How to Stay Connected to Your Congregation

How to Stay Connected to Your Congregation

Leading up to the end of 2020, many pastors, church leaders, and ministry department heads were reporting the same discouraging findings.

We’re having a hard time staying connecting with people.

People aren’t signing up to serve, attending online services, and seem to have disappeared.

We just don’t know how to help people connect with the church in this strange time.

And church attendees sing similar tunes, mentioning “Zoom fatigue” and feeling isolated from their church family.

So, how can churches re-connect with their members after a period when many fell out of the holy habit of churchgoing? What can churches that are at least partially online-only do to help people stay connected in community?

Smaller churches have a leg up in this area. Because of their size, they can more easily gather contact information, notice when people are missing, and make personal visits without using a lot of resources. Many smaller churches are already doing the types of personal contact activities that help people feel more connected.

It’s time for every church to learn from and act as a small church. No matter your church size, here are a few ways for pastors and church leaders to stay connected with their congregations.

#1 – Create spaces for connection.

To help your congregation stay connected with the church is to provide ways for them to stay connected with each other.

Whether your church is meeting online, in-person, or both, something is better than nothing and even the simplest initiative can be a widely-appreciated space for people to fellowship.

Try these ideas:

  • A Zoom Lobby. Set up a Zoom meeting where people can log in and chat “face to face” before and after online services.
  • Facebook Groups or GroupMe groups. These services are free and can create a simple, accessible space for people to connect.
  • Small events for people to look forward to. Events outside of traditional small groups and church services, such as craft night, worship night, toy/coat/food drives, weekly live prayer services, or book discussions, can happen in-person or online and can be run by a layperson.

Church leaders can provide blueprints to help these spaces succeed (activity ideas, discussion questions, etc.) while allowing these connection spaces to be run by members of the congregation. Everything doesn’t have to be led by church staff. Simply creating the space and opening it up for people to connect can be a powerful way to see more engagement in your church. 

#2 – Go old-school.

With all of the emphasis on online connection in 2020, one of the best ways to re-connect with people effectively is to not do it from behind a computer screen.

Bring back the more “old-school” ideas. Your congregation is probably so used to Zoom calls, emails, and social media everything that it would be a welcome change of pace and a touching surprise.

Try mailing or dropping off special packages. We heard about one church mailing scavenger hunt kits for kids. You can create Sunday School bags or Advent boxes for kids or adults. Send a personalized card that includes instructions for how to share prayer requests. One Church Fuel member said that their church’s Christmas card ministry was booming and people really appreciated it more than ever.

If you’ve sworn off the old church directory or church cookbook, it might be time to bring them back or update them. Making contact information available makes it easy for people to reach out and check on each other. You can even make them more modern by including social media handles.

Sharing a recipe can be a nostalgic experience that not only gives people a tangible thing to connect over, but makes great memories that are tied to the church community. And both of these ideas (creating a church directing and compiling a church cookbook) can be done digitally.

Or as Stephen Brewster, a creative leader experienced in the music industry and church leadership, said on a recent episode of our podcast, take the time to call volunteers and donors just to say Merry Christmas. Or ask how their summer went.

A phone call or snail mail might seem like outdated ways to reach out to an actively online congregation, but they’re effective ways to make people feel seen, loved, and connected.

#3 – Keep it simple and personal.

When you think about staying connected to your congregation, you might assume that you need to set up a fully-staffed online campus, hire a Social Media Director, or start 50 small groups around special interests.

Those are all great things. However, some of the best ways to connect with people are also the simplest.

A quick text message or a one-sentence email (“How can I pray for you today?”) gets the job done.

Consider sending a survey with a few straightforward questions to find out how people are doing and make a plan to follow up with them.

Ask a few members to share stories in service of how they’re handling the current season or how they’ve stayed connected at the church (these can even be pre-recorded and shown virtually).

If you’re feeling disconnected from your congregation and wanting to help people remain strong in their ties to church community, give these tips a try. Your efforts don’t have to be fancy, expensive, or even managed by staff, but they can make a big impact for creating connection in your church.

