I live 3 minutes away from an Interstate 5 (a.k.a. the I-5) on-ramp. This is a huge convenience for my wife and I. We can quickly jump on it to get to Downtown Sacramento or enjoy an outing to San Francisco or make a road trip to Los Angeles, not to mention a myriad of other options. The on-ramp is a single entry point that can lead to multiple destinations.
We have a good number of small groups that we offer in our church. For the average person, a first glance at all the options could be overwhelming. This is why we strategically build different types of small group on-ramps to help people move closer towards the vision of group life. This is an important concept that cannot be underscored enough.
We have to stop thinking that we can just announce small groups on a Sunday and everyone will naturally follow-thru and show up at a group. Don’t think programs, think steps. That’s what on-ramps are: smaller steps to help people move closer to groups. Briefly, I want to share with you 7 Small Group On-Ramps we use to in our ministry.
1. Altar Prayer – We don’t have an altar team at our church. We have Pastors and Small Group Leaders who perform altar ministry. At the end of every service we announce that, “Our Pastors and Small Group Leaders will be down at the altar to agree with anybody who has a personal prayer request.”
This accomplishes a number of things. First, this means that every week we’re referring to Small Groups and helping our group leaders become familiar faces to our church. The other dynamic it creates is an opportunity for people to connect with group leaders and receive a personal invitation to the leader’s group after receiving prayer.
2. Next Step Table – For people making a 1st-time decision or re-commitment to Christ we direct them to stop by a table that has a banner over it stating, “Next Step Table.” At the table we have free Bibles that are available and we encourage people to consider 3 Next Steps: Water Baptism, Fresh Start Class (New Believers Class) and Small Groups. We rotate Small Group leaders for every service to man this station, we provide sign-up forms and all of the necessary info.
This is a strategic on-ramp for new believers to make a connection with a Small Group Leader and get more info about small groups.
4. Special Events – Several times a year we have Men’s and Women’s events/retreats. We make sure to use these to highlight the available Men’s and Women’s Small Groups that people can plug into.
5. Connection Event – We are planning a special connection event for the Sunday we launch our Fall Small Group term. We’re still nailing down all of the details, but it will immediately follow each Sunday service in the parking lot with food and opportunities to interact with Small Group Leaders. I’ve learned about these from other ministries and am looking forward to employing our own this Fall.
6. Sports Groups – We list our Sports Groups in our Small Group directory. Obviously, these have a greater emphasis on fellowship. Through Softball, Basketball and Flag-Football we have been able to connect many men and women, young and older, into the relational community of our church. These Sports Groups serve as on-ramps to our typical Small Groups that utilize more Bible study and prayer.
We’ve seen many guys get assimilated into group life by getting to know them in our Sports Groups first. Sports can be used as a helpful step towards a deeper commitment to Christ-like community.
7. Short Term Groups – Giving people a taste of group life without requiring a big commitment can also be an effective step to move people forward. Click Here to read Dean Deguara’s article, “Launching A 4 Week Small Group That Keeps Them Coming Back For More.”
The 7 On-Ramps listed above are not a comprehensive list but I hope it gets the juices flowing to help you think about what you can do to add user-friendly steps between your weekend services and your small groups. Maybe there are activities your church already does that, with a little tweaking, can be leveraged to assimilate people into group life. What are some other “Small Group On-Ramps” you’ve seen or employed in your church?
Photo Credit: Steven Damon