Whether it's recruiting leaders, launching groups, or developing leaders, there are a lot of events in small-group ministry. The hard truth: big events often cost big bucks. But they don't have to! Whatever the size of your church, you can put on meaningful events throughout the year that don't bust your budget.
Recruit Small-Group Leaders
Without leaders, small groups don't exist! Reach out to potential leaders in fun, inexpensive ways that show them how exciting leading a group can be. Make a general appeal in services and encourage current leaders to invite people they see with potential. Here are several ideas:
Coffee and Cake
During weekend services, create a tent area or establish a room with an inviting environment for potential leaders. Have some decorations, a few tables, coffee, and cake, plus general information about leading groups. Then visit with the people. Find out about them: their families, their hobbies, and more. In this low-key environment, you'll have the opportunity to get to know several potential leaders at once.
Pop into People's Lives
We had a tent area in a visible location as well as a "smellable" location with fresh popcorn popping. The smell of popcorn wakes up people in the morning for some reason! People stopped by to enjoy popcorn and candy after services. We also had treats that potential leaders' kids could enjoy. If you don't have a popcorn machine, you could purchase one to use it for multiple ministry events in your church, or you could ask a local school or organization to borrow theirs.
Train Small-Group Leaders
To prepare people to lead, small-group training events are highly beneficial. They allow you to convey expectations as well as provide encouragement. But they don't have to be expensive or difficult.
Ask someone in your church to open their home for the training event. Provide simple snacks, spend some time chatting, and then begin the training. For training materials, there are free resources available. For instance, SmallGroups.com offers a multitude of training resources for everyone in small-group ministry: from small-group point people to the coaches to group leaders. Along with articles you can distribute, there are videos that you can show during your event.
Launch Small Groups
Launching small groups is an important time within the church. While you need to recruit group members in a variety of ways, many churches spend extra energy promoting small groups during weekend services. You can do this in some fun and inexpensive ways:
Frequently Asked Questions
Have a reserved area in the lobby or in a church room where people can come have coffee and a snack and ask any questions they may have about groups. It's great to have several small-group leaders present who can answer questions. We also like to provide a FAQ sheet for people to take with them. This space is often what people need to help them feel more comfortable joining a small group.
We asked a local fast food restaurant for 2,000 coupons for a free large drink. Then we printed labels with the start date for small groups and the website address with more group information, and stuck them to the back of the coupons. Small-group leaders passed out these coupons to everyone as they left service on weekend. Everyone wanted the coupon, and it ensured that everyone had the necessary information. Plus, it sparked conversations with the leaders who were handing them out.
Thank Small-Group Leaders
Small-group leaders do so much to keep small groups healthy and growing, and they need to be loved on. Whether a simple act of kindness, a note, or a small treat, find ways to show small-group leaders they're appreciated throughout the year. The good news is that we can love large on a small budget—you just need to get a little creative.
Early on, we have our leaders fill out a form to help us get to know them. We use Google docs, which is a free site that allows you to create forms and send them to others to fill out. Our leaders complete the form, and then Google docs compiles the information into a nice and clean format. To get to know them better, we ask four or five basic questions such as "What is your favorite soft drink?" and "What is your favorite snack?" We then develop fun, personalized gifts for each leader based on their answers and deliver them personally.
We celebrate leaders' birthdays by delivering a balloon, cookies, and candy during their birthday month. It's a special touch that lets leaders know we care about them, and it's very inexpensive.
Open House Events
We've found one of the best ways to love on leaders is through "come and go" events during weekend services that they can stop by whenever it's convenient. Several times a year we hold these open house events with various themes to encourage leaders to stop by, say hello to other leaders, and feel our appreciation.
We've done many different themes through the years. One was: "Thank you for 'blowing' people away with your love!" We gave leaders a bottle of bubbles, a blow pop, bubble gum, and a Yahoo with a silly straw so they could blow bubbles in their milk! It was wrapped together in a fun package.
Another time we focused on the hope small-group leaders provide for group members and called the theme "Hope Floats." We had cola, root beer, strawberry soda, and ice cream and served floats to our leaders. Even at 9:00 a.m., people can't resist a good ice cream float!
We love to provide an annual night out for leaders and their families to come together and have some fun. Choose an environment where kids are welcome, buy them dinner, and simply show them appreciation. We are doing one this year at Chick-Fil-A because it's kid-friendly, relatively inexpensive, and provides an opportunity for everyone to visit.
Have a year-end party at someone's home and have dinner and time to connect after a year of ministry. We also like to have giveaways and funny awards to keep the mood light. Whether simple or elaborate, your leaders will appreciate the fun event.
The possibilities are endless for bringing fun to your ministry and loving on your leaders. Get creative with your resources and your personal strengths. More than an expensive gift, small-group leaders simply want to know that they are making an impact and that you see and appreciate the hard work they put in.
—Peri Gilbert is Small Group Coordinator at The Simple Church.