As you think about the fall small group boom, one of the best ways to recruit new leaders is with a church-wide campaign or small group in a box. We’re just going to talk about curriculum in this post, but curriculum alone won’t get big results. You also need strategy. Add to strategy, prayer. Then, you’ll have something.
Campaigns or alignment series can be rolled out in several different ways. I see sort of a Good, Better, Best in the approaches:
Good – Purchase a video-based curriculum that your pastor promotes.
Better – Purchase a video-based curriculum that aligns with your pastor’s sermon series and that your pastor is willing to promote.
Best – Create your own video-based curriculum with your pastor’s teaching. Not only will your pastor promote groups more enthusiastically, but your people will respond more enthusiastically.
What Curriculum Will You Use?
Will your church purchase curriculum or create curriculum? If you purchase curriculum, then you need to plan for $70-$100 per group. Creating curriculum varies widely as you’ll see below.
Will you sell the curriculum to the group members? I recommend providing the video and a study guide to the group leader at no cost, then charging the group members for their study guides at cost or less. Also, plan to give away a few study guides to those who cannot afford them.
If you are purchasing curriculum, what platform carries the video? Once upon a time, we bought DVDs at $25 each. That adds up. Is there a curriculum on Right Now Media, Studygateway, Amazon Video On Demand, or another source? If so, your current subscription might already cover the video costs. Otherwise, you’ll have to rent or purchase the content. This adds up quickly.
Creating Your Own Curriculum
The methods of creating curriculum vary widely. I’ve helped churches develop video-based curriculum with budgets ranging from $25,000 – $50,000 or more. I’ve also coached churches who created their curriculum with an all volunteer team or even shot the video with an iPhone. It all worked. It just depends on how you want to work it! Here are a few things to consider:
Who will produce your video? A professional videographer, a wedding videographer, your in-house production team, your volunteer team, you and your pastor (that’s how I produced my first one!), or an iPhone user? There are pluses and minuses with each option. Hiring outside expertise can cost a lot of money, but also guarantee a finished product on time. In-house production teams can save money, since the church is already paying them, but you are at the mercy of the 156 other projects on their list. The same flexibility goes with a volunteer team. They may have the skills, but they’re moonlighting. Patience is required. You have to allow plenty of time (read: If you’re shooting a fall campaign with staff or volunteers, start now!)
What equipment do you need to purchase or rent?
Where will you shoot the video? Is there a cost? (I recommend shooting in a large home and NOT at the church).
What are the costs of feeding the crew? A fed crew is a happy crew. A hungry crew will think twice about your next project.
How will you provide the video to your groups? Streaming on Youtube or Vimeo? DVDs? You can also stream your videos through your Right Now Media account.
Creating Study Guides
Will you produce a physical study guide or provide a digital download? If this is a major launch, then a physical study guide in people’s hands will show the effort you put into the study. For any other launch, a download will do.
Who will design your cover? You are not a designer. Don’t design your own cover.
How will you print your books? On demand printers like Kindle Direct Publishing or Ingram Spark charge about $2.25 each for a 120-page study guide whether you purchase one copy or 1,000 copies (plus shipping). You do need to allow 30 days for printing and shipping. You could go with a conventional printer, even a local printer, but to get $2.25 per book, you’d have to order 2,000 copies. And, if you need more copies, the price goes way up!
The most affordable way to deliver curriculum is with streaming video and a digital download. There are no costs. This is perfectly suitable for regular seasons and semesters. For major group launches, the extra effort of producing a physical book will create more interest in your church and net huge dividends.
As you work through these questions, you will find clarity for planning and budgeting your next church-wide campaign. If you need any help, I have produced curriculum for a wide variety of pastors and churches including Rick Warren, Dr. Tony Evans, Chip Ingram, Gene Appel, and many others. For more information, click here.
Today, we are introducing DIY video curriculum. Fifteen years ago I learned the power of video-based curriculum when our church doubled our groups in one day. After seven years of handpicking leaders and begging them to raise up an apprentice leader, our groups were stuck. My pastor was headed into a series that I quickly piggy-backed on to launch groups. We found a study guide on the topic, but there was no video component. We knew that if our pastor put the teaching on video, we could equip disciples to make disciples.
