This weekend we’re hosting our annual “Winter Small Group Launch.” We’ve found this event is a great point of entry for new members to join, new groups to form, and new leaders to step up. Making the most of a launch can go a long way towards building a culture of small groups. Here are five ideas.
- Preach It
A successful small group program has to be sold from the pulpit. You can’t just make an announcement in the bulletin and expect a lot of people to sign-up. Your weekend message communicates what matters. It doesn’t need to be an extended commercial, and please don’t rely on guilt. And telling people all about different curriculums and topics they don’t care about taught by names they don’t know won’t help either. Focus on why groups are important and how they can be a value (fellowship, relationship building, support, service, growing in faith).
- Keep it Simple
You might be surprised to learn that our Small Group Launch primarily consists of an old fashioned sign up after Mass. Our Small Group Ministry Leaders help newcomers choose the group that’s best for them. They receive a basic guide on everything they need to know…that’s it.
The point is – make it simple. One of the main reasons people avoid groups is they sound too complicated to find their way into: orientations, manuals, pot luck dinners. Make it simple and keep it simple.
- Make it the Right Fit
Small Groups reinforce our commitment to “One Church, One Message” while taking into account that everyone has different comfort levels and needs. Some people need to connect with others in their own life situation (moms with kids under 5, retired seniors) while others enjoy relating to different ages for the different perspectives they add to the group. Some people are all about the day and the time, or the location. We find many people are only comfortable in same sex groups. Make sure newcomers find the fit that’s right for them.
- Make it a Short-Term Commitment
Every year our winter launch revolves around groups we call “Just For Lent.” That’s what they are: groups that meet once a week during Lent. We invite members who aren’t part of a group to try one out for 6 weeks. Lent is a season when many people are looking for ideas for spiritual growth, and a small group is a good resolution.
Providing short-term groups helps the idea seem less intimidating. Many people are unsure whether they will like it or can manage the time, and so shy away from making a full-on commitment. But more often than not, we have discovered that participants often end up connecting with other people and realizing the added life value and decide to stay on.