So you’re thinking about launching or relaunching groups in your church? There are several things that you can do in the pre-launch phase to make your launch go much more smoothly.
Decide what your groups are and are not going to look like. There are a lot of great ways to do groups out there but you can’t do them all and you surely can’t do them all well. Choosing 4–5 Core values for your groups to focus on will help to define your groups, frame your structure and keep you on track. It’s also important to remember that almost everyone in your church has some sort of group experience (some good, some bad) so it’s important that you communicate and clarify what “your groups” will and will not be about.
Pilot your group concept with key leaders. Launch a group with the people that you think will be your first group of leaders and model group life with them. I would recommend 8–12 weeks minimum so that you have time to train, shape your group DNA and communicate the vision for how you want them to lead. I think you will discover that in this pilot group your leaders will really catch the vision as they are able to live it out with you. This is also a great time to tweak your structure before you roll it out en masse to your church.
If you serve with a staff team, do your best to include them in this pilot group. Let them experience it first hand so that you are all living out of the same vision and passion for group life. For more details on forming a pilot group click here.
In a relaunch, change minds and hearts before you change structure. If you are relaunching or changing group structures in an existing church, it is best to communicate values and vision before you communicate structure change. As a rule, most people dislike change but will embrace it if they understand the need. It’s our job to show them why change is necessary and how the new structure will better accomplish the vision that we feel like God has given us as a church family. If you change structure prematurely you are much more likely to fight unnecessary battles and lose people along the way.
Train your leaders well. Your small group leaders don’t necessarily need seminary training but it is important to clearly let them know what is expected and equip them for how to best accomplish those expectations. At LifePoint, we require every leader to go through a 90 minute orientation class where we share our vision for groups and expectations for them as leaders as well as equipping them with the basics for how to lead. If you would like to see what we use for our New Leader Orientation you can see it here. Feel free to change it and use it in your church but please don’t publish it externally.
What about the kids? This is a question that you have to answer if groups are going to be successful in your church. There are a lot of different ways to handle this but at LifePoint it is a huge value for us that families do group life together so we do everything that we can to incorporate kids into our small groups. In our groups, families attend together but when it’s time for the adult’s Bible study portion of the meeting, the kids go into another room of the house for something that we call WildLife. Wildlife is a time of age appropriate Bible stories, memory verses, crafts, etc. It is a lot like VBS. We provide a lesson on our website that connects to what the kids are learning on Sunday and our leaders can download the lesson before each meeting. We also provide a WildLife Kit for each group that has a general supply of resources and supplies that they will need to lead. Each adult member of the group takes 1–2 turns each term leading WildLife on a rotating basis. At the end of the night, the kids come back into the room and share what they learned for that evening. It’s not a perfect system but we feel like it allows us to invest in our kids while at the same time providing an option for our families that is free and convenient.