In his new book Planning Small Groups with Purpose, Steve Gladen asks this question, “What is your plan for connecting people into groups?” This is obviously one of the biggest questions any small group point person needs to answer. When formulating your plan, the underlying truth to keep in mind is that new people need new groups.
This truth makes the small group point person’s job much more difficult. It is so much easier to send all new people to existing groups. Especially those groups that have amazing leaders. That way, you know when new people show up they will have a fantastic group experience. The only problem is that after you keep sending all the new people to those groups, they are no longer a small group, they are a large group, and people no longer have an amazing group.
It is very difficult for new people to connect to an existing group. Even if that group has only been meeting for six weeks. Think about it this way, if you are married think about the first time you met your spouse’s extended family, or if you are single think about the first time you met your significant others friends. Chances are your boyfriend/girlfriend gave you what I like to call “the briefing.” This is a rundown of danger situations to avoid when meeting the group. For example, “Don’t talk politics with John after he has had two beers” or, “Mary has been searching for a man for months, so don’t be surprised if she hits on you.”
It probably took you a while to connect to this group and learn all the inside jokes and stories. Fortunately you had your future spouse or partner to guide you through that. If a small group has been meeting together for about six weeks there are already inside jokes and shared stories. This makes it difficult for a new person to connect even if the group welcomes them in.
This is why new people need new groups. There are a few key elements to creating new groups.
- Make it easy to start a group. Think about your small group leader training and the start-up process. How long is the process before a leader is ready? Eliminate everything from your initial training that is not necessary for a leader to get through the first six weeks of leading a group.
- Mine your small groups for leaders. Constantly remind your leaders that their job is to raise up other leaders. After all, great small group leaders help others reach a new level of spiritual maturity and leading others in spiritual growth is a sign of maturity in a disciple.
- Use the groups new people are already in. Most people already have some friends they hang out with. So when a new person comes looking for a group, one of the questions to ask is, “Do you have a couple of friends you could start a group with?” Help people see that having spiritual conversations with their friends counts as a small group.
Creating new groups is takes much more energy, time and work. It really is easier to connect people into existing groups. However, connecting new people to new groups makes all the difference in actually helping new people connect, and stay connected, to a small group.