How To Use a Campaign to Launch Strong Groups

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Almost all churches have a vision to connect the unconnected. There are two basic categories of people who are unconnected. The first group is made up of those people in your community who are not active in church—yours or any other. The second groups are those folks who attend worship—at least occasionally—at your church but who are not connected to a smaller group. A campaign can be an effective way to engage either or both groups. The strategy is remarkably similar! Here are some steps to consider.

Commit to connecting people by starting new groups. While existing small groups or classes will almost certainly add new members as a result of a campaign, new groups will add more. Lots more! Four ingredients are essential for starting a new group: an occasion, a location, a leader, and study material.

  • Occasion. There are two basic choices: (1) right before or right after the primary weekend worship experience and/or (2) some other time, such as a weeknight. Churches that operate Sunday School—or its functional equivalent by some other name—are a great example of the first. Churches that utilize weekday small groups represent the second. Churches that do both understand the significance of “and/or!”
  • Location. Again, two basic choices: (1) at/near the church campus and/or (2) away from the church!
  • Leader. This is usually the hardest part! One of the main reasons it is hard is that, well, we often make it too hard. The main way to make it easier for a new leader to be successful—and for us to enlist them with that promise—is to provide them materials that increase their confidence and facilitate their success in leading a satisfying and transformational group experience.
  • Study material. Bible Studies for Life is designed intentionally to help churches connect the unconnected. While veteran leaders will be find lots of material to challenge them, even rookie leaders can use it to facilitate a great group experience—from the very first meeting. Optional videos are just one of the ways Bible Studies for Life helps fulfill that promise.

Create a campaign to encourage people to attend the new groups.  One of the wonderful side-benefits of a campaign is that attendance in existing groups almost always increases—often dramatically! Some new people start coming, while the current members come more often. The thrust of the campaign is to get new people engaged in new groups. Here are a few tips.

  • Schedule six weeks of study for the campaign.  Small groups pioneer and founder of Serendipity House Lyman Coleman said six weeks was short enough for people to commit to, but long enough for people to begin to connect. That’s the reason Bible Studies for Life is comprised of six-session units.
  • Encourage all groups to study the same material. You might want to consider using Bible Studies for Life, although these principles will work with any material. Some pastors may want to consider preaching messages related to the study. Sermon outlines for Bible Studies for Life studies will be available at www.biblestudiesforlife.com. Click on the “pastors” button on the right to see the topics and outline sets. Here’s one example of one of the outline sets for Pressure Points
  • Promote the campaign in a compelling way. Videos and website banner ads are two ways—but methods that are out of reach for most churches. Churches that choose Bible Studies for Life will find free promotional videos, banners and other campaign materials at www.biblestudiesforlife.com/media. Additionally, LifeWay Research is conducting a mini-survey for each unit. Pastors and other leaders may find these findings helpful as a way to introduce the promo videos—or use alone.

Create some new opportunities to connect people. Campaigns are a great time for a little experimentation. Here are a few ideas.

  • Utilize a large space for a safe connection experience. This tactic will work whether your groups meet on-campus, off-campus, or both. Many churches conduct such gatherings, each with different features. Basically, this is how it works. You set up a large room with chairs around tables or in horseshoe-shaped groups. A discussion leader is enlisted for each group. If Bible Studies for Life material was used, a “master-teacher” would speak to the entire group, while the questions would be discussed in the smaller groups. Some of these groups will want to continue to meet after the six sessions are completed!
  • Encourage—and train—some folks to start a new group in their homes, workplaces, or somewhere else. They provide or secure the space and invite FRANs (friends, relatives, associates, neighbors!) to participate. You provide the materials. The commitment would be for six meetings. Many leaders and groups will want to continue. So, as my friend and LifeWay small groups consultant Mark Howell coaches, always have a suggestion ready for the next six sessions, too!