Take the Next Step

We have pre-written emails that will help you communicate with clarity, care, and concern and offer the hope and consistency that people need in these uncertain times.

Our free 12 Emails to Send Your Church resource includes twelve prewritten emails to help you save time and communicate well.

You can serve through communicating and these emails can help you get started.

Free Download

12 Emails to Send Your Church
 

The Church Fuel Podcast Episode 2.9: How To Lead A Digital Church

The Church Fuel Podcast Episode 2.9: How To Lead A Digital Church

Guest: Kyle Ranson 

Kyle is Director of the Experience Team at Crossroads, the group that creates everything from videos to music to articles to apps to weekend services. He joyfully fulfills stereotypes about Millennials with his love of craft beer and woodworking and is passionate about people finding God. 

He’s also the brother-in-law of our very own Meagan Ranson! 

Is online church even biblical?  

The big C church and your church specifically, is heading toward an unavoidable tension point on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

You’ve likely already had these questions swirling in your head at night:

Do we keep doing online church when we can do in-person at full capacity? 

Is it even biblical to have online church? 

Questions that weren’t on your radar a year ago. 

Kyle started dealing with questions like this in 2015 when his church was rapidly growing but in an alarming way. Most of the growth was happening due to the addition of new sites instead of current sites getting bigger and bigger. To create growth in the communities Crossroads was already planted in, and have an impact on the people in those areas, Kyle and his staff started looking at using online church as a way to reach new people. 

And the first question they wrestled with was, “Is this biblical?” 

Like Kyle in 2015, you don’t want people to just hear your sermons. You people in your community to plug into your church and be involved with a healthy community of people. When COVID-19 first hit our shores online church was the only option if you wanted to continue making an impact for the Kingdom, but now you’re left to figure out if online church is a viable option for your church to continue creating a growing body of believers. 

What Kyle realized, and the same is true for your church, is that one of the church’s primary jobs is to reach people. If the bulk of people in your surrounding community are online that is where you need to be. 

Maintaining an online presence with your church will ensure that you continue to be seen by people who would never set foot in a physical church, and give your church a chance to impact more people in the community. Some churches like Crossroads started making the virtual world a mission field as far back as 2015, but you can keep reaching people online even when in-person services are completely back to normal. 

Everybody is still learning!    

You are not the only one still trying to figure out how to do online church in a way that feels exactly right and super effective. Online church hasn’t been around long enough for there to be an expert or an exact formula on how to do mission work online. 

At this point, if your church is doing the very best it can, you’re heading in the right direction.

In reality, the place that you reach people has never been static. People are always moving and it is part of the hard work of your church to meet them where they move to.  

The people who are aching to be back in the building and see people in person are going to come back to your physical building. But give yourself room to improve your church’s online experience so that the friend of a friend who would prefer a link over a ride to church still has a place to go and hear the Gospel. 

How do you disciple someone toward Jesus from a distance? 

The easiest part of online church is reaching people. Millions of eyes are on a screen every single day which means millions of people could be viewing your church’s online content at any given moment. 

And people want to consume your church’s content when they want how they want. As long as you have something for people to engage with, they’ll engage with it. 

Discipling those people from a distance may seem foreign, but it’s not a new concept for your church or any church for that matter. Think back to Paul and the many letters that he wrote to churches in places like Ephesus and Corinth. He wrote those letters from hundreds of miles away! With ink and pen, he was disciplining people from a distance. 

Paul used what was at his disposal to disciple people he could not see, or sit down with in-person to disciple. So what is currently at your disposal? 

Kyle’s favorite tool for learning is Youtube. 

Use videos like this to learn how you can reach and disciple people online. 

Watch this webinar replay of our Reaching People Online webinar to learn more about specific and easy to do strategies your church can use to make the virtual world a mission field. 

Listen to this recent podcast episode about using local SEO to make more people aware of your church. The more people who notice your church online, the more people you can turn into disciples.

Whatever it is, use something that is at your disposal to not only reach people online but make disciples online. 

Online church isn’t a nuisance. 

