(This series has been updated and expanded upon here: The Five Elements of a Fully Implemented Connections Strategy)
The ministries of our churches exist to make disciples of all people everywhere. Incredibly, so few churches have a comprehensive strategy to connect the very guests that walk into our buildings to the ministries that exist for them! This series breaks down the five essential elements every church much bring together to build a system that doesn’t just connect with people, but draws them into relationships with the church and ultimately Jesus Christ./ Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four / Part Five
Guest follow-up exists for the goal of connecting people in community. Consider how effective your church can be in consistently showcasing the ways your church offers community. Provide clear cut next steps for guests to be engaged in community. And tell your stories; video testimonies, on stage interviews, blog posts, and pictures are all ways to reveal what God is doing through community at your church. All of these things can help guests understand the value of community individually and corporately. Here are some ways that churches connect guests in community:
Group Link Events. Churches will calendar events geared to inviting guests to connect with the leaders in ministries that provide an experience of community. Typically these events will involve a period of time where your small groups as well as other ministries will send leaders to mingle around some coffee or other refreshments, wearing name-tags, and simply being available for people to meet and shake hands with. These events have a reception-like vibe, and are very informal. A good way to host an event like this is to promote it for a few weeks, and create some signs and stations to help guests understand which part of the room each ministry is located. For instance, your young marrieds are by the window, your community ministry is in the corner next to them, the singles are next, etc. Alternatively, a church may group leaders together according to which day of the week they are meeting, or even which part of town or neighborhood they are meeting in. The goal here is just to get guests around your people to make a connection. Also, these groups are held at all different times; during church services, between them, after church, or even on a non-NFL game Sunday in your city. This is America we’re reaching, after all.
Group Launch Materials. Some churches begin every small group by going through a particular series or set of materials. The materials essentially launch each new group through introducing them to a set of values and best practices. These are “new” groups consistently being formed to attract new families. The materials differ from church to church, and may even be the requirement for church membership. These type of groups are valuable because they can begin at any time, on campus or off campus, and come fully equipped with discussion material from 3-12 weeks.
“Starting Point” Groups. These groups have a clear beginning and end; they are not an ongoing group at church but geared towards introducing people new to church or just not very involved into community, driven by a curriculum that teaches them how to read and apply God’s word, and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. The difference between these “Starting Point” groups and the “Launch” materials discussed above is duration. Starting Point groups are not ongoing groups; they have a beginning and an end. A great example of how to create groups like this is NorthPoint Community Church in Alpharetta, GA.
Topical Electives. A group created around a particular topic or life stage issue. Examples are a highly promoted 6 week group about “How to Not Be a Disaster as a Parent” or a 4 week special group for couple struggling with infertility, or even a “Financial Peace” series signup. These groups will pull people from all over under the banner of that topic, and are a great way to offer community around these issues, and open the doors to other ministries as well.
Serving in the Church. Churches love all manifestations of small groups because of how they allow for a much more personal experience. Once a church is over a few hundred people, small groups become one of the main ways to connect in community with other believers. But a small groups ministry is not the only way to provide healthy community. As we disciple our churches to make disciples as Jesus commanded us to do, we know that we are called to do more than just connect in groups with each other. We are called to serve.