Why Connect Groups Are Great For New People

This originally appeared as a devo on whillschurch.org.

NewIf you haven’t had a chance to listen (or watch) the last two messages, I highly encourage you go do that. They both serve as the backstory of why we are moving towards Connect Groups. Particularly “The How of Love, Live, Serve, and Multiply.”

The Why of Love, Live, Serve, and Multiply
The How of Love, Live, Serve, and Multiply

We are entering perhaps one of the busiest times I’ve ever experienced at Western Hills.

Messages on Video: We’ve taken a pretty big step with our online presence by now putting our services (just the messages for now) online. We are not live-streaming yet and it’s not the whole service – both of those are on the horizon for us – but this is the first step.

Upward Soccer: We have over 124 kids already signed up. I was told last night by the Upward team that we need another field and more soccer goals. This is more than we’ve ever had at this point. (And yes, we still need a few coaches, a lot of refs, and a ton of prayer.)

Sharefest: The actual date is October 5th but planning is going on right now with the schools and the city.

BackSnacks: School starts up on the week of August 13th and we will need even more volunteers this year.

Children’s Ministry: We still need 1st service help and Awana is about to get cranked back up.

Hi Crest: Another serve all opportunity coming down the road for us in a couple of weeks.

Student Ministry: It’s been a great summer of life change for our students. The fall promises to be even more “awesome” than the summer.

Connect Groups: We start promoting them this week and they start on the week of September 1.

Shameless plug moment: You can sign up to help with of these opportunities plus others on our Current Serve Opportunities page.

I’m excited about all of these things as they represent a church BEING the Church. It’s so awesome to see so many people using their gifts impacting the community in the name of Jesus.

However, our move to Connect Groups may represent the most significant change in programming in the life of Western Hills. Allow me to explain.

For the last few years, we have been intentional about being “other focused” or “outward focused” with everything we do. The goal is to remove as many unnecessary obstacles for people to connect with Jesus. So we serve our schools, do sports ministries, give scholarships away, try to avoid “churchy” language – all the stuff most you already know and are doing.

I also know that second most important piece of the puzzle for a person to grow in Christ is a small group experience that is centered on studying and applying God’s word. (The first – having a relationship with someone who knows Christ.) But if you look at most churches – ours included – their small group experience is set up to make it as difficult as possible for a new person to get involved.

Most churches have multiple names for their groups – Sunday School, Life Group, Bible Study, Equipping Class to name a few. So there is confusion right out of the gate – which one do I need? What is the difference in each one? Most of these groups have been meeting together for a long period of time which creates a very close bond within the class. It’s intimidating to walk into that kind of closeness and it’s awkward to have to leave that group to find another if you don’t quite connect. Most churches emphasize the group, not the topic. Most new people are more concerned with the topic – not the group.

As important as being in a small group experience is, the reality is that most churches make it super difficult for new people to get in one. Which makes no sense if you think about it. If you have had a small group experience – you know how important and wonderful they can be. So you’re willing to go through some awkwardness to find one…because you’ve had the experience before. But for those who haven’t – what most churches are asking of them to get involved is to much for them.

The hardest part of a small group experience is actually going to the first one. The second hardest part is feeling trapped in one that you don’t feel connected to.

So our Connect Groups are trying to remove as many of these obstacles as we can. Here’s a quick recap to show how it works:

August:
No more Life Groups, Equipping Classes, Bible Studies, or Sunday School classes.
We have Connect Groups.
Everyone will need to sign up for a Connect Group that starts in September.

September-November:
Groups will meet.
Groups will have clear, defined topic. (Parenting, Financial Peace, Genesis, Sermon Series, etc.)
Groups will end on last week of November.
Groups will meet at various times and locations.
We will still have Connect Groups that meet on Sunday morning during our “Equipping Hour.”

December:
Promote new Connect Groups that will start in January.
Everyone will need to sign up for a Connect Group that starts in January.

January-March:
Groups will meet.

April:
Promote and sign up for new Connect Groups that are meeting from May to July.

May-July:
Groups will meet.

We are trying to be as “other focused” (or “outward focused”) with our Connect Groups as we have been with our other ministries. We are trying to eliminate as many obstacles as we can for the new person. So everyone is new at the same time, we all start out new together. The topics of each group are clear, it’s easier to change groups without the awkwardness.

The best part of this? It will gives us the opportunity to disciple another person further into their relationship with Jesus, to the point that one day they serve and then one day they are multiplying Christ.

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