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.
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.