According to the Barna research group, the majority of people are going to become hybrid churchgoers over the next five years. You’ve probably already seen some of these people. They’re at church one week and viewing your online service from the tennis court in Florida the following week. They attend small groups via Zoom but prefer in-person worship on Sundays. 

So even if your church isn’t going to be a fully, “online church,” people are going to expect to be able to engage with your church online. 

That is why it’s so crucial to have a healthy mindset in your church’s online efforts. If you feel like it’s a chore, or that it is useless the quality of your online content will diminish. When it starts to diminish the hybrid churchgoers, the group of people that are becoming the majority will look elsewhere for a church that meets their preference. 

If you feel like creating a quality online experience for people, whether they’re online visitors or online members of your church, is important even though there’s a steep learning curve your efforts will certainly not be in vain. 

Instead of becoming the church that is stubborn and behind the times, you’ll become the church that people rave about to their friends who are hesitant to engage with or attend church in-person.

For help creating a sound and scalable online strategy check out our Systems Course

Whatever strategy, or approach you decide to use in your church remember two things: 

  1. Creating disciples from afar is not a new thing
  2. No matter what make your church a place where everyone feels they belong 

RESOURCES

How To Talk To The Camera

Reaching People Online

Localized SEO Podcast

Systems Course

Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode HERE.

Quotes from Episode 2.4

“Our job is to reach people and where people are is online. That is where they will discover us. And that's where they will discover Jesus. And if we're not there, we're not really being effective missionaries.” – Kyle Ranson

“I'm called to reach people who are online. And coming out of seminary, or in my first job, when I was a youth pastor I started learning how to talk on a stage. I had to acquire these skills and learn how to get people to pay attention. Now it's the same, there's a new set of skills that are easily acquirable. You can go to a YouTube channel and you can watch video creators for free. And you can pick up 10 things within 10 minutes that you can learn immediately.” – Kyle Ranson

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How To Rebuild Unity In Your Church After 2020

How To Rebuild Unity In Your Church After 2020

People aren’t offended by Christ. They’re offended by Christians. 

Too often, it’s Christians offending fellow Christians within your church, feeding into the self-segregating nature of modern Christianity when it’s left on auto-pilot. People in the church aren’t just drifting their gaze inward, but they’re creating their own little subdivisions and cliques within the church walls.  

One group prefers contemporary worship music while another only wants to worship with traditional hymns, so you start doing two different services in order to steady the waters. 

Using separation as a band-aid instead of unity as a salve. 

One generation wants to keep doing small groups on Zoom while the other is itching to meet in person, so you silently allow both to continue on. 

Yet again, using separation as a band-aid instead of unity as a salve.  

Before this past year, church leaders have been able to keep the quiet rumblings of disunity among your own congregation at bay… And then 2020 made things more divisive, more binary, more confrontational, and more political than ever.  

People built the walls that separated neighbor from neighbor even higher and made them even thicker. Gossip became malice and tension became explosive both outside and inside the church.

Whether you were a part of the wall building or misspeaking is beside the point. We all watched it happen throughout the year. 

So, how can you rebuild unity in your church after a year like 2020? 

It is entirely possible to do so. It’s going to take grit and grace from you as a leader but is possible. 

To “reunite” your church in 2020, you need to unify everyone around a common purpose.

For each individual to turn their eyes from inward to outward, beyond themselves and their preferences, lead your church in fixing its collective eyes outward. 

Not in a traditional, “there are people out there who need our help and need our Savior,” way, but in actionable ways that bring our Savior to the very people who are currently not a part of your church or God’s kingdom at all. 

Give people the opportunity to show the surrounding community who Christ is—together. Create the space for members of your church to come out from behind flagrant Facebook posts, to disassemble the walls of division, link arms, and look outward as one unified body. 

Leading your church to adopt an outsider-first approach is a great step toward rebuilding unity. It looks different in all churches, but for your church, it could mean…

  • You are intentionally designing your church services with outsiders in mind and calls to invite outsiders in mind.
  • You offer programs and ministries to meet the real needs of your community that require volunteers to get involved.
  • You are shifting resources from programs inside the church to supporting programs and organizations that serve your community without being a part of your church
  • You are constantly reminding current members of your church that it’s the people who are NOT in attendance that need your church to be united
  • You deploy programming that requires people already connected to your church to connect with each other.
  • You forgo your traditional church events and repurpose that time to shed light on organizations meeting current needs in the community that need volunteers.

