The Coronavirus outbreak has produced some unlikely consequences. Who would’ve thought that something that was meant to keep us apart is actually pulling us closer together? Well, forward-thinking small group pastors thought that!
Churches around the country are reporting a 50% increase in small groups since they started new online groups. Even though people have to stay apart, there is a definite need to be together. These groups are coping with this new normal.
But the problem with any significant uptick in small groups, whether it be a church-wide campaign or the response to a pandemic, is keeping the groups going once the initial effort has subsided. Don’t look at this as a temporary response to a temporary situation. Look at the new online groups as an opportunity to build on something going forward. Here are some things that you can do right now that will help your groups continue once social distancing has been relaxed:
Give Your New Groups a Next Step.
Most groups fail because they are not offered a next step. Whatever series your groups are doing right now, give them something new to start immediately. Quarantine in most places will continue for another 30 days, so groups still have both the time and the need to gather.
When you offer a next step, give new groups one choice. Don’t let them get lost in the choices online. Your goal here is to get them to continue. The only decision you really want the groups to have to make at this point is whether or not they will move forward. Don’t add choosing a study to that decision. You want to keep this simple. If it becomes too complex, then the groups will stop.
Support Your New Leaders with a Coach.
Recruit your best group leaders to look in on a couple of new leaders each and see how they are doing. There will be a lot of ups and downs with groups. Some people are busier than ever, while others are bored as ever. Groups are experiencing various stages of grief: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. How are your leaders navigating this? People are dealing with a great deal of stress. Some have lost their jobs. Others are going crazy with their kids at home. Still others are essential workers who are putting it on the line every day. This is an intense time. How are your leaders handling it?
You have to be proactive. But, there’s not enough of you to go around. So, you have to multiply yourself if you want your groups to continue. Otherwise, these big group numbers you’re posting will slip away week by week until everything goes back to “normal.” Why waste the opportunity to keep these groups going? Give them a coach ASAP!
Strategically Plan for Fall.One significant next step for all of your groups is a fall launch or campaign. Give them a heads up now. Tell them where you’re headed in the fall and when groups are going to start. Even if you only have a series title and a start date, this is enough to keep your groups moving forward.
No one is 100% certain how the summer is going to go. My suspicion is that when the weather is nice and the stay-at-home orders are lifted, people will be gone. They will head to the beach, to Disneyland, to the great outdoors — basically any place that isn’t their house. While groups should try to connect in-person or online at least once a month over the summer, your fall series will be the glue that keeps these groups together.
Use the new planning tool, the Exponential Groups Workbook, to map out your fall. This workbook is loaded with templates, exercises, and examples that I use in my coaching. Just having a few of these templates is well worth the cost of the book. By working through these chapters, you will develop a strategic plan for content, leader recruiting, group formation, coaching, training, tracking, and envisioning where your groups can go.
You can preorder the Exponential Groups Workbook for $12 with free U.S. shipping through Friday, April 17, 2020. When you preorder, you will receive access to the Exponential Groups Summit and downloads of the most popular tools in the workbook.
The Exponential Groups Workbook contains the following charts, exercises, examples, and templates (by chapter):
- Launching – What is a group? exercise, Discipleship Ministry Evaluation, Setting God-Sized Goals, Exponential Groups Launch Timeline.
- Aligning – Seasonal Strategies, Navigating Obstacles to Alignments, Nonalignment Season Exercise, Curriculum Production Timeline
- Weighing Risk – Risk, Requirements, and Rewards Exercise, Who Qualifies to Lead? Exercise, Mindset Exercise.
- Coaching – Coach Job Description, Sample Coaching Timeline and Scripts, Series Sneak Peek Slide Presentation, Sample Sneak Peek Invitations, Prospective Coach Sign-Up Form,
- Recruiting Leaders – Sharing Group Ownership Exercise, Coaching Scripts, Breaking Connection Barriers: 30%, 60%, 100%, Leader Recruiting Timeline and Scripts for Senior Pastors, New Leader/Host Sign Up Card Sample, Sample Series Promotion Script,
- Initial Training – New Leader Briefing Agenda, New Leader Briefing Presentation, New Leader Briefing Packet, New Leader Information Form, New Leader Briefing Sign-In Sheet,
- Connection Strategy – Lego Exercise, Relationship Lists Exercise, Active and Passive Recruiting Strategies Examples, Sample Connection Night Ad, Connection Night Picture, Connection Event Layout and Photo, Sample Small Group Invitation, Small Group Connection Instructions for Group Leaders, Small Group Sign-Up Sheet,
- Sustaining Groups – Next Steps Flyer, Sample Mid-Series Survey,
- Leadership Track – Bringing Back the Requirements Exercise, Small Group Basic Training Outline, Small Group Leader Job Description,
- Coaching and Training – Sample Weekly Training email, Sample Leader Retreat Agenda, Coaching & Leadership Phases Exercise,
- Tracking Growth – Sample Survey to Collect Group Rosters, Sample Meeting Report Reminder, Meeting Report Form, Meeting Report Summary, Monthly Group Summary Report, Coaching Report, Coaching Summary,
- Beyond Alignment Series – Disciple-making Phases Exercise,
Appendix – Sermons on Community by Dr. Tony Evans and Pastor Don Wink.
You will read case studies from these churches who have successfully implemented the Exponential Groups strategies.
Ward Church, Northville, Michigan
Vertical Church, West Haven, Connecticut
New Dawn Church, Miami, Florida
Connect Church, Lawrence, Kansas
Hoboken Grace Church, Hoboken, New Jersey
Christ Church, Fairview Heights, Illinois
Rivertown Community Church, Marianna, Florida
LifeBridge Christian Church, Longmont, Colorado
Contributors to the workbook include:
Bay Hope Church, Lutz, Florida
Connect Church, Lawrence, Kansas
Calvary Christian Church, Winchester, Kentucky
Ward Church, Northville, Michigan
Brookwood Church, Simpsonville, South Carolina
Manna Church, Fayetteville, North Carolina
Olive Branch Community Church, Corona, California
Northwoods Church, Peoria, Illinois
Lutheran Church of the Atonement, Barrington, Illinois
Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, Dallas, Texas
For more information on church online and online small groups, visit onlinegroups.US.