The way we get people into community groups at Athens Church is through an event called GroupLink. Early this year, we decided that attending this event would be a requirement for joining a group. Here are the reasons we decided to do this…
1. The success rate of groups that formed outside of GroupLink is very low for us. In fact, I can think of only one group that started outside of a GroupLink that has survived. The basic principle we have discovered is this, if people are unwilling to prioritize GroupLink, they will very likely not prioritize their community group as well. People just need time to get to the point where they are really willing to make a commitment to a group. Making them wait for a GroupLink gives them that time, and requiring attendance is a small step of commitment for them.
2. GroupLinks create incredible momentum for group involvement. We only do 2 GroupLinks a year: January and August. This gives us about 6 months in between events to build up people who want to get into groups. That way, the actual event is highly attended. There is something really positive that happens when a large group of people join groups at once. They are able to see how many people are doing this with them.
3. The time in between GroupLinks has proven to be a very positive thing for us. It builds anticipation about group involvement, it helps us emphasize the importance of joining a service team while they are waiting, promoting it is very simple, and it makes it easy to always teach a Groups message the Sunday before.
4. I believe that doing it this way allows us to have better “matches” in our groups. When there are more people to choose from, it is more likely that people will be in a group with people they actually like and have some things in common with.
5. It helps me to stay focussed on leader development. I focus on getting people into groups only around the GroupLink events. The rest of my time, I am able to focus on helping our groups be the best they can be. I was spinning my wheels a lot when I was trying to start new groups all the time. It’s a lot of work with very little success.
My biggest fear in doing this was all the push back I would get from people wanting to get into groups in the interim. Honestly, though, we have been doing this for a year now, and I have had very little push back. When I explain it to people, they understand. Almost everyone is willing to wait a few months to get into a group- especially if it’s a better experience. I just tell them to relax, enjoy the worship services, join a service team, and GroupLink will be here before they know it.