Small Group Growth Strategies – March Training

 

Many of my readers are religious leaders interested in growing congregations, transforming lives, and impacting the larger community.

Many congregations that want grow get stuck small because they don’t have the relational structures in place to allow for growth.

That’s why my March Leading Congregations Monthly live training  is focused on small group growth strategies. If you want to grow your congregation, I hope you’ll join us.

Family-sized congregations (up to around 50 people) are often kept small by their close relationships, with members not wanting to disrupt intimacy. They like knowing everyone, they like being a family.

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Pastoral-sized congregations (up to around 150 people) tend to stay small because the minister serves as the hub of everything. If you draw a map of relationships in one of these congregations, it looks like a hairball. I have colleagues who call this the “hairball ministry” model.

You can want to grow, but unless you change the structure, after a certain point, there just isn’t the capacity to grow. That’s where growth oriented small group ministry comes in.

Small group ministry, when designed and implemented correctly, offers the vision, leadership, and relational capacity congregations need to grow.

That’s what we’re discussing in next week’s Leading Congregations Monthly live training: Small Group Growth Strategies.  Learn More.

Some of you might not know that small groups are how I got into working with our congregations nationally.

After successfully using small group ministry with youth, young adults in my home congregation, I launched the UU Small Group Ministry Network in 2001 and in 2004 relaunched it with colleagues as a nonprofit and affiliate organization of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

That effort helped establish the popular approach to small group ministry used in Unitarian Universalist congregations.

While small group ministry is common now, what isn’t as widely known is what you need to do to grow small groups and use small groups as engines for congregational growth.

After helping to popularize small group ministry, I stepped away for a time to help pioneer our use of social media in our congregations. Both are ways to connect people with our congregations, which is my passion.

I have led weekend retreats in which I’ve shared the deeper growth strategies, but I haven’t offered this content through online training.

But that’s changed thanks to Leading Congregations Monthly which is helping more leaders access my training.

This month I’m going to share core strategies you can use to grow your group leaders, grow your groups, and grow your congregation.

This is a 90-minute live training happening Wednesday, March 13th at 7pm EST.

All of our Leading Congregations Monthly trainings are RECORDED with video recordings with CLOSED CAPTIONING and HANDOUTS available in the program MEMBER AREA.

If you’re committed to growing your congregation and don’t have a thriving small group system actively supporting the health and growth of your ministry, this is an important training for you.

Click here to get all the details about Leading Congregations Monthly  including the benefits, how you can include teams, and bonuses if you join. Bonuses will be available in your library immediately after you join Leading Congregations Monthly.

This month’s bonuses are:
• Relational Volunteer Recruitment with Peter Bowden (mini-course)
• Social Media and Membership Growth with Peter Bowden (full course)

Thank you for your leadership and let me know if you have questions.

In cooperation,
Peter

 

5 Ways Social Media is Changing How People Join Congregations

This article is cross-posted on my blog for congregational leaders and is excerpted from my online video course Church Social Media and Membership Growth.

With approximately seven-in-ten Americans now using at least one social media site (Pew Internet), faith leaders can’t afford to ignore the impacts of digital culture.

Here are five ways social media is changing the process of connecting with and joining congregations.

 1. Visitors do extensive research online

People research congregations and their faith traditions extensively online.

In our digitally oriented culture, if you are going to buy or choose something, or make an important life decision,  you do your homework.

You do a Google or other search. You watch videos, read reviews, and do everything you can to educate yourself so you can make a well-informed decision. People interested in a congregation default to a similar process.

 2. Before visiting, people participate remotely

After their initial research, many people choose to follow the congregation for a time on social media.

Observing and participating remotely through Facebook, Twitter, audio podcasts, and other channels helps to determine if the congregation is a match for them.

Whether it takes weeks, months, or a year, at some point (hopefully) they will learn and experience enough to say, “YES! This is the congregation for me. I belong here.”

3. A higher degree of certainty is required to initiate an onsite visit

This calls us to use social media for more than an outreach.  We need to use it to meet people where they are — online — and to proactively help them with their process.

If we want people to visit,  they need access to information, have questions answered, and receive some affirmation that they are going to fit in.

Once someone is confident that the congregation is likely to be a great match,  then they’ll visit.

4.  High-stakes visits verify the match

After weeks, months, or a year of interacting with a congregation online, it is a big deal to visit onsite and see if people like them.  Will they?  Won’t they?

This isn’t a regular “let me check this place out” visit.  This is the moment of transition from ONLINE participation to ONSITE participation with very high hopes and expectations.

This sort of visitor needs affirmation and to connect with others almost immediately.

5. Visitors need immediate affirmation and connection

How long do you think a visitor will hang around waiting to be affirmed and connect with the community before they give up and leave?

In my trainings, I tell congregational leaders to play it safe and assume they need to offer this affirmation during the first visit.   Because if you don’t, it may very well be the only visit.

Now everyone’s different and you may have more time, but not much more.  It is essential to affirm visitors quickly and offer clear next steps for connecting with your community.

There are many ways we can use social media and online communications to offer this affirmation and start the connecting process before the visit.  We can start the process online.

These changes create a wide range of challenges and opportunities for congregations.  In my next post, I’ll share some of the ways congregations can start to respond.

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Related Training

Interested in this topic? My new course Church Social Media and Membership Growth is a 3-hour on-demand training sharing the top strategies from my day-long seminars.

Readers of this site can enroll for $10 now through March 15th. That includes life-time access and a 30-day money back guarantee.  Just use the links on this post to get the full discount.