Catching and producing a 20/20 vision for your church!
You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. Acts 20:20
People are naturally attracted to a program that works and is logical and informative so they can understand it. Thus, you need to create a handout or brochure with your vision and key precepts and how they can get connected in them.
How do I recruit people? Have each group always be open to new people if possible. Some groups want to be closed; that is OK for them, but for most, having a small group of no more than 8 to 10 participants makes enough room for two more then you can split them up in two. Thus, the small group itself is the primary recruitment vehicle and evangelism platform.
The key is to "divide and conquer," so to speak. Each person in the group should be encouraged to invite (but not force) friends and acquaintances. The small groups need to be open to grow; when they grow by inviting new people in to them, especially non-Christians, they can split and form two groups and so forth. The key for success is the training and equipping of the leaders. Leaders should be mentoring their replacements so when the group splits, you will have a leader-in-waiting and so forth. The leader will teach by example and by instruction so everyone's potential is sought, challenged, prepared, and reached. Small group ministry is a team with coaches and assistant coaches who grow to become coaches (Acts 20:20).
The second way to do this is have an open introductory session. This is from Serendipity in the '70's and works incredibly well today. Provide plenty of publicity with flyers and testimonies in church services and newsletters, then invite all interested people to a "Get To Know Small Groups" event. Do this preferably right after the church service. Make it a short seminar on small groups. Take only one hour of their time and provide refreshments, a light lunch and "smiley" welcoming hosts. In this session, have an opening prayer, a 10 minute message on why they should be in a small group (see our article Why Should your People be in Small Groups?), then break them off into tables of 10 according to the area in which they live. Then, have them rehearse a small group right there. Here is an idea: As people gather, give them name tags and on them put a code or color for the area in which they live. Then, ask everyone to go to the corners of the room with their code or color. Next, section them off according to the day of the week that is best for them to meet, and divide those into groups of 10. You can have tables already decorated, such as a Monday table, a Wednesday table and so forth. Why divide into groups of 10? Because. Usually, 1/3 of them will bail out.
Have leaders there already prepared if possible. If not, have each group elect a leader and use "user friendly" curriculum. Then, for 25 minutes, have them "do" a small group. Your first session can be about relationship building, a short Bible study, the first four questions in "The Character of Love" study, an inductive study on Romans 12:1-3, or a Bible study on community. (see our small group channel for more ideas.) The people will get to know one another, thus neutralizing any fears. Then, encourage them, and send them off to do a small group for six weeks. Provide curriculum, this article, and your small group handbook or another resource on small groups for them. During the first two weeks, have training for the new leaders. After that, in my experience, most will continue.
You need to have a plan for maintaining the existing small groups so they can be better equipped. If not, the new ones get all of the attention and the older ones can lose their momentum. In addition, you need a plan for how to multiply the groups. You could just tell existing small groups to divide. But, you will disrupt a good group and generate hurt feelings as after a significant amount of community has already been developed, hesitance and resentments will develop. To head this off, make it clear that it is encouraged, but not mandatory, that the groups divide up after reaching a certain number of people. If they know ahead of time that when a group hits the magic number, say 10 or 12, they are to divide, this eases the stress. Just telling them to divide creates undue anxiety and antagonism. If a group wants to stay as they are then let them do so, never force a program, programs are just a tool of ministry not the ministry in of itself!
· Have a plan for choosing small group leaders. This process should not just be an arbitrary "get whomever you can get;" these people will be the principle caregivers of your church and must be selected wisely!
· Have a plan for the options and kinds of groups and resources that will be available.
Decide on Bible books, typical studies, recovery, and so forth. Make sure you have the resources for them in your church; do not expect people to hunt for them themselves. Some will do this and like it, but the vast majority need a set of clear options available for them now. Then, provide the training on how to use them.
· It is very important to offer continual seminars and group training. If your church is too small for this, other organizations, perhaps other churches, can do this for you. Perhaps you can go to theirs, but these resources must be offered.
Many new groups do not form in churches because they do not have the leaders. Volunteer recruitment is paramount to effective ministry. Volunteers are best found by personal invitation (see our article How to Recruit Volunteers). It is best to first meet with an interested individual and listen to him, go to a neutral location, or use the church office and get to know each other. Never fill a leadership position with "whomever;" otherwise, you will fail the people in your care! The second thing to do is show him your vision and the plan of action as well as responsibilities and expectations of small group facilitators. Third, if the person has not been involved in a small group, have them sit in on several sessions and observe. Then, spend the time to train them either individually, or in a group. If your church has more than 250 members, schedule regular training sessions for all small group leaders as well as introductory sessions of training for new small group volunteers and individual follow-up by trained staff members.
Having staff whose lives are centered upon the Lord Jesus Christ is essential in any effective ministry, along with love for the people to whom you are ministering. This creates the atmosphere for attracting good leaders. Concentrate on the training and community building with current staff, along with the recruitment of additional leaders. Focus on building the current leaders to do the bulk of the "contact" work with friends and acquaintances. The "focus is discipleship, and the heartbeat is evangelism," motto applies to recruitment, too. This flows from the primary emphases in leadership, which are building relationships with people, and establishing a vision and shared philosophy that instills leadership in the people who are in charge. We need to provide the lead and follow-through with training, love, and resources. I have found it essential, in every position I have held, to develop a leadership team where I am responsible for their training and equipping, because I cannot do the work alone.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20
Remember: Small groups are the way to grow your church in Him!
© 1993, 2004 R.J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org/