A New and Amazingly Effective Connection Strategy by Guest Blogger Lorie Hartshorn

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This past year I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with an amazing Groups Pastor in Canada, Lorie Hartshorn. Both Steve Gladen and myself were at this conference. Lorie had requested time to, “pick our brains.” It didn’t take but a few minutes for me to realize that I wanted to learn from her. One of the topics she enthralled me with was their connection strategy. After hearing it, I wanted to make you aware of it so I asked her to do a guest blog post.

Read slowly and carefully. Her connection strategy is not new to the groups world but how she has tweaked it and the terminology she’s using is seriously genius!

As the overseer of many Connect Groups at our church www.c4church.com I was faced with 2 challenges. One of which was to find leaders and the other to encourage everyone to participate when in a group setting which creates healthy groups.   I was inspired by my coaching with Mark Howell www.markhowelllive.com to use an On Campus strategy to help start new groups! http://www.markhowelllive.com/take-advantage-of-this-short-term-on-campus-strategy/

 So I called our On Campus strategy Group Launch and we invited people that were not yet in a group to come and experience a group right at the church. The greatest part of this endeavor was that I had no designated leaders! Yup! You heard that right, no pre-assigned leaders at the tables! We didn’t even know who would come and if they had ever been in church before yet alone been in a small group.

 So I dug into my arsenal of tricks from my years of teaching and came up with an idea that I used in the classroom when I would put kids in groups. I created a little ‘card game-like’ resource and came up with a brilliant title – Group Role Cards!   Nothing is rocket science…it just feels that way until you have a little help.

 So here’s what Group Role Cards can do to help you find leaders, as well, to teach people how to contribute in a group. I now use these Group Role Cards, with some adjustments, in my existing Connect Groups. We are finding that this is helping even long time groups refresh and engage everyone during their group time.

Each group has a small business card holder tray of cards. Each card has a group role indicated on one side of the card and a brief description of that role on the back of the card. Each member of the group selects a card each meeting and depending on the card they pick that is their role for that meeting. They can pick a different role each week if they like to ‘try them all on’. This enables each person to see that everyone needs to contribute and that there are various ways to do that.

 As the weeks go on it is interesting to watch who picks what card. The potential leaders often pick the GUIDE, ENCOURAGER or PRAYER PERSON cards. I have also found that you can discover the spiritual gifts of people based on the role that they most enjoy . The SERVANT often end’s up being the one to open their home to the group as they move from an On Campus Group to a Home Group as their next step and the CONNECTOR is often the group administrator.

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 Here are the roles that I came up with – you could use mine or make up a role that better fits your group dynamics.

 GUIDE Read the discussion questions to the group and keep the conversation going.

PRAYER PERSON Open in prayer. Decide how the group will do the prayer and sharing time. (split into smaller groups, large group, groups of 3-4 etc.)

NOTE: I didn’t use a Prayer Person card at Group Launch initially as the Group Launch Host would direct groups as to what to do in prayer time. Recognizing that we had many people that had never been to church or been in a group, we started off by leading prayer from the front and then as the weeks went by we helped them prayer in 2’s or 3’s etc. We had several people come to Jesus at Group Launch!!

ENCOURAGER Help each person have an opportunity 
to contribute to the group discussion by passing around the mascot

SERVANT Make sure each person has a refreshment or snack

TIME KEEPER Monitor how long your group spends on each discussion question, encouraging them to move on (unless life changing things are being shared)

CONNECTOR Have people share contact info as the weeks go by to stay in touch throughout the week.

CONTRIBUTORS Be sure to share your thoughts and questions during discussion time. (Multiples of this card)

So there you have it! Find leaders and grow healthy groups all with the help of a little tool!

Cheering you on!

Lorie

Connections Pastor at www.c4church.com

Speaker and Author of FINDING FREEDOM a DVD study on Spiritual warfare and prayer www.loriehartshorn.com

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8 comments

  1. Lorie and Rick,

    This is a great idea and excellent way to customize Mark Howell’s idea of forming new groups and “enlisting” leaders. One of the biggest obstacles people who are not participating in a group face are the already formed social circles present in existing groups. This plan looks like a great way to involve new people in new groups, form new social circles, and let them actually gravitate toward a ministry in the group that they are gifted to do.

    Also, I have noticed a trend lately toward using “flash cards” as a way to equip and train people, and as a consulting tool. You guys are leading the way for the rest of us.

    Thanks for sharing this concept.

