For us at Crosspointe we’re in the middle of promoting another round of small groups. Here are ten things we remind ourselves to do, and you might benefit from as well if you’re promoting any kind of group sign ups:
When promoting groups or classes, highlight that participants will learn about the Bible, not just make friends. One thing I’ve noticed is that most of us who have been part of groups in the past know that one of the things that keep us coming back every week are the relationships we’ve forged. Therefore when we tell people why they should join a group, we tell them, “Because you’ll make great friends!” The problem is most people don’t want more friends—they believe they have all the friends they need already. What people in your seats are looking for is a better understanding of the Bible and a grasp on their faith.
Give the benefits of joining a group. Have people who are currently growing in a group environment help you complete your church’s list, but start thinking through why a group is beneficial. Will you find a place to belong? Is it an opportunity to serve the community? Will you grow as a Christian? Whatever the benefits of joining a group are in your church, communicate those. If you can’t think of any advantages to your discipleship method, you should probably shut it down.
Point out the downsides of not joining a group. On the opposite side, you should know the downsides to not being part of a group in your church. Is there an activity you will be left out of? Do you lack an understanding of what faith means? If an emergency happens, do you have someone to call? Are there people who care about you? Some people respond well to benefits, but others need to hear the negative consequences before they’re willing to give it a shot. We like to say, “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.”
Make being part of a group accessible for people who don’t know a lot about the Bible. We can all fall into the trap of wanting to use language that makes the seminary student smile but leaves the average person clueless. In our church we have a lot of new believers and we have to be intentional to say, “If you don’t know all the books of the Bible, you won’t be embarrassed. If you don’t want to pray out loud, we won’t ask you to.” We try to make our groups so easy to join that no one has an excuse why they don’t want to be part of one.
Create a connection between the congregation and the leaders. If you’re small enough you should have your group leaders on stage and introduce them by name. If you’re larger you might think about printing pictures of your group leaders. Most people will sign up for a group based on “Who looks like me?” It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a real thing. Give people the ability to see what group they think they’ll fit into.
One step sign ups. We try to make signing up as easy as possible, and what’s easier than one step? We give everyone in our church all the information they need about a group and then ask them to pick one. As soon as they pick the group either online, on a sign up card, or at a kiosk, they’re immediately enrolled.
Give the leaders good follow up tools. There are some people who don’t need any follow up. That’s because they’ve been part of the same class, group, and church for the last 20 years and they know the ins and the outs of the church. The person who is new to your church who joins a group for the first time will need massive amounts of communication, and if they don’t get it they probably won’t tell you; they’ll just leave. The issue is the first group of people talk to you and the second group doesn’t. You rarely know when your follow up is lacking. We fix this by utilizing an online database with all the points of contact entered and accessible by the group leader. We notify our leaders EVERY time a person is added to their group. We also give them template emails and phone scripts to help them with when and how to follow up.
Have multiple ways to sign up. Welcome to the convenience culture. You can read the news on your phone. Access an always updating encyclopedia at any moment. You can pay your bills via credit card, bank draft, or even an app. Our society is accustomed to doing what they want, when they want to do it. We allow for people to sign up in a service using pen and paper. We also allow for sign ups downstairs on our patio. We allow for sign ups to happen directly through our group leaders. And we have ways for people to sign up online. No matter how we solicit sign ups, we print the online address to register as well. 25%-30% of our sign ups will happen online during the middle of the week.
Get information to the leaders quickly. Like I referenced to earlier, getting information to a leader quickly is very important. There are several tools you can use to make that happen. We use CCB for our database and it allows you to set up automated notifications when people are added to groups. You could use Google Docs (which are free with gmail accounts) to share documents and email your leaders when they’re updated. No matter what you do, don’t wait a week and hand a spreadsheet to someone on a Sunday morning.
Be part of a group yourself. It’s amazing the amount of church staff who tell everyone they shepherd, “You need to be discipled. Join a Sunday School class or a small group.” And then fail to do that themselves. Don’t fall into the trap that believes you’re above needing encouragement, accountability, and the input of others. Furthermore, you lead by example when you practice what you preach.