Let’s break down the process into three simple steps. The simplicity of the process is actually a key to the success of the whole strategy!
As you communicate to the general congregation, here are the three essentials you want them to know and do:
(1) Grab a resource.
(2) Gather a few friends.
(3) Grow together through the upcoming series.
Keep it that simple. People are more likely to buy into new ways of doing things when the process is understandable and clear.
Invite your attendees to grab a free DVD and printed resource to guide a small group. This process typically begins two weeks before the launch of a new message series and continues through the first week or two of that message series. The lead pastor invites everyone in the congregation to take the resource, as a gift, in exchange for being willing to gather a few friends and grow through this series. The materials work best when designed as a supplement to the weekend message.
By having materials readily available after a worship service (or other gathering), you lower the bar for leadership, allowing everyone to participate as a host. This will exponentially expand the pool of people you may be able to reach during the gather-and-grow stage.
In larger congregations with media staff, if time and resources allow, you may want to create these video-based teaching materials in-house. However, this step is not necessary. For example, as a smaller congregation, when preparing to purchase land, we used John Ortberg’s study If You Want to Walk on Water as our small-group resource. We coupled it with weekend messages about faith and generosity. It worked really well because it fit the challenging context in the life of our faith community.
It is possible to adapt various short-term video-based studies to fit the G3 process. Other video studies we have used in a church-wide series include The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkerson; The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren; and Life’s Healing Choices by John Baker.
Materials are now being developed, at a much-reduced cost to the participating congregation, so that it is affordable for churches of all sizes to purchase community group studies in bulk quantities. To implement the G3 process, the resources should be provided so that community groups can multiply at an exponential rate. For example, Abingdon Press (our publisher) is aiming to distribute video-based studies at a discounted cost under five dollars for each video disk (and under ten dollars for each discounted participant/leader guide), which is supplied by the church to each community group during the “grab the resource” step. By planning ahead and coupling the weekend message, the G3 process will work with most biblical video-based curriculum or small-group studies.
Immediately after grabbing a resource, hosts are encouraged to reach out and invite churched and especially nonchurched friends, neighbors, and coworkers to join them for the study. Encourage hosts to meet in homes, offices, and even restaurants and parks. The intent is to move the setting outside of the church walls and into neutral settings. A familiar setting may help those far from God to be more comfortable. During this time, those who have grabbed a resource need to be encouraged to reach out to as many people as they comfortably can, so they are able to fill their groups and experience a positive group launch.
This begins as soon as the group assembles. In the G3 system, the traditional small-group emphasis of fellowship and discipleship is expanded to include evangelism, ministry, and worship. By intentionally having groups develop balance as they live into the Great Commission and Great Commandment, the result will be healthier groups. And healthy things grow.
Jennifer Cowart and Jim Cowart, Grab, Gather, Grow: Multiply Community Groups in Your Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2016).