But, the reality is that every church does not have the capacity to turn out curriculum series after curriculum series as momentum builds for groups. DIY Video Curriculum takes the hard work out of producing curriculum. The study guides are written. The video scripts are written. Churches just need to shoot the video with their pastors. The level of production is entirely up to the church. Some churches shoot with an iPhone and upload the videos to YouTube. Other churches will shoot with multiple cameras, stream the videos, and create DVDs. The key is not the production. The key is your pastor.
Why Create Video Curriculum?
Peak Your Pastor’s Interest in Groups.
Several years ago, we were coaching a church’s team on how to create video-based curriculum. They spent a full day recording the pastor’s teaching, and planned to write a companion study guide for their groups. This was a lot of work, but they were committed. Then, something happened that surprised the team.
The day after the video shoot, the pastor pulled us into his office and said, “We’ve recorded these videos. We are writing this curriculum. How are we going to recruit leaders and connect people into groups?” Their discipleship pastor later confided that he had been trying to get his senior pastor interested in groups for two years and basically got no where. Now after a day of shooting video, their pastor was very interested. When pastors invest in creating resources, they will become the champion for small groups in the church.
Energize Your People’s Interest in Groups.
If church members are not connected to each other, the reason they attend a church, other than Jesus, is because of the senior pastor. They like the pastor’s style. They laugh at the jokes. They like the pastor’s personality. Warning: Don’t mention this to your worship pastor. It will break his heart.
What we discovered in our church in California as well as churches we’ve coached across North America is when the congregation is offered exclusive video teaching from the pastor, they are getting more of what they already like. Members want to hear from their own pastor more than they want to hear from a nationally-known teacher. By offering the pastor’s video-based teaching, members have a great incentive to start groups and to join groups.
Empower Your People to Make Disciples.
When members are invited by their senior pastor to get together with their friends and do a study, they are more than willing to follow their pastor’s lead. Some churches we’ve coached have actually connected twice their worship attendance into groups. By offering an easy-to-use video-based curriculum, people who gather groups don’t need to be Bible experts. The pastor is the expert. (And, the church doesn’t have to worry about what the groups are teaching, because the church supplied the teaching). The video also reduces the amount of preparation time for the person leading the group meeting. People are busy. An easy-to-use curriculum will eliminate one more excuse for leading a group.
Why Don’t Churches Produce More of Their Own Curriculum?
Here are the short answers:
Some pastors feel they must produce the next 40 Days of Purpose.
With the pastor preaching every week, there is no time to write scripts and create curriculum.
Publisher-quality materials are time consuming to create.
How DIY Video Curriculum Can Help.
The scripts are already written. The pastor just needs to personalize them.
The books are already written and professionally designed.
The videos can be shot all at once or a week at at time.
One year ago after following a nudge from the Holy Spirit, which felt move like a shove, my wife and I formed our own coaching organization. It was a big step. After working for two churches and then two stints at Lifetogether Ministries with Brett Eastman, it was time to go out on our own. And, what a year it’s been! Exponential Groups, my first book on small groups, will be released on February 1, 2017 from Hendrickson Publishers. Writing this book was something I just felt compelled to do, even if my mom is the only one who reads it. It’s the stories and best practices from the over 1,500 churches I’ve coached and the two churches I served on staff. Why Exponential Groups? When we recruit individual leaders, we grow by addition. When we train apprentices and “birth” new groups, we grow by multiplication. When we engage our entire congregation in the Great Commission, we grow exponentially. You can preorder Exponential Groups at Christianbook.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online outlets. Hint: The book is $5 cheaper at Christianbook.com (my publisher owns it). (Download the first chapter Here). But, this isn’t the best part.
I have the privilege of coaching some of the great churches across North American and helping them grow their groups exponentially. Here is a partial list of churches I’ve worked with in the last 12 months in various ways.