In 2021, rebuilding unity in your church is not about growing your church. If it grows in the process, that’s a great benefit. But rebuilding unity is about leading your church in becoming more like Christ. 

Become the church known for being unified and seeking unity in 2021.

Become a church where the people who are already in attendance come together as one and first-time visitors feel welcomed enough to join in. Be one body with many beautiful members, not a fractured group.

Romans 8:14-15 reminds us that “All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children.” 

God’s sons and daughters. 

Adopted as His children. 

Siblings bicker and fight from time to time. Relationships are messy no matter how similar or dissimilar our blood is to one another. But being a family, being sons and daughters, demands that we lay aside our preferences, and choose to stand united. 

Try leading your church in treating outsiders like family and they’ll start treating each other like family along the way. 

Take the Next Step

For help creating a comprehensive and strategic approach to creating unity among your colleagues, your congregation, and your community, check out the FOR Starter Kit

The FOR Starter Kit gives you a complete roadmap to truly impacting your congregation and ultimately the community, and creating unity across the board. Don’t just throw ideas and vision at the wall and pray something sticks. Get the FOR Starter Kit and let it be your guide to building unity within your church and in your surrounding community. 

16 Book Recommendations for Pastors to Read in 2021

16 Book Recommendations for Pastors to Read in 2021

Whether you are able to fully open your church doors or not is completely out of your control. The number of digital viewers you can garner and members that will fully engage in the life of your church online will continue to vary. 

In the day-to-day activities of running and leading your church, physically and digitally, most things are out of your hands. Outcomes and results continue to remind you of how not in control you are. 

But you can control how much you invest in your own foundational education by reading various books throughout the year. 

As education and learning have evolved throughout history, books have stood the test of time. Fewer things do a better job of convicting you, teaching you more about yourself, and shifting your once stubborn perspective quite like the right book read at the right time. 

Coming out of a year as chaotic as 2020, there’s likely a lot of anxiety to settle, trauma to unpack, and practical leadership guidance needed to lead your church well in 2021. We compiled a list of books we believe will prepare your heart and inform how you strategize in the year ahead. 

Each text spans different topics, subject matter, tone, and author background which is intentional on our part. 

And each book will provoke you toward new actions, fresh strategy, and create a solid ground to stand upon as you lead your church in the new year.   

#1 – When Breath Becomes Air 

Author Paul Kalanithi writes a deeply inspiring and shockingly honest memoir that attempts to answer the question, “What is a life worth living?” 

He writes the entire book in the face of his own mortality as he suffers from stage IV lung cancer. Confronted with death he pens a beautiful reflection on the value of life. 

This book will remind you of your own humanity and the fragility of life itself. It will point you to the very giver of life and breath, and as a personal writer’s note, it will make sure you hug your spouse extra tight. 

#2 – God and the Pandemic 

You may want to escape the global pandemic and you’re likely suffering from “COVID Fatigue” along with everyone else. 

But as a leader of the church, it’s necessary to formulate responses to this global health crisis and its aftermath. 

Classically gentle yet firm, N.T. Wright sheds light on Scripture and how it guides our thinking on what this pandemic means, what God has to say about it, and how we can recover moving forward. 

In less than 80 pages, this book will reveal exactly how Jesus would speak into this situation, its consequences, and its implications. 

Read this book and you’ll be as Peter and John were to the Romans.

“Surely they have been with Christ.” 

#3 – Start With Why

Third most popular TED Talk of all time? 

There’s a reason for that and it’s backed up by one of Simon Sinke’s original works, Start With Why

Throughout the book, Sinek investigates how certain organizations and historical figures, though entirely unrelated, are more influential, more profitable, and more successful than others.

As the title foreshadows, it all starts with “why” and every principle in this book can be applied to how you lead your church. 

