Monday, February 18, 2008

Life Groups

All the way back on my first day here at Hope Fellowship, I was asking God to give me some new ideas for connecting people to life groups. As we were developing the mission statement that I wrote about last time, one of our primary focuses was developing environments where people could Grow in their faith, as well as grow in authentic relationships with others. The best way that we have found to accomplish this is through Life Groups. Life groups are small groups of people who commit to meet together for a period of time for bible study and prayer. The big question was, how do we get more people to understand the benefit of being in a group, and take the step to get involved. As I started looking into our life groups more, I discovered a couple of things. First, the method we had in place for connecting people to groups was clumsy. We would provide newcomers a list of all the groups meeting and tell them, "Go find one." The problem with that method was that there was a lot of hit-and-miss. Just by looking at the list, it was difficult to tell what type of a group it was, how long it had been together, if the people in the group actually liked each other, etc. The other thing I noticed was that if someone happened to meet a group member and they invited them to the group, the chances of that person liking the group went up dramatically. The only problem with that method was that there was no way to ensure that everyone was going to be invited to a group. Last fall, I went to a small groups conference and listened to the way that Northpoint Community Church handled groups, and I started to rethink how we structured our groups. There were two things that they said that really seemed to make sense. One, was that groups that start together seem to have a greater chance of staying together, and two, that groups were more likely to develop authentic relationships when they stayed the same without adding new members, or were "closed". The second point was something that made sense the more I thought about it. Many times I have spoken to leaders who talked to me about the "revolving door" of their group. They would have new people come into the group, and more established people leave the group constantly. Because they had to be "open", and their name was on the list, they were constantly "marketing" their group. Sometimes this posed a problem if they were a good leader, and word got out, and they had more people that wanted to be in their group than they could handle. All of those changes made it difficult to actually achieve the goal of the small group, which was to build authentic relationships. So, with all of these things in mind, we've spent the last three months transitioning our Life Group ministry in a whole new direction. The good news is that we've doubled our involvement in Life Groups, and I've received a lot of great feedback as to how the new groups are progressing. How did we do it? I'll tell you tomorrow...

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