Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Connecting Point

Yesterday, I mentioned that our church had spent the last three months transitioning to a whole new system of life groups, and that we have doubled our involvement. How did we do it? We developed an event called Connecting Point that happens four times a year, for the express purpose of connecting people to groups. The reason why it only occurs four times a year, is so that there are a good number of people who want to be involved in a group. If you are connecting a couple of people every week, they would have to go to an established group. The benefit of Connecting Point, is that everyone who joins a group, starts at the same time. It also allows groups that are currently meeting to remain "closed". This is a difficult concept for some established groups to understand at first. They are so used to inviting people and marketing their group, that it takes a while for them to just focus on the relationships inside their group, and point new people to Connecting Point so that they can be involved in a new group. In some cases, I have found that leaders of established groups have felt relieved, because whenever someone had asked to be involved in their group in the past, they felt obligated to invite them, even if they really didn't have any more room. This way, they can talk about the benefits of the group, how much it has meant to them, and then point them to the next Connecting Point so that they can experience it as well. What happens at Connecting Point? Well, it's a little bit crazy and hard to describe, but I'll do my best. We have people register in advance so we know how many to expect, (you can see our registration form here). I also have leaders in place that have been through the training process and are ready to start a group. (You can see our Life Group Leader process here). When the event begins, I tell everybody there that the purpose of the evening is to meet as many people as possible. I give them some icebreaker questions, we have snacks and drinks available, and I tell them to just start meeting people. At this point, they shouldn't be asking about logistical questions like when or where a group will meet, but just finding out about who is there. The leaders are in the midst of everyone and meeting new people as well. This event is about people connecting to people, not just people connecting to leaders. There may be people who meet each other and think, "hey, I'd like to be in a group with them." Then they go together to find a leader. After the initial thirty minutes of mingling time, I have everyone sit down and I talk to them about the next step. I introduce the leaders who are there, giving a brief idea of their stage of life, or where their group is located. Then, I ask everyone to think about the people they met, and begin to connect in groups. I also warn them that God may be preparing them to be in a group that is not what they expected. They may have come to the event with an idea in mind of their "perfect group" and the group that they end up in may look totally different. But, if they will give it a chance, it may be the exact group that God had prepared for them. It's really cool to see how groups came together. There were even cases where a whole group would form, but they wouldn't have a leader. At that point, I asked if there was anyone in the group who felt like they would be willing to be a leader. When someone volunteered, I would "fast track" them through the leadership training over the next week or two. We probably started five new groups this way. It's amazing how God can work in these crazy minutes. After the groups form, I give them time to talk about the logistics of their group. When and where are they going to meet. Each group that begins that night is asked to commit to meet together for two months to see how it goes. This makes most people feel comfortable that they're not going to be stuck with people that they don't like. Everybody writes down their contact information and copies are made so that everyone in the group has everyone else's contact info. Then, the groups are given curriculum that the church provides to get them started. We use a book called "Groups: the life giving power of community." So, at the end of the event, everyone is in a group, has met the whole group, knows when their first meeting is, and has the curriculum they're going to use. Because there is already accountability, most groups have had a great turnout for their initial meetings. I know that there are probably some details that I'm leaving out, and reading this might prompt some of you to have questions, so feel free to post your question in the comments and I will do my best to answer it. What happens at the end of the two months? If groups feel like they are going well and they want to continue, the sign a Life Group Covenant together and commit to each other to meet together for the next sixteen months. Tomorrow I'll answer the big question, what about childcare?

1 comment:

Dwaine said...

Did you know that we are doing a 3 part lesson on small groups at Grace or is this a Godinstance? I really like the idea of groups starting together. I also understand the "strain" that occurs when new folks enter an already established group. But I can also say that I have experienced God drawing folks into our mens breakfast group. To me, the type of group makes a difference. Our men's group is always open to new men. We grow leaders that go forth and serve and bring on new members to grow in their faith. A solid core remains faithful and God always brings who he wants into our midst. On the other hand, in a more formal Bible study group, It is understandable how a great study group can get to large or momentum slowed through the introduction of new people. Our Tuesday night group has been together for almost 5 years and we have watched two children born and grow. Same people, great accountability, and a lesson style that works for us, however just a month ago, we added another couple and simultaneously started a new study to get everyone on the same page. Last night my comment was our group is really starting to jell but it has taken some time to develop that trust and understanding. I guess the bottom line is we can't get so strict that we leave out room for God to show His mighty hand in our lives.