When we launched RISE Church just over a year ago we didn’t start small groups immediately. It was one of the things people asked for right away. We planned on rolling out something in January of this year (2019). After things took off so quickly, we debated how we wanted to roll out groups.
At first we talked about doing a modified form of groups that we called “connect groups” for lack of a better term. The idea was to just have groups that didn’t cover any type of material and just focused on connecting people in the church. Since one of our values is “Spiritual Family” we thought that could be a good vehicle to help build relationships. While we liked this option it’s not what we eventually landed on.
We decided that no matter what we chose, we’d want to do some sort of training. That’s when we started looking around. I looked at the Church of the Highlands training since we have access to their resources through growleader.com. Their training is great but for what we were trying to build, we didn’t feel like it was enough. They give away their training script and have a video example so feel free to join the site and check it out. We knew we wanted to use their teaching as a basis for part of it but what else did we want to do to train people?
We first identified that we wanted to train these leaders in leadership more than anything. We asked around to what different people did if they didn’t just do the 30 minute training that Highlands used (in addition to requiring that they have finished Growth Track which our version is called Next Steps.) We got a lot of different answers but that still didn’t help us. We had to really ask what did we think God was calling us to do? What exactly mattered to the culture He was having us build?
As we sought God we founds the answer in our five values: Bible, Mission, Spiritual Family, Generosity, and Development. We already had teachings that Pastor Aaron had put together for our launch team manual. They came from a mix of our family of churches and Pastor Aaron’s own tweaks. I dove into them and made my own tweaks, revisions and additions. We had cut some things from various versions of the Growth Track materials and I added those in here and there. By the time we were done with revisions we had a 6 weeks course. We had a week on each of our values and one final week on the practicalities of leading a small group.
All that was left was to hand pick some people who we thought might be possible candidates to lead a group. We put together some lists and scheduled two 6 week trainings running on two different nights of the week. We invited the people and started off with the goal of launching some groups in the spring. We had two healthy sized groups full of great potential leaders. After that six-week process some of the leaders decided to not lead groups but nonetheless they were invested in for future endeavors and got an infusion of our culture.
As we launched groups we decided to only allow one type of group for the time being. A couple weeks out from launch we decided to have what we called a “Group Expo” where members could get a glimpse of groups we offered. We launched in March with 12 groups. We had about a 10 week semester, we wanted to give clear on ramps and off ramps for people. That way they didn’t feel like they were in a group and couldn’t get out of it. Groups were limited to about 90 minutes at the longest and tried to keep the group size to 8-12 people. Groups who went over mostly saw more attrition. Below 6 made it hard to meet when people would be absent.
We took a break for the summer and trained a new group of people during that time. We had some leaders take breaks and new leaders step up. We launched a new semester this fall and with all things considered we had 12 groups again but we opened it up for other types of groups allowing people to submit curriculum that we could approve. I’ll pick up on what type of groups we’ve seen work and what we’ve learned in future posts.