When you think about your group goal for this coming fall, what comes to mind? You might think about the number of people you would like to connect into groups. You might focus on the number of new groups you need to start or the open groups you need to fill. You might begin to feel the dread of how many new leaders you will need to pull this off. You might even feel some uncertainty about the implications of Coronavirus on your plans. But, before you go to these questions, there is a larger question of goals that you need to address.

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What do you hope to accomplish with groups?

What purpose do you want to fulfill? Do you want groups to help people become better connected and more “sticky”? Do you want groups to help people grow deep in their faith and live out what they’re learning? Do you hope that groups will train evangelists to win the lost? Do you want to turn your groups loose to serve in the community? Maybe you’re not sure what you want.

There are group models for creating all of the different types of groups listed above. You could even launch groups that will do a little of all of those things, but the reality is that some of those purposes will get overlooked. What type of groups do you want to start? But, there’s a better question to ask here.

Where is your senior pastor headed this fall?

What is your pastor passionate about? Does your pastor want to connect the congregation, make disciples, reach the community, raise up leaders – where is your pastor headed? The answer can’t be that your pastor wants to do all of that. Where is your pastor headed? As soon as you find out, get in front of that theme with groups.

If your pastor is passionate about evangelism, then find or create a curriculum that your groups could use to attract their unchurched friends and introduce them to the Gospel. If your pastor is passionate about leadership, then find or create a leadership curriculum. You get the drift. Small groups can intersect with whatever need your pastor is the most passionate about. Research tells us this.

Why can’t groups do something else?

Groups could be launched on topics that are completely different from where your senior pastor is going this fall. You will experience some success just in promoting and launching groups. In my experience, your success will amount to about 30% of what could happen if your senior pastor was engaged with groups. Here’s what I mean: when groups connect with the theme your pastor is passionate about – your pastor will be more excited about groups and will promote them. Your people will follow where your pastor leads them.

The first time we did this in our church, I started with where my pastor was headed. Now, this was way back in 2004, and my pastor was passionate about The Passion of the Christ. The film was about to be released. My pastor knew that people would have spiritual questions after they saw the movie. He had planned a sermon series and even purchased some advertising. Knowing this, I walked into his office and asked, “Pastor Dave, what if we launched groups about The Passion of the Christ.” He thought that was a great idea. Well, it was his idea! The end result is when he invited people to open their homes for the Passion series, we doubled our groups in one day! It had taken seven years to get 30% of our adults into groups through my own efforts. When my pastor made the invitation, things dramatically changed. (We also created our own video-based curriculum for this series). If you feel your groups are stuck, aligning your group launch and curriculum with your pastor’s passion and theme will ignite your small group ministry.

Concluding Thoughts

These are uncertain times. At this point, I’m tired of saying that and you’re tired of hearing it. We don’t know how Fall 2020 will be. Will schools reopen, then revert to online learning later in the fall due to Coronavirus? Will churches reopen only to re-close? I know of one church that has already re-closed. You don’t know what the circumstance will be, but you do know one thing for sure – You WILL launch groups this fall somehow and in some way – on-campus, off-campus, online, offline, or all of the above –it will happen.

Regardless of the form groups will take, the key to attracting more people to groups and recruiting more leaders lies in the alignment with your senior pastor. Get ahead of where your pastor is going. Find resources that will align. If you start now, you have time to create your own video-based curriculum for the fall. If you need help, just let me know.