C4 Church, Ajax, Ontario
Christ Tabernacle, Queens, NY
Discovery Church, Orlando, FL
Eastlake Church, Chula Vista, CA
Manna Church (ARC), Fayetteville, NC
Next Level Church (ARC). Ft Myers, FL
Peninsula Covenant Church, Redwood City, CA
St. Johns Lutheran Church (LCMS), Orange, CA
The Branch Church (COC), Dallas, TX
Victory Worship Church (AG), Tuscon, AZ
Ward Church (EPC), Northville, MI
Allison Park Church (AG), Pittsburg, PA
Bethesda Pentecostal Church, St. Johns, Newfoundland
Mariners Church, Huntington Beach, CA
The Rooted Network, Mariners Church, Irvine, CA
Venture Church, Los Gatos, CA
Chip Ingram and Living on the Edge (multiple projects)
Doug Fields and Intentional Parenting (Discussion Guide)
Lutheran Church of the Atonement (ECLA), Barrington, IL
Kingdom Life Church, Baltimore, MD
Wow, when I stop and look at the list, I realize it truly has been an amazing first year. I also serve churches in some low cost ways:
My Blog: allenwhite.org An Hour with Allen
We’ve had a great first year and have seen great progress in the churches we have served. My hope in the coming year is not only to help more churches grow their small groups, but also to help more churches grow their people. In the Great Commission, Jesus charges every believer with the responsibility to “Go and make disciples…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” The word we are keying in on for 2017 is “obey.” Jesus didn’t tell his disciples (including us) to “teach them…everything.” He commanded us to “teach them to obey everything.” An obedient church is a growing churches. Priorities will change. Chains will fall off. Communities will be transformed. Believes will be empowered. New leaders will come out of the woodwork. Without building another building or hiring another staff member, we can change the world.
Thanks to all of you who’ve allowed me to play in your sandbox and have taken this work seriously. You and your church will never be the same.
By Allen White
We have a little downtime this week. Well, I don’t. I’m writing a book and starting a coaching group in two weeks. There’s not much downtime for me. But, in between my busyness or your possible downtime is a little time to dream about the new year. How many groups will you launch next year? Will this be the year to create your own curriculum? Maybe this will be the year to get your coaching structure started or tuned up? But, as you set goals and make plans, you must consider that the possibilities are limited.
Immediately, we go to limitations like: “You’re right, my senior pastor isn’t on board,” or “Our church has too many competing values, so I can get people into groups,” or “I don’t have the budget like the worship department…they don’t care about groups,” or “It’s hard to recruit group leaders.” Whaa.
If you don’t think it’s possible, it isn’t.
What are you telling yourself?
If you’re saying things like, “This year I’m going to double my number of groups.” Are you imagining the possibility or the impossibility of doubling your groups? I’m not talking about visualizing things, but I am talking about what you’re thinking, what you’re praying about, and what you’re planning for.
If you want to double your groups this next year, then you need to prepare. How many coaches do you need to recruit to support your new leaders?What new strategy do you need to recruit these new group leaders? (If your previous strategy was effective, then you would have all of the leaders already. They said “No” to that invitation, so now you need to give them something to say “Yes” to.)
So, if you want to double your groups, this is what you need to think about: “Twice as many people will be connected and discipled. Twice as many people will grow spiritually by leading others. Twice as many coaches will give help and support. When I have over 1,000 people in groups, then I also need to recruit a small group team to help serve the coaches. I will need to become less involved with group leaders and more involved with leaders of leaders, or even leaders of leaders of leaders.”
What changed from the list of complaints above? The change is in your thinking, not in your circumstance.
You have the small group ministry you have envisioned.
Some of that envisioning was negative, so guess what you ended up with? The greatest limitations in your life are in your thoughts. This year take responsibility for your groups. Own it. Take responsibility for yourself. Stop playing the victim of your senior pastor, your budget, or your inadequate strategies.
I know I’m being tough on you today, because I’ve spent most of the last year being tough on myself. I had to overcome thoughts like “I have to keep working for someone else because churches won’t want to work with me on my own.” Then, I got my first client, Chip Ingram and Venture Church, and more churches have been lining up ever since. I had to overcome, “I would like to write a book, but I can’t find a publisher, and I don’t know who will read it.” Well, I started writing and put out one chapter for a free download. Over 1,000 people have read that chapter and have asked for more. And, I have a publisher now.
What changed for me was not luck. I don’t believe in luck. The change came in my own thinking. Now, going into my fourth month, my bills are paid, my kids are fed, and churches are launching ridiculous numbers of groups. I hate to think what life would be like if I hadn’t changed what I thought about and what I dreamed was possible.
Make this next year youryear. If you need help, then connect with me, or Mark Howell, or Chris Surratt, and get some help and encouragement for your small group ministry. Imagine what is possible. God is ready to work in your church. Stop limiting what God can do.