Creating a Great Kick-off

By Phil Sommerville

Fall is a great time to launch your small groups and it’s easier than you think.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Choose a Sunday for launching your groups. Collect information about your groups. 
  • You’ll want to know: Who are the leaders? Where does the group meet?  When does the group meet?  What will the group study?  Who is the group for (couples, singles, men, women, specific life stage or age group, open to all, etc.)?  Contact information.
  • Create an insert for your church bulletin using the above information.  Organize it by day of the week, by type of group, by location, or some combination of the three.  I have found that for most folks the day of the week is the most important factor in choosing a group.  Put the insert in the bulletin for 3 weeks in a row starting the week before your Small Group Sunday.
  • Plan a Small Group Fair on your Small Group Sunday.  A fair will provide and easy and non-threatening pathway for new people to find and join groups.  It will also raise the congregation’s awareness of small groups which will have a cumulative effect.  Every time people hear about small groups in your church and how great they are, they will get nudged closer to trying one out.

At a Small Group Fair you’ll have all your leaders at tables in a visible location at the church, ready to talk to people as they leave the service.   To organize a Small Group Fair:

  • Put out tables for your leaders to be at in the church lobby or outside in a main courtyard.  I usually organize them by day of the week with separate tables for Men’s & women’s groups. 
  • Put 3 to 4 groups per table with a sign card for each group that gives the day of the week, leader’s name and location. 
  • Have the leaders standing by their card ready to talk to people after each service.  Make sure they have a sign-up form people can fill out to indicate their interest in trying out a group.
  • Make it festive.  Use pop-up tents, balloons, whatever you can to draw attention and make it fun.
  • Have leaders take their sign-up sheets home and contact their interested people to remind them of the upcoming small group meeting.
  • Make sure your pastor is on board ready to promote the fair from the front.  He or she will be your best means of driving people to your fair.  The more enthused the pastor is, and the more he promotes the fair from the front, the more successful it will be. 
  • The ideal would be for the pastor to “preach the announcement” by talking about the benefits of small groups in the sermon and then pointing people to the small group fair as an immediate application of the message.
  • If that doesn’t work, take full advantage of announcements.  Announce the fair is coming up to two weeks in advance, draw people’s attention to the insert in the bulletin,
  • The day of the fair explain how it works and that they can find groups they’re interested in and then go talk to the leader to check it out.
  • Emphasize the “try out.”   The fear of a long commitment, or not being able to back out, prevents people from joining groups.  Take the fear away by telling them that it’s okay to try out a group or two and settle on the one they like.  Make sure your leaders understand this concept as well.
  • If you’re looking for a great video to use in the service to promote groups my favorite is called “Boys and Groups” and can be found at ignitermedia.com.
  • Let people know that they can also use the bulletin insert and just contact a group leader on their own.

These are tried and tested methods that have brought growth of 10% or more (much more in the case of a heavily promoted 40-day all-church campaign).  Try them yourself and see what happens.  I’d also love to hear from you and pass on your proven ideas for creating small group buzz and encouraging people to join groups.

Phil Sommerville is co-founder of Faith Alive 365 and a former Small Groups Pastor who has trained hundreds of small group leaders from churches of all sizes.

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