Staff members, volunteers, and your congregation will not buy into any direction, vision, or message unless they understand the “why” behind it. 

Make that idea a guiding principle in your leadership this year by reading this book. 

#4 – Dream Big

When you’re a kid, you dream big. But somewhere along the way, fear tends to take the wheel. 

Bob Goff’s third literary installment will remove fear from the driver’s seat and put you back into the driver’s seat. 

As a pastor, you have big, beautiful ambitions for your church. 2021 is the year that those ambitions finally come to life. 

Based on his wildly popular (and successful) Dream Big Workshops, Bob will walk you through a life-proven framework with practical steps that will turn the biggest dreams you have for your church into a reality for you and your community.  

No more hiding your own dreams from yourself. This book can alter the course of your life and your church for the good of the Kingdom!

#5 – Seeing Jesus From The East

The late Ravi Zacharias did so much to bring the powerful message of Christ into the complex conversations of apologetics, world religions, and geopolitics. 

Seeing Jesus From the East is one of his faster reads, but that doesn’t vandalize the integrity of the message. 

Living in the western world, it’s easy to forget—even as a pastor—the Eastern roots of Jesus. To fix your eyes on Jesus is, in reality, to fix your gaze to the East. 

This book will undoubtedly freshen your perspective on the parables you have shared for years and round your approach to the Scriptures as a whole. You’ll have no choice but to remember not just who Jesus is, but where He is from.

#6 – Atomic Habits

Do you think pursuing your New Year’s Resolutions will go differently this year? 

It’s okay to admit that they won’t. 

With Atomic Habits, Author and blogger James Clear will take your eyes off of goals and set them on daily habits that can create massive improvements in your life. 

As one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, Clear reveals practical strategies that will teach you how to break bad habits, form good ones, and master the little behaviors that create astronomical results. 

Instead of setting yourself up for failure with lofty goals and unfair expectations, spend 2021 making tiny 1% improvements each day that lead to your ultimate success. 

You and your church will be better off!

#7 – Necessary Endings 

Sometimes life demands that progress stems from ending things instead of starting them. 

Put a clear stop to relationships, activities, and personal perceptions that stunt the very growth in your church that you’re trying to foster. 

Dr. Henry Cloud’s book Necessary Endings will challenge you to achieve the personal and professional growth your heart desires by following through with the tough decisions. 

Decisions you don’t want to make and that scare the daylights out of you.  

To not put an end to the right things could put an end to your church. Read this book and put its guidance into action. 

#8 – Deep Work

Imagine a workday completely free of any distractions from social media, email, and random interruptions. 

Cal Newport’s book gives you the tools you need to live in a distraction-free world where you execute deep work day in and day out. If Atomic Habits is an appetizer, Deep Work is the main course.

It’s easy to feel like your life and therefore your work is dictated by distractions. Your screen is bombarded with advertisements and click-bait. 

The intense regimen and call to deep work in this book will ensure that your days are full of productive work that has a deep impact on the world around you. 

Read this book to make 2021 the year of influencing your surroundings instead of another year of letting your surroundings influence you. 

#9 – Loonshots

If you’re tired of team dynamics within your church stifling the growth of your church or the execution of plans, then this is the book for you. 

In Loonshots, Safi Bachal explores and explains the science of phase transitions and how it causes groups of people to suddenly reject what they previously embraced. 

Using an engaging and witty narrative, Bachal is able to unveil the behaviors that cause teams of people to change their behavior and derail an organization’s mission in the process. 

There are structures you can put in place within your own church that will keep everybody aligned on the same mission and this book will teach you how to do that. 

#10 – Ruthless Elimination Of Hurry 

If you have felt the desperate need to slow down over the past 9 months, you are not alone. 

Actually, if you have felt the need to slow down at all over the past 10 years, you are not alone. The evolving digital world can easily make you feel surrounded by damage and destruction. 

And that causes you to hurry from problem to problem, achievement to achievement. 

This is the pain and the problem John Mark Comer address in his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

Instead of using illusive inspiration as a bandaid for exhaustion, Comer uses sound truth as a salve for your wounds. 