  2. Thanks Rick for sharing my idea – wow – didn’t know it was so genius! HA! Love the results for sure.
    Bob – so honoured that you would find this helpful!
    I trust it helps lots of churches grow many new groups – finds leaders and equips everyone in the group to take on a role that best fits them.
    Lorie

  3. Thanks for the insights Bob, Rick, and Lorie.

    Laurie, what process do you use for forming the initial individual campus groups? Do you organize by geography? Age range? Some other sorting factor?

    Also, what time frame do you suggest before the campus group transitions to a home group? I see Mark recommends 3-4 weeks; has that worked well for you?

    I love Mark’s idea of offering the same studies to ensure this process remains just that – a process – rather than a destination.

    Thanks for your work!!
    Chris

  4. Hi Christopher. Thanks for your question. It’s a great one and was the scariest part of the entire process. Without sounding to ‘spiritual’…we really relied on Jesus to put the right people together at the tables 🙂 We prayed over the room…we prayed for weeks in preparation…we prayed on our drives to the church…we prayed! And He miraculously brought people together that connected.
    So prayer was number 1.

    Secondly – The first week we did put out signs on the table that were based on Geography – so for us that meant the adjoining cities. This was a good start but it is not the main factor as we are all connected by a big highway, so people don’t mind driving to the next city to meet, but it’s a good start to the first night.

    Thirdly – We did a few Icebreaker exercises each week to begin the session that allowed people to meet others in the room – to find people with ‘things in common’ and then encouraged them to sit together. Week 1 and 2 were the most important weeks to do this. By Week 3 they had found their group.

    We removed the geography signs on week 2 and allow people to sit wherever they would like and then after the Icebreaker we gave them permission to ‘meet some new people’ or ‘sit with someone that you had a lot in common with’ etc.

    It’s interesting – some find their people the first week based on Geography and the Icebreaker and others need permission to move to another table on week 2 and 3 and are not made to ‘feel bad’. This enables them to find ‘their people’. If they don’t connect with the Week 1 group – they know they can move on – guilt free 🙂

    On week 5 we go through the Next Steps to re-locating their group in a home. I share on the power of Connect Groups – tell a few stories etc.
    Groups then look at the Group Role Cards and because they have been hanging out for 5 sessions and trying on the various roles they have a pretty good idea who the ‘leader’ is and who the ‘host’ is. It has not failed yet that someone opened their home and someone stepped up as the leader.
    They determine the day of the week, time and location that night and we set them up in our system and off they go! They continue meeting the very next week in a home. All new groups get a Coach and are now part of our Leadership development pathway.
    Hope that is helpful.

  5. Yes ma’am very helpful. How you divide, and that you allow room to switch groups, are the helpful tidbits I was looking for.

    If I can ask one more question…what are the pro’s and con’s of NOT providing designated group leaders?

    Is it not more preferable to cast vision for 6 or 8 leaders who can lead the groups well, facilitate others in their roles, and help navigate group dynamics? Have you ever tried your process with designated leaders?

    Thank you Lorie!

  6. Great question Christopher. That certainly makes sense if you have 6-8 leaders that have already stepped up and are ready to go but the reality is that in a church, finding leaders is a challenge – and the ‘same people doing everything’ is often the case. This enables you to find new leaders that nobody knows yet!
    This strategy is based on connecting Unconnected people together to start new groups and so it is difficult to know who the leaders are if they are ‘Unconnected’. By unconnected I mean: They are not already in a group, they are most likely new to your church or haven’t engaged yet, they do not have ‘someone noticing their spiritual growth and someone caring when tough things happen’. This is our measurement for connection.

    So, the people that come to Group Launch are all , by definition, unconnected and looking for a group….looking for their ‘someone’s’. I have found this to be amazing that we find leaders right from among this group, rather than bringing in ‘hand picked leaders that we know’. Here’s the reality. If you’re already identified as a ‘leader’ – then you are ‘connected’. That means, your already in a group or serving somewhere. In some cases we have had some people come to Group Launch with the intention of leading a group and they ‘find their people’. But, remember, we want leaders that understand that every member has a role – and it’s not all up to the leader to ‘lead’. This would also mean that you would have to leave your group to lead a new group – and that does happen.

    Some group leaders change as they get into the home setting – and that’s ok – we want everyone to have a role, but those that really are leaders continue to be developed and grow with support and training. We also have our ‘traditional model of multiplication’ happening in the groups. We birth groups from groups and leaders leave groups to launch new groups – but that process is very slow…can take years. This model enables you to birth many groups quickly. We are seeing great long term results especially since we have Coaches and a Leadership Development Pathway that they get on.

    I think it would change the dynamics drastically if you had designated leaders already assigned at the tables. People would go back to their ‘old ways’ of looking to the leader to take care of the group.
    Hope that helps 🙂

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