Communicate with volunteers and leaders. Campaigns are “all-hands-on-deck” times in a church! If you utilize Bible Studies for Life for your campaign, make sure everyone knows about the many helps they will find at www.biblestudiesforlife.com. And don’t forget to celebrate after the campaign! Share your campaign ideas, successes, and even miscues with others at www.facebook.com/biblestudiesforlife.

 

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Comments

  1. Leigh Ann Stark says:

    Hello friends!
    It is amazing how we take things for granted and do not appreciate them until they are not there! For that I apologize!
    Organizing preschool resource kits is a breeze when the pieces are labeled: Unit # and Session #! When they are not, the preparation time is significantly increased!
    Knowing it is too late for Fall 2013, please consider adding this feature back in future units!
    Thank you!!!!

    • James Jackson says:

      Hi Leigh Ann! Thank you for asking. Please let us know exactly which product you are using. We definitely try to always include the unit number and session number so that it is as easy to prepare as possible. Something must have slipped past us! Sorry about that.

  2. We changed to BSFL in September. Some of our teachers have said that the learners have missed having the dates on the pages as the Explore the Bible series had. Some have stated the Teacher’s material requires you to have the teacher’s and the learner’s book together to prepare. They like the idea of having it all in one book. As a pastor I am still trying to figure out when I have campaign materials available and when I do not. Is there an email list I can get on that would remind me a few months out which units are campaign units?

    • James Jackson says:

      Hi David! We don’t have an email list as such. I can tell you that the next campaign unit is “Let Hope In.” The small group version of this one will be available in January, and the ongoing version will be shipped to churches for Spring, 2014. The suggested date of first use for Session 1 is April 13. Feel free to email me at james.jackson@lifeway.com after Let Hope In, and I’ll send you the details for the next one. Would that be helpful?

  3. Sandi Bazo says:

    I have been teaching adult SS with Lifeway materials for at least 20 years. I enjoy changes and trying new ways, however I am very disappointed in the new format of Bible Studies for Life. I enjoy the more sturdy books for teacher and student, but enjoyment stops there. There is not nearly as much content as there used to be. Many of the pages are half blank. The commentary is not as in depth and there are not nearly as many teaching and discussion ideas. The students and I both dislike that the date is not on the lesson. Much fumbling for right page. I also find the leader pack to be lacking. Very few handouts and sometimes I look at the posters and say, “huh?”. Despite what this post sounds like, I am a very positive person and an upbeat teacher. New ideas excite me. But for the first time I am considering other materials for our study. If there is anyway to backtrack on some of my concerns, please do. Thank you.

    • Ken Braddy says:

      Hello Sandi,

      I’ve had a great experience using the new Bible Studies For Life materials in my group! We’ve grown from 3 to 18 during the past six months, and things took off for our group when we began using BSFL’s new design. It takes us 45 minutes to one hour to go through each study, and that’s with me pretty much following the teaching plan/discussion plan in the leader guide. I am pressed for time on most Sundays! I’m sorry you haven’t had such an experience in your group. The new BSFL is designed to help groups foster discussion, and for the teacher/group leader to have to do less “teaching” – instead they can guide the study and the discussion, helping the group to focus on the One Point of each session. The commentary, I have found, is just enough for me to use a little bit of it, but because the discussion questions generate so much talk among the group members, I don’t use much of the commentary. Did you know about Hobbs and Advanced commentaries that go along with BSFL? They each have about 4000 words of straight commentary for each session…maybe that would give you the commentary you’re looking for? Also, did you know there is an all-adult version (that does have a more open, airy feel) and a version for seniors (don’t know if that fits your group or not) that has more content and more commentary? I have discovered that some groups just have the wrong version in their hands, and when they get the right one, they are very pleased. The dates are in the Table of Contents page as “suggested” dates because so many churches and groups are doing Bible studies on days other than Sundays….we wanted to make things as easy and accessible for them as we could, while still providing a way for “Sunday” churches to use the materials just like always.

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