Before I share four current learnings we have had here at Saddleback Church in the last couple of years on connecting people, let me give you a bit of background. In the book Small Groups With Purpose (SGWP), I explain probably our two most effective strategies for connecting people at Saddleback Church over the last 15 years. Since 1997 we have taken our connection percentage from 30% to 120%. Yup, we have more people in small groups than attend the weekend service!
In chapter 16, I explain in detail the Connection Strategy we used from 1997 to 2002, primarily taking attendees and helping them raise a leader and find community. From 2002 to present we have been using our Campaign Strategy (chapter 17) to mobilize attendees to reach their friends to start groups. This strategy using out HOST concept took us from 70% connected to where we are now. If you are not familiar with these strategies or what a HOST is, I would highly recommend taking what we have learned and adapting it to your culture.
Here are 5 learnings we have had over the last couple of years
YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE LEADERS! Every year we gather our small group leaders for appreciation, vision-casting and recruitment. We call this rally a Small Group Host Gatherings (SGHG). Although very effective, last year we changed the terminology to cast the net wider. You see at a SGHG we always have a recruitment component to pull in the next wave of leaders. This however, relies on the HOST ability to recruit. Now we have an event called Vision Night. We do it Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night…pick one to go to. We cast the net from our weekend services. Pastor Rick Warren our Senior Pastor, asks for everyone to come. At the Vision Nights we appreciate the small group leaders, Rick casts vision for where we are going and he then recruits new HOSTs for our upcoming Campaign. Instead of having 1 night of a SGHG, we now have 3 nights of Vision Nights with better results getting new leaders (HOSTs). Remember, without leaders, you can’t connect!
ANSWER THE KID QUESTION! The number one barrier to get young couples connected is childcare. Hands down, it is the biggest obstacle for families with elementary age and below children. At Saddleback we have KSG, which are Kids Small Groups. They target kids 3rd grade to 6th grade kids helping them to experience community. They meet Tuesdays or Wednesdays after school or Wednesday nights. Since we don’t have a mid week service, we are aligning and centralizing young couples (kids birth to 6th grade) who want community with our KSG on Wednesday nights and offering childcare for kids birth to 2nd grade. The adults meet in the Worship Center around tables using a DVD curriculum together. This way adults get their small group and kids get their small group!