Here are two keys to sustaining your newest groups:
First, choose a small group study to recommend to groups that want to continue. In my experience, two important details determine how many of your new groups continue. Providing a coach or mentor to walk alongside new leaders is one. Providing a study to do next that is similar in kind to the launching study is the other. Let me point out:
- Don’t let the fact that your new leaders only made a 6 week commitment dissuade you from recommending a follow-up. Many new group members will begin asking if there is anything after this in about week three or four.
- Don’t wait until the campaign is over. Begin talking about what’s next in week three or four of the launching study.
- Choose one (1) study for your new groups to use. They’re not strong enough yet to survive a vote. You make the choice.
- It must be similar in kind. That is, if you launch with a DVD-driven study, give them another study like it. If it required minimal preparation, give them another study like it. Switching formats is hard for new leaders.
See also, What’s Next? When (and how) to Promote the Next Curriculum.
Second, take a look at the calendar and pre-plan your holiday approach. I know it seems early, but now is the time to think about how you’ll help your newest groups navigate and survive the holidays.
- It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s important to help your new groups start a next study before they break for the holidays even if they can’t finish it. In fact, starting a new study and breaking part way through may actually be an incentive to meet again early in January.
- Depending on when their first study ends, it should be possible to meet two or three more times before the week of Thanksgiving.
- Help them meet at least one more time after Thanksgiving. They can either do another session of their study or simply meet for a Christmas party. Either way, an important ingredient of this final meeting of the year is to pull out calendars and set their next meeting date.
- Helping your new groups find a way to serve together in December is another very helpful ingredient. Whether they serve as greeters at a Christmas Eve service, help serve a meal at a homeless shelter, or simply go caroling at a local convalescent hospital or retirement home, spending time together will help solidify newly formed connections.
See also, Four Steps That Help Groups Survive the Holidays.
Mark Howell is the Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas and LifeWay’s Small Group Specialist. Mark founded SmallGroupResources.net, which offers consulting and coaching services that help churches across North America launch, build, and sustain healthy small group ministries. You can read more from Mark at MarkHowellLive.com and follow him on Twitter at @MarkCHowell.