Note: This article has been excerpted from the SmallGroups.com training tool called Small-Group Assimilation Strategies.
Successfully transitioning out of a small-groups campaign is as challenging as launching one. Churches that wait until the campaign is over in order to plan the next step will lose momentum and spend valuable leadership equity. Instead, use these four keys to create a smooth transition from campaign to "normal" group life.Â
1. Conduct a Thorough Debriefing Halfway Through
If you have a campaign that runs six weeks, you need to interact with those leaders at the three-to-four-week mark. Depending on the size or your ministry and whether you have coaches in place, this debriefing can be done in a leaders' huddle or over coffee. Either way, it's important to give leaders a chance to share what God is doing in their groups. Many churches promise that God will do remarkable things in the lives of our people if potential leaders get on board. But how often do we give them a chance to talk about those remarkable things?
A mid-term debrief also allows for problem solving. Some people will be confused by the material and how it fits together, and some will wonder what to do with the challenging people in their new groups. This is the time to talk about what comes next. If the group is new, the mid-term meeting is the time to introduce options for the group and to begin the new leader affirmation process.
2. Affirm New Groups and Leaders
One of the greatest assets of a small-group campaign is that people can test drive a small group. In a non-threatening way, people who have never been in a group get a taste of community. For that reason, it's important to acknowledge the shift from the campaign to normal small-group life.
When a group decides to continue on, my church follows these four steps:
- Congratulate the leader and members on becoming an official small group. It helps to call groups that start during a campaign "Forty Days Groups," or something related to the campaign title. This distinguishes a short-term group from a continuing group. Mark the change with an e-mail, note, or call.
- Invite/insist that new leaders join your leadership development track. For your church this might be a series of classes, for others it might be more personalized coaching.
- Connect the leader with a coach. You can do this during the campaign or after the dust settles.
- Move the new leader into your church's membership process.
3. Help Some Groups Conclude Graciously
It is acceptable that some groups do not continue after the campaign. To help a group conclude graciously, we encourage the leader to thank the people for their participation. Being part of a group for six weeks was a risk and a sacrifice. Also, celebrate the good things that emerged from the group, such as getting to know new people and learning about the Christian life. Finally, make sure people who want to be in a group know the process for joining a new group.
4. Provide On-Demand Curriculum
There is no shortage of curriculum options for small groups, and all those options can be overwhelming. As groups reach week four, we send out a short letter highlighting our three suggestions for the next study. Groups may choose a different option if they want, but many leaders appreciate our work in finding great resources for them. We use a system we call "structured freedom" in which we strongly push a topic twice a year, and we make modest suggestions two other times. However, we empower our leaders to choose material that is best for their groups.
—Bill Search; copyright 2004 by Christianity Today. Originally appeared on www.Smallgroups.com.
- What has been our biggest frustration in transitioning out of small-group campaigns? How do these steps address that challenge?
- How can we develop the infrastructure needed to debrief in the middle of our campaign?
- What steps can we take to help some of our campaign groups conclude graciously?