Upside-Down Assimilation

Moving people from outreach small groups to the larger church community

It's been well established that relationships play a significant role in people's journey to Christ. We seldom come to Christ without someone we know and trust showing us the way of Jesus. However, a person's journey to a local church community is not always marked initially by a close relationship to someone in that church community. We may get invited by someone we know, but many make their way to church communities because of special programs, reputation of the church, or location of the church building. The entry point is typically the large group gathering. For that reason, we have put a lot of effort into making our worship services places that are welcoming to visitors who don't already have a close connection within the church. For the most part, our worship services and large group gatherings have been the front door of most churches.

But what about when people find their way into the church community first through a relational small group experience?

It's becoming clearer that not only do many people find Christ through a relational experience with one or a few people, but many find their way into a local church community through a relational small group experience. And, in fact, a small group community may be the only way some will ever enter a local church community. Since we typically think in terms of moving people from large group to small group experiences, how does the upside-down version of that work? How do people assimilate into the life of the larger church when they enter through a small group first?

A Case Study

For the past seven years I've been involved in a "church of small groups" where the emphasis has been on making small groups the front door of the church. We've invested a lot of time, vision, ...

article Preview

This article is currently available to subscribers only. To continue reading:

free newsletter

Sign up for our free Small Groups Newsletter : Regular access to innovative training resources, Bible-based curriculum, and practical articles.


Listen with the Heart
Listen with the Heart
Grow your relationships with non-believers by listening with empathy.
Create Safe Places for Questioning
Create Safe Places for Questioning
How your small group can become a welcoming place for people on a journey back to God
Sharing Your Faith Without Embarrassment or Coercion
Here is a seven-step plan for you to follow.
The Gospel, a Napkin, and Four Circles
The Gospel, a Napkin, and Four Circles
Examine a new way of expressing the gospel especially designed to explain God’s “Big Story” with diagrams simple enough to be drawn on a napkin at a coffee shop.
Small Groups and Evangelism
Small Groups and Evangelism
Help your groups reach out to those who need the love of Christ.
Making Your Small Groups Models of Evangelism
How to excel at the most difficult of your church's five purposes