You are approached by a first-time guest who would like to know about your small groups. What types of groups do you have available for this person to join? How did you decide what groups will work best for each individual or family unit?
Ultimately, you know your context and what will be most effective in your community.
Here are three options that you might consider for how you’d organize your groups:
In this model anything can be a group: knitting group, walking club, golf club, movie group, moms with toddlers, or beers and Bibles (if you’re Baptist just make sure it’s Root Beer). You organize around a common interest. New people join a group by finding an activity they like and connecting. This model still affords you the opportunity to differentiate between couples and singles if you’d like.
The danger with affinity based groups is that sometimes the activity can overwhelm the meeting time and very little else happens. While that’s true of any group, affinity groups have a stronger pull to go off course simply because they are organized more around the activity. However, if the goal of your group is to connect people into potential new friendships, this may not be a bad thing for you.
This model is the most common approach because people are grouped according to stage of life: single, married, young kids, empty nesters, married with teens, single parents, etc. The advantages to this approach are that it allows for people to relate to one another in the circumstances of their current life stage. This can be an automatic draw as people are looking for someone who “gets them.”
The primary drawback to this type of group environment is that it doesn’t provide a variety of perspectives in a group. It will be more uncommon to be intergenerational when you are all the same age and same stage of life. In addition, you will need to pay special attention to the pockets of people who are on the margins in your demographics, as it may be more difficult for them to find a place to connect.
This model groups people according to the same neighborhood or area of town. This provides more opportunity to do life together outside of group time based on geographical convenience. It’s easier for more spontaneous gatherings to happen. It also means you’re more likely to have kids at the same schools or see each other at the grocery store. This model also tends to be intergenerational, while still offering something in common.
The downside to this approach is that group members may be so different from one another, that they never find a point of connection outside of their address. If this happens, be prepared with a plan B.
There is no perfect approach, but you do need to think through the implications for your organization and community, and have a clear plan. Communicating a clear plan and creating opportunities to join groups is half the battle in starting a groups model in your church.
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