Preparing to launch a churchwide campaign? Now is a great time to begin planning. Here are 10 simple steps to help you get started:
1) Choose the best start date for the message series.
In my opinion, the very best time to launch is mid-September to early October. Many churches mistakenly base their campaign launch around the first day of school. Don’t be fooled. If you want to connect people you’ve not yet connected, you need to wait until after Labor Day. (See #3 for more on the calendar.)
2) Pick an off-the-shelf campaign that is plug-and-play.
There are many great campaigns and most have sermon outlines, promotional slides, artwork, and marketing suggestions that are downloadable or included on a resource CD. Many are also readily available in the quantity you need and at very good prices.
Here are a few of our resources that we’d recommend for a churchwide study: Follow Me by David Platt, Fast Track by Chad Hovind, The Gospel According to Jonah by J.D. Greear, God Anthology by Mark Batterson, and Stolen by Chris and Kerry Shook.
3) Recruit a set of launch-phase coaches that can help your new *HOSTs get off to a great start.
Ideally, launch-phase coaches can handle five to 10 HOSTs each (with a one- to two-hour-a-week commitment for the eight to 10 weeks of the campaign).
4) Schedule a HOST recruiting message series.
Pencil in a message series seven to nine weeks prior to the launch date that will allow three weeks to recruit HOSTs. There are many topics for this series that will work. The best recruiter is your senior pastor and the best time to recruit is during a message. Compromise on either of these keys and your recruiting potential will be greatly reduced.
5) Make it even easier to host another couple or a few friends.
On the heels of the three main weeks of HOST recruiting, add another wave by providing a “grab-and-go” pack that even a caveman could use with a few friends or even family members.
6) Do NOT mention joining a group during the three HOST recruiting messages.
This may seem counterintuitive, but as soon as you begin talking about being in a group (as opposed to hosting a group) you’ve recruited your last host.
7) Schedule two to four identical HOST orientation options.
The best sequence is to begin offering orientations one or two weeks after you begin recruiting. You need to schedule multiple options for the same reason that you need to make the HOST request several weeks in a row. People don’t necessarily attend every week. In addition, a one- to two-week lag allows you to send a letter or e-mail with next steps and other expectations. You might even be able to assign them a coach on the front end!
8) Add an online small group finder or a simple print catalog.
This will make it easy for unconnected people to connect with your newest groups. You may not have a small group finder now, but it’s not hard to add one to your website. If your culture makes it easier to use print, a simple catalog of available new groups is an easy way to go. Just be sure of one thing: The more you can avoid matchmaking, the better off you’ll be. Keep that responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the potential group members.
9) Schedule full-on efforts to challenge everyone to be part of a group the two weekends before the launch.
Have your senior pastor say, “If you want to get everything possible out of our weekend series, you need to be in a group that’s using the study that goes along with it.” Staff a table in the lobby with small group hosts who are looking for members. Plan on sending out a churchwide e-mail from the senior pastor that invites everyone to join a group. If you have an online finder, you can even include a link to the finder in your e-mail.
10) Make sure the next study is similar to the first study.
If you recruit on the strength of “easy to use” and “just add water,” you’ll need to help your newest HOSTs pick a study that they have the skills to do. Choosing the right follow-up study and beginning to promote it publicly in about week three or four of your launching series make it even easier to sustain a high percentage of the groups you launch.
*What is a HOST? H.O.S.T. makes it possible for ordinary people to lead a small group, at least those using a DVD or video-based small group study, bringing the teaching into the group via the television, and allowing the HOST to do just that. In fact, the HOST acrostic stands for: HEART for your community (or your church), willing to OPEN your home for six weeks (or the length of the study), SERVE a few simple refreshments, TELL a few of your friends (in the beginning the T stood for “Turn on your VCR”)
Mark Howell is the Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas and LifeWay’s Small Group Specialist. Mark founded SmallGroupResources.net, which offers consulting and coaching services that help churches across North America launch, build, and sustain healthy small group ministries. You can read more from Mark at MarkHowellLive.com and follow him on Twitter at @MarkCHowell.