In this book, he reminds you who you are meant to be and provides the roadmap you need to stay emotionally and spiritually healthy in our increasingly chaotic world. 

#11 – Tattoos On The Heart

It’s unfortunate that the past few years have politicized the phrase “lead with compassion.”

Because empathy and compassion are not political characteristics. They’re gospel characteristics. 

Gregory Boyle’s book Tattoos On The Heart serves as a joyful reminder of what God’s compassion looks like when played out here on earth. 

If you want to laugh and cry in one sitting, we cannot recommend this book enough. It’s not exactly Boyle’s compassion that will compel you to lead in the same way, but the stories he shares. 

#12 – The Freedom Of Self Forgetfulness

Everything in our world today makes it seem acceptable to connect every experience and every conversation to ourselves. 

In this super short (49 pages) pamphlet, Timothy Keller shatters right through that very idea. Keller argues that a heart supernaturally changed by God is neither self-hating nor self-loving. 

It is radiantly self-forgetful. 

Drawing from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, this short pamphlet will rock your world and the way you perceive yourself in it. 

If you want the gift of rest in 2021, first give yourself the gift of self-forgetfulness. 

#13 – Liturgy of Politics

Turn on any TV or open any social media feed and you’ll hear or read about the political division in our country. 

Your church has a role to play in the reconciliation and unification that God has in store for the coming years. 

Kaitlyn Schiess’ book Liturgy of Politics offers practical guidance on how to navigate the choppy waters where church and state collide.

Throughout the book, Schiess’ makes you aware of how your church’s politics are often shaped by practices and habits that you’re not even aware of. 

This book will make you aware of the political forces surrounding your church and offers historical Christian context to shape the conversation moving forward. 

#14 – Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes The Church

It’s no secret that in general, our houses of prayer have become houses of programs. 

In his thought-provoking and convicting book, John Onwuchekwa reminds you that prayer is as necessary to the Christian, and therefore the church, as breath is to the human body.

Prayer is often encouraged in the personal lives of congregants but less often practiced in the local church. 

This one book can turn prayer into the very lifeblood of your church and how your community comes together in 2021. 

#15 – Gilead

You are divinely wired for story, so we couldn’t make a whole list without including a few fiction stories. 

Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead is the type of captivating story that will move you to tears and to dancing all at once. 

She elegantly tells the story of America, our America, through an intimate tale of three generations of fathers and sons. The characters are wrestling with the spiritual battles and changing of times that still rage against us today. 

Read this book for a narrative that will fill any void you have felt throughout this year of discourse. 

#16 – Let The Trumpet Sound

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is often reduced to a handful of quotes on the third Monday in January. This pastor, author, and leader had a complicated life that left a lasting impact on our world. 

In this authorized biography, Stephen B. Oates examines the whole man and challenges you to see our current challenges in a new light.

Biographies are always a good way of altering the way we allow the past, and past figures, to shape our outlook on the present. 

Let this heavily researched book on one of America’s heroes deeply inform and even challenge the way you view the varying tensions in our world today. 

If one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to start your own personal library, this may be your launching pad. 

Read one or a collection of any of these books and witness God move in and through you in ways you’ve never expected.

Take the Next Step

The Pastor's Book Club brings pastors and church leaders notes, summaries, and action steps from the best business and leadership books.

Ministry insights can come from anywhere, and business books are an untapped source of wisdom.

Pastors and church leaders are often well versed in Bible study, theology, and ministry, but are ill-equipped to lead an organization. That’s why The Pastor’s Book Club focuses on bringing the best ministry insights from world-class business leaders.  

The Church Fuel Podcast Episode 2.8: Using Online Small Groups To Reach New People

The Church Fuel Podcast Episode 2.8: Using Online Small Groups To Reach New People

Where two or more gather, there is a small group. 

2020 is finally winding down, and the cat is for sure out of the bag: things didn’t go “back to normal” after Easter like they were supposed to. This pandemic comes with a lot of implications for your church. Reaching new people is no longer as simple as opening your doors on Sunday and welcoming new members of the flock. 

