Every fall semester at The Journey, we do a church-wide campaign, or integrated movement, where small-group discussions mirror and support sermon topics, and vice versa. Recently, we did a church-wide campaign called “The New Testament Challenge.” The start date for the Sunday teaching series was the same week as the start date for the groups semester. We challenged our people to read through the New Testament in 63 days to coincide with the Sunday teachings, which were oriented around the key themes of the New Testament, and to discuss the readings in their groups throughout the week. The challenge was very effective for group sign-ups, and really had an impact on our church by deepening each group member’s walk with God. Tremendous synergy occurs in a church when there is a single focus between the Sunday service and small groups.
Sometimes people see groups as an add-on. They think groups are just part of the buffet the church offers—another option for spiritual growth besides the weekend service. A united campaign helps people see that groups do not stand alone. Rather, they are an integral part of the whole life of the church. When they understand this unity, people who have never experienced the power of groups are more likely to sign up. That means that first-time group members are more likely to sign up during the church-wide campaign semester than during any other semester.
We recommend using a church-wide campaign one semester a year. Fall and spring are the two best options, with fall winning by a nose. In our experience, with hundreds of churches, fall semester church-wide campaigns seem to generate the most sign-ups. Why? Because of the back-to-school urge that lies dormant (or not so dormant) in each of us. The fall feels like the beginning of a new semester, even to people who have never been in a small group before. That’s what you want. Work with the inherent tendencies of the fall season. Fall also lends itself to a church-wide campaign because the Thanksgiving holiday makes the semester a little shorter. This means that you will have an easier time coordinating small groups with the Sunday service.
Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas, Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2010).