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Connecting Beyond Logistics

by Zach Below

In From Couch to Community, my co-author Austin Maxheimer and I attempt to make a strong case that the most powerful and natural way to get people into small groups is through actual relationships. It is by inviting the people who are already in our lives, in addition to investing in the lives of those outside of the church.

However, there will always be people who come to small groups with no prior connection to the group at all. They stop by a “Connections” booth or small group table after a service, fill out a little info card, and check “interested in joining a small group.”

The question is—how do we connect and integrate these people into the small group successfully? There are a number of ways churches typically sort people into groups, but the following two seem to be the most common practice.

Day of the Week and Time

Person #1 is a single mom who lives on the east side of town. She needs a Thursday night group around 6 pm. Boom! We have a Thursday night group. Put her in it. No, it’s not for single mothers. No, it’s not on the east side. But it is on Thursday night at 6.

Life Situation

We have a single mothers group, young couples group, retiree group, empty nesters group, manly men’s group, etc. We categorize people down to life situation and throw them in a group with people in the same situation—regardless of what each person is actually looking for in a group.

I understand that people generally think within the boundaries of these logistical categories. However, are those two things what we are really trying to connect people to? Are we getting people into the groups they belong in—groups that will fuel and change them? If not, how can we connect beyond just logistics?

Collectively I am sure that we could share a large number of alternative connection points (and I hope that is what is done in the comments of this post). Here are two potential alternatives that our small group brain trust has considered.

1. Group Tour: Someone may sign up at an open house or small group fair and show up the first week thinking, “What have I gotten myself into? This group is not for me.”

Of course they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so they are likely going to do one of two things:

  • Put up with it. They may continue to come but wish they didn’t have to.
  • Fade out and disappear. They may come the first couple of weeks. Then skip a week. Then skip a couple of weeks until they fade out of groups completely. They are likely to say, “I tried small groups and it wasn’t for me.”

What if we offered a potential groupies options? What if it was common practice that when an unconnected person was interested in groups, they could go on a small group tour? They could visit 4 groups before they decide which one is best for them. Chances are, by visiting 4 (or 2 or 10) groups, they will find one that they connect with.

2. Mission Connect: What if groups had a mission statement that reflected a larger vision?

“Our group helps people far from God by ____________.”

Each group could adopt a mission partner for the year and engage. It could be something you design that flows out of your collective passions. Or your group could partner with an established organization needing consistent, ongoing help instead of the dump-and-run service they often receive from churches.

The church I attend has groups partnering with schools, rescue missions, city-wide community developments, etc. This is not an abandonment of what you currently do in groups. Instead, it becomes an integrated part of the ethos of your group and a regular injection of mission energy.

Yes, someone may still sign up for a group because it fits their open time schedule. Yes, someone may join a group because it is full of people that share the same life situation. However, by adopting and stating a mission, we give potential small group members a look of why we exist instead of simply who we are.

We would LOVE to know what our readers are doing to integrate people into groups. Have you done anything that has worked really well? How do you connect people beyond simple logistics?

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Connecting Beyond Logistics

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