I have the opportunity to meet an incredible number of phenomenal groups point people. They are gracious enough to tell me their stories allowing me to learn from them and hear about effective strategies they’re using. Gina Duggar is one of those phenomenal groups point people. Gina chose a summer strategy that doubled the number of people in her Fall groups.
Thanks Gina, for this simple and amazing summer strategy.
While most churches take the summer off to break I have found it to be a fruitful decision to have a summer session. When I made the decision to do this I was on staff at a church that was highly evangelistic and we were seeing people make decisions for Christ on a weekly basis. I was finding that they did not understand the value of being in a discipleship group. It was not enough to get them to church on a regular basis. I was also discovering that they were very intimidated to be in a group where they might be expected to pray or read their bible out loud.
My idea was to get them around the leaders to build relationship. With the summer groups focused on fellowship and fun activities, this would allow relationships to be built and for everyone to feel safe. While we had good participation in our groups we had been hitting a wall with our groups and we needed a way to reach these individuals.
I was not sure what was going to happen with this idea of doing a summer session, but I was willing to give it a try. This session consisted of pool parties, families meeting in parks, canoe outings, and baseball games, all of which included the entire family since it was summer break for the kids. I asked the leaders to meet every other week and work around their summer vacation.
It was very relaxed and for the most part stress-free. There were no bible studies to prepare for. It was just food, fun, and fellowship. The idea is like a giant church picnic all over the city with everyone meeting at different days and times during the week and on weekends.
To my surprise, we had a great summer session, and the sign ups and attendance were better than we could have hoped for! It added some needed momentum to the church, and the leaders were excited to meet all of the new families who were participating in the groups. It also gave new visitors to the church a chance to plug in without having to wait until the fall to participate in a group.
Beyond the momentum, I was seeing one of the most exciting things happening in our men’s discipleship groups. During the summer session, the men who led discipleship groups offered groups that spent the summer attending area sporting events, like Reds baseball games and other events around the city. They built relationships with the men during these outings. Then at the end of the summer, the leaders invited the men to join them in the fall session of bible study.
This strategy blew up our men’s discipleship groups, which can be the most challenging to build. And they became our strongest connect groups at the church. It was exciting!
There were so many exciting aspects of the summer session, and all of that filtered into launching the fall connect session. It doubled in attendance. True discipleship was happening, hearts were being touched and lives were being changed. It gave us a chance to experience community in the body like we had never seen before.
There is always purpose and vision behind everything I do in building the discipleship ministry in the church. I offer three sessions per year with the summer session focusing on building relationships. The vision behind this ministry is to always reach out to everyone where they are at and build a safe environment where hearts can be touched and lives changed.
Gina Dugger has been in ministry for over 22 years. She has done everything from youth ministry to building a college ministry that grew to over 150 students. In addition, she served in women’s ministry for many years. But Gina found her true passion in discipleship ministry which she has been doing for 12 years now. She has experience building the connect groups ministry in mega churches as well as mid-size churches. Her heart is to help build the ministry of the local church and seeing lives changed with the gospel. Gina and her husband, Duane, have been married for 29 years and they have two children, Matthew, 26, and Ashley, 22. She has also has a daughter-in-law, Aubrey, 25. They live in a suburb of the Cincinnati area.
Gina is an Associate Pastor at The Bridge Community Church in Wilder, Ky.