When a Bad Group Launch is Worse Than No Group Launch

When a Bad Group Launch is Worse Than No Group Launch

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An ill timed launch is nearly as bad as no small group launch at all. You probably launch groups along with everything else in the fall and in the New Year. Those are great windows to launch groups, so what’s the problem?

In most churches, the senior pastor wants to kick off a big fall series as soon as everyone has settled back into church. The pastor will give a “State of the Church” message right after New Year’s Day, then launches into a major sermon series. If these sermon series are aligned with a small group study, then when do you recruit group leaders? And, when do you form groups? Before everybody gets back?

How Does This Work?

Let’s say that everyone is back onsite in the fall around mid-August. This will vary from church to church by a few weeks either way. If your pastor plans a big fall kick off with a sermon series starting in mid-August, you have to recruit leaders and attempt to form groups in July and early August. For most churches that means you are trying to recruit leaders when many of your people are on vacation.

The same goes for the New Year. If your series begins in early to mid-January, then you are recruiting group leaders and forming groups in December. But just in case you haven’t discovered this: nothing happens in December expect for Christmas.

Attempting to recruit leaders in the middle of summer or in December is completely futile. (Okay, maybe you recruited a couple of leaders once, but for the most part it’s futile.) You have to recruit leaders and form groups when your people are actually back. What does this mean?

If your people are back in church physically and mentally in mid-August, then start recruiting group leaders in mid-August. But, what happens to your senior pastor’s fall kick off? Your pastor can still launch the fall with a great sermon series, but wait to align your small group study with the NEXT sermon series (provided your pastor doesn’t do 20-week sermon series). You recruit group leaders in mid- to late August. You form groups in early September. You launch groups with a sermon-aligned study in mid-September.

Here’s a Great Result

One church in my Small Group Ministry Coaching Group made this adjustment and went from 30% of their adults in groups to 42% in groups just by launching with the next series instead of launching with the kick off series. At our church in California, our people weren’t back until after Labor Day. We recruited group leaders in September. Our Connection event to join groups was in early October. We launched our six-week aligned series on the second Sunday in October with it finishing just before Thanksgiving. Our next study started in late January or early February. The groups focused more on group life between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

But, What About Semester-Long Studies?

And, this strategy relieves another problem for you: every group and every ministry wants to launch all at once. By delaying your aligned series launch for a few weeks, people can sign up for Financial Peace, Rooted, or a Beth Moore study first, then you can recruit the remainder of folks to lead or join series-based groups. After all, a group is a group is a group. As long as they’re doing something intentional about their spiritual growth, does it matter what type of group they’re in? Everyone certainly doesn’t need to do the same thing.

Think About This

Recruiting leaders takes a lot of time and effort. By adjusting your alignment schedule, you put in the same amount of effort, but you get a better result simply by changing the timing. As long as your fall series ends by Thanksgiving and your New Year series ends by Easter, you’re in really good shape.

What does your fall church calendar look like? How can you make this adjustment to maximize your recruiting?

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The Right Timing is Everything for a Group Launch

The Right Timing is Everything for a Group Launch

Timing is a huge factor in an alignment series. Every church and community has key seasons of the year to recruit new leaders and start new groups. Every church and community also has obstacles to effective launches. By taking the rhythms of the calendar into account, most churches can effectively recruit leaders and launch new groups while avoiding obstacles.

Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay

For many churches, the “ministry year” in a large part models the public school year, August to May. Of course, there is some variation depending on school districts. The general rule is that when school starts most people are back in church from Summer vacation, Christmas break, or Spring break. When school is out, then people are out. By observing the rhythms of the calendar, small groups can thrive.

The church’s Fall launch should be preceeded by at least four weeks to recruit coaches, recruit group leaders, and form groups. With this in mind, recruiting new leaders should start when most people are back in church from Summer. This varies by community.

One year, I coached churches that launched their “Fall” series at various times. The earliest was a church in Kentucky that launched their series on the second weekend of August. The latest was a church in New Hampshire that launched the second weekend of October. That particular year, I had a church launching a series every weekend in-between except for Labor Day weekend.

The right launch date depends on your church. In some churches groups must be offered when school goes back into session. Otherwise, family calendars are quickly filled with school activities, and there is no room for a group. In other communities, church members want to squeeze every bit of good weather out of Summer before cold weather hits. In these cases, the launch should start later in the calendar. If people aren’t regularly attending until after Labor Day weekend, then start recruiting new leaders after Labor Day and launch in October. This works as long as the series ends by Thanksgiving in the U.S. Canadian churches should consider launching groups after their Thanksgiving and wrap up the series by late November.

Another important consideration is when the church will launch its follow-up series after the alignment series. The follow-up series is not a big push like an alignment series, but it is significant in getting new groups to continue. If the Fall alignment series starts in August or September, it is possible to offer a follow-up series in October-November. If the Fall series is later (October-November), then the follow-up series cannot start until January (or the New Year series is possibly the follow-up series). By offering a Next Step Study, the church has a better chance of retaining the new groups that will start in the Fall.

What’s the best timing for your church? If you are satisfied with the number of new groups that start in the Fall of each year, then keep that pattern. If you feel you might be missing some, then adjust your schedule and see what happens.