Note: This article is excerpted from our resource Connecting Newcomers.
"I guess they couldn't care less if I was really in a small group or not."
Michael signed up for a small group at his church several weeks ago and he has yet to hear anything—from anyone.
After two years of wrestling with the idea of joining a small group, Michael finally had the courage to take this step of faith. Now—after no response from his church—he's either at a point of frustration or he's simply forgotten all about it and moved on with his life.
What Does The Crack In Your Ministry Look Like?
I've encountered this story countless times in my chats with over 100 small-group ministry leaders across America.
I've come to refer to these people as the ones that "fall through the cracks."
The people who fall through the cracks are those who sign up for a small group through weekend services, e-mails, phone calls, the church website, or at group launch events. And then, for one reason or another, they were never followed up with, and never ended up joining a group.
The reality is that while this isn't going to happen to everybody, it is going to happen to somebody.
It's even happened to me.
Almost every ministry leader I spoke with admitted that they too have this crack in their ministry.
How about yours?
When talking about this challenge with ministry leaders, I asked what they thought contributed to the cracks. Two main reasons stuck out:
- My group leaders often forget to follow up.
- I have limited [staff/resources/time] and a lot of groups and people, and I simply can't keep up with all them all.
These seem more like excuses, right?
What We Should Remember About Every Small Group
From my perspective, one of the most important things a group ministry leader does is get people successfully connected to small groups, not just lead them to a group.
Like you, I have a passion for small groups. I've been a group member, leader, and coach over the last nine years, and here's one thing I've learned: Every small group has the potential to change the course of someone's entire life.
My first small group changed mine: I met my wife through that group.
As group leaders, pastors, and coaches, the last thing you and I want to see is someone missing out on a life-changing, faith-changing opportunity simply because we never followed up with them.
How to Help Everyone Who Signs Up Connect to a Group
So how can you prevent this crack in your ministry from getting worse, and maybe even help seal it up? I'd like to share with you some ways to solve this problem.
1. Make it easy for people to sign up.
The lower the hurdle you set, the more likely people are to sign up. Try asking for just their name and e-mail up front. It only takes a minute. Once they're in and have made that small commitment to show their interest, they'll be more likely to give you more information. This creates momentum for them to join a group.
2. Don't manage the group placement process alone.
Delegate some of it to other staff if you can. If not, recruit a volunteer to help. Sharing the responsibility will immediately take the pressure off and help you not feel so overwhelmed.
3. Track unconnected people separately.
Keep a separate list of people who are interested in a group, but aren't connected yet. I like to call them "prospects." Put them on index cards, in a spreadsheet, Evernote, etc.—whatever works for you. It's important to keep them in a separate place from your list of groups and people. This way, you can reference them more quickly and treat them differently, like you should.