The months of August and September bring new, usually predictable, rhythms to families, particularly families with young children. In these months, kids have gone back to school and started new grades, while others are changing schools or moving away to college.
We see some of these changes mirrored in our church as the same children starting a new school year often move to a different class or small group at church. Additionally, what is going on with the youngest members of the family mirrors itself with the parents, and they begin to search for a new group themselves.
Recognizing these times of natural change can help you take advantage of what is already going on in the lives of the families you lead. At my church, we recently made a push to connect new people to groups, and today, I’d like to share a few takeaways from our efforts to connect new and existing families to groups.
1. Consider a semester system. Because it is more affordable than the city center, the community I live and minister in is filled with young families. As a result, it makes sense for us to have our discipleship groups follow the same schedule as the school district
Regardless of whether or not your community looks like mine, there are a couple of reasons to take advantage of a semester system: first, it provides two scheduled times for people to connect to groups, in the fall and in the spring. Second, it gives people the freedom to change groups after a semester if the one they try doesn’t work out for whatever reason.
2. Promote some groups and not others. You likely have those groups at your church that are filled to the point of overflowing while other groups are still trying to build a regular core of people. To combat this, consider promoting new and still growing groups over groups that are “full.” This isn’t to say that people can’t or shouldn’t join a vibrant group, but focus the bulk of your attention on those new groups that provide the best avenues for new people to connect.
3. Host an event to connect people to groups. It is not uncommon for churches to make a big deal out of the day children move up to a different group or Sunday school class. On those days (or the Sunday before or after), make a big deal out of your adult groups as well. For example, at the beginning of our fall semester my church set up a few booths in a lobby, and people were told in the service that they could meet group leaders after the service. This was helpful because it put a face with a group and helped new people make their first connection with a group leader before ever attending the group. We’ve found these events to be valuable enough to do them at the start of each semester.
Lastly, while these things may work at my church, they may not work at yours. I don’t offer these as hard and steadfast rules but as practical takeaways from what worked for us in Spring Hill, Tennessee. If they work for you, modify them and make them your own. The goal is simply to connect more people to life-giving community.
Reid Patton is a Content Editor for the Custom Content Team at Lifeway Christian Resources, where he produces biblical small group studies for Discipleship In Context and SmallGroup.com. He is the thankful husband of Kristen and proud father of Ceile and serves with the Life Group leadership team at the Church at Station Hill in Spring Hill, Tennessee. In his free time, Reid likes reading and going to record stores. You can find him on Twitter @jreidpatton.