As the small groups pastor and a small group leader at The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., I’ve witnessed the life change that can happen when people encounter Jesus in a small gathering each week. I’ve seen nonbelievers become Christ followers, broken marriages healed and addictions overcome. That’s why we do everything we can to connect everyone—Christian or not, church member or not—to a small group as fast as we can. The conviction that we cannot program God’s work on someone’s life, but we can be catalysts for it, has led us to keep our small groups open to all people all the time. Here are a few steps we’ve taken to move that idea from concept to reality:
Personal invitation. All staff and volunteers are coached to ask one question every time they meet someone at church: “Are you in a small group?” Our greeting teams, kids ministry teams, even parking teams, help get people in a small group.
The one action point. Four times a year, our entire weekend (including the sermon) focuses on small groups. Immediately following each service, people have the chance to meet all of our small group leaders and connect to a group right then.
Monthly reception. Every month we hold a reception following each service where guests are invited to come learn more about The Summit. We emphasize small groups, and our small-groups team is available to help connect people to groups.
Groups plant groups. We ask every group to plant a new small group roughly once a year. Multiplying keeps the groups outreach-focused as they consistently invite new faces to participate. Two or three people from the current group are sent out to plant a new group.
Find a group online. Every available small group is featured on our website. We currently use an interactive map that allows you to filter your search for a group nearby.
Small groups kiosk. Our small groups kiosk is in a high-traffic, visible location. Our best small group leaders staff it. Your church may not need a kiosk, but you do need someone to be the connection point for groups before and after worship gatherings.
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2010 issue of Outreach magazine.