMALL GROUP CONNECTION. The next two Sundays, September 5 and 12, the Small Group Connection will be held in the concourse following each service. This is available for all of the Open Groups who are doing the ME study. This is a great opportunity to meet prospective members face to face and sign them up for your group.
You will need to create an information sheet for your group. Please include your group name, your name, the date and time of your first meeting, your location and your contact information. You should have at least 30 copies of your information.
A couple of hints about the connection:
1. Sign Up Sheet – Write down the names of your current group members or any prospective members that you’ve invited before the connection. No one wants to sign up on a blank list. It gives the impression that your group should be avoided. Now, don’t write in Daffy Duck and Mickey Mouse. Just add the real names of your real members.
2. Keep an eye on your sign up sheet. Don't worry if 20 people sign up for your group. Typically, only 10 of those will make it to your group. You do need to watch your sheet. If your sheet goes unmonitored, you could end up with 50 people.
3. Plan to stay after all of the services. While the 10:30 service is usually the largest service, the 11:59 service tends to be the least connected service. Some groups have gone the whole morning with no sign ups, then hit the jackpot (so to speak) after the third service.
4. At the end of the connection, please return the yellow copy from your Sign Up sheet to Lora Catoe or to me. You can keep the white copy to contact your new group members.
5. Within 24 hours of the connection, send an email to the people who signed up for your group reminding them of when and where you will meet.