A new person’s first interaction with your church is becoming less and less likely to occur during your Sunday service, whether it’s online or in person. People are becoming more inclined to check out your church’s small groups before they ever engage with your sermons and Sunday activities. And with social distancing and restrictions on public gatherings, online small groups can become the most attractive opportunity for a person interested in joining your church. 

Moving into 2021, your church’s ability to use online small groups to reach new people will be crucial to your church’s ability to grow. 

Small Groups Then Vs. Small Groups Now

For many years churches have used small groups as a growth strategy, riding off the back of Sunday services. “Big church,” on Sunday was like the doorway into the house with a grand entryway, smiling greeters, and breathtaking art that’s fun to look at. Small groups were more like the living room, further into the house with comfier chairs and more intimate conversations.   

Up to this year, small groups have been viewed more in the discipleship vein. 

“Come to our new member class, and then, if you want to go deep, join a small group.” 

Now there’s a new way to use small groups. The digital wave that has swept over all churches has created the opportunity for your small groups to be an outreach tool. Instead of using your small groups for discipleship, you can leverage small groups as an evangelical opportunity to attract and reach new people. 

To be clear, you should still have small groups dedicated to discipleship — that third or fourth step in plugging into the life of your church. But as people continue to search for community, you must have small groups that serve as the first step in engaging with your church.       

3 Steps To Launching Small Groups For Outreach    

Step One is making these small groups topical. For people already involved with your church a general, “small group” is attractive because they already know people and likely have already taken steps in their faith journey. The people who have never been to your church before, or maybe any church for that matter, aren’t enticed by a small group where they don’t know anybody. 

Entice them with topics of interest in the surrounding community or hit on their own, currently felt needs. Think of the focus and commonality of a book club. It’s a small group of people meeting to discuss one specific topic and a particular piece of content.  

If you need help uncovering relevant topics for your community, visit churchfuel.com/kyc to get a free report on your community and what would be relevant to the people in your area that have never been to your church. 

Step Two is choosing the right format. For your small groups dedicated to reaching new people online is the way to go. People can engage with your church and meet new people, but when it’s digital, they’re able to do so in the comfort of their own home. The barrier to entry is way lower. It makes joining your church’s small group a more palatable first step for a brand new person. 

And if a small group member visits your church after being a part of a six-week, topical small group on Zoom, they’ll feel more connected than if they walked in your door with zero prior interaction.  

Step Three is making sure these online topical small groups have a defined start and end date. Keeping the time between six and twelve weeks is the best amount of time to keep new people engaged with your church. 

Once you reach the end of your small group’s set amount of time, you need to have a transitional call to action. It can be, “Hey, now that we’ve discussed this topic for six weeks, do you want to do six weeks on this completely different topic?” Or it can be, “Now that you’ve been a part of this small group for three months, are you interested in joining our new member class?” 

As with everything your church does, your online small groups dedicated to reaching new people need clear next steps. Our Follow-Up Course has tons of great content on how to follow up with people who have shown interest in your church but haven’t become consistent members yet. 

You’re not launching a new ministry. 

Whether you’re a big or a small church, this is an incredibly accessible thing to do to reach new people. You don’t have to purchase expensive audio equipment, hire new staff, or even cater a bunch of Chick Fil A that doesn’t get eaten. 

Follow the three steps we have given you and simply repurpose your usual small group efforts toward discipleship for evangelism. The goal is not to impress people or immediately turn strangers into members. 

The goal is to reach new people and create community around a topic that is relevant to them. 

RESOURCES

KYC Report

Follow Up Course

Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode HERE.

Quotes from Episode 2.8

“Churches have thought of small groups as a discipleship tool and what we're realizing with this digital wave that is sweeping over us, is that digital has created a new opportunity for us to use small groups as an outreach tool.” – Michael Lukaszewski 

“The cool thing about this is that you can use outside resources. If you wanted to do something about finance, you could walk through some sort of like financial plan and resource other curriculum for it. It makes it super easy for people who are going to be leading the pack, or leading the small group.” – Meagan Ranson

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