Let’s be clear about one thing. Groups are super messy. If kids came every week, everything would be much more simple. But they don’t. And it’s not. So, you need systems to simplify. You need systems to clarify. You need systems to empower your Small Group Leaders to do what they do best. If you’re leading an integrated small group model, things could quickly get confusing for your leaders. You need to free up your leaders to lead. That’s your burden. I want to introduce you to several systems I have in place to simplify groups for our leaders.
We assign regularly attending kids as kids who attend 3 times our of every 8 weeks. Why that number? If a kid comes 3 out of every 8 weeks, they come more than once a month. I feel like coming twice a month is an unrealistic expectation. Many kids only come when they’re with mom, meaning that they’re here every other week. That means that if they get sick on one of the weeks they’re with mom, they’ll be considered a non-regularly attending kid. However, I also feel like attending once a month just isn’t enough. A leader is going to have a really hard time getting to know a kid who only comes to group 12 times a year. However, somewhere between once a month and every other week feels like a good measurement. Kids who attend at least this often are assigned to a group. Small Group Leaders have access to the information of these kids and the group begins to bond.
On the first Monday of every month, we’ll run a report of kids who attended 3 times in the last 8 weeks who are not currently in a group. These are the kids that we’ll be adding to groups. We keep the group rosters from every weekend for what we do next. If Jack Smith, a first grader, showed up in our report, we pull out the group rosters from the last 8 weeks to see what group Jack attended. If he sat with First Grade Green one week and First Grade Blue the other two weeks, we’ll officially add Jack to First Grade Blue. We’ll then send an email to Jack’s parents letting them know that he’s been assigned the group and to encourage them to keep bringing him to the same group at that service time. We’ll also email the small group leader and encourage him to reach out to Jack’s parents and officially welcome Jack to the group! We tell small group leaders to just focus on the kids on their roster. We’ll keep track of attendance and add kids once they become more regular. However, we give our leaders permission to trump our system. If a kid comes twice and they make a great connection, that small group leader can request that we add them to the group early.
Sometimes kids just stop coming. There are a lot of reasons for that. Sometimes, a small group leader might not notice their absence (although our hope is that they wouldn’t miss a kid after a few weeks of absence). On the first Monday of every month, we run a report of every kid who belongs to a group that has been absent for 4 weeks or more. This trigger can easily prompt a “we miss you postcard” from the church, but we take this data and let our small group leaders know who they need to contact. Our hope is that efforts will prompt kids to show up again sometime within the next month. On the first Monday over every month, we also run a report on every kid who belongs to a group that has been absent for 8 weeks or more. Any kid who had been absent for 4 weeks and came back because a leader reached out won’t be on this report. However, kids who have been MIA for 8 weeks and haven’t responded to us probably aren’t coming back. At this time, we’ll remove them from the group. However, we give our leaders permission to veto our system. They may know something about the situation and want to keep this kid on their radar.
Remembering a kids birthday is an INSTANT WIN for any group leader. We want to help our leaders win in this way. Since we have access to all our kids and their birthdays, we can easily run this report. In the middle of the month, we run a birthday report for the following month. On the 3rd Sunday, we then give small group leaders a list of kids who are having a birthday the following month along with birthday cards for them. All they need to do is write a quick note and we’ll mail it to them the week of their birthday. It’s too easy not to get this right.
Kids LOVE mail. Why? Because they NEVER get mail. So, we give our leaders access to some fun postcards to send their kids just for fun. All a leader has to do is fill out a postcard and put in in our ministry mailbox and we’ll send it out for them. A Small Group Leader can write a post card or two during Large Group or in the minutes before their kids arrive. Once you foster this kind of activity as a habit, all your leaders will participate.
We don’t expect our leaders to reach out to every visitor in their group. We can automate that from the church. Group leaders will often have kids who come infrequently, so it’s hard to know how is new or who just hasn’t been in a while. However, if a leader connects with a new or returning guest, they are equipped and empowered to reach out. They can write a postcard and we’ll mail it. If they want to call the family or send a postcard, we’ll gladly supply the email address/phone numbers.
These are the keys to having a healthy small group ministry. Empower your leaders to know who their kids are and connect with them on a regular basis. Equip them to connect with kids in a personal way. The easier you make it, the more likely they’re going to do it. If your systems are lacking, borrow some of mine and bring a new personal touch to your Small Group Ministry!
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I love all the details about small groups. I have one question. We are just now getting to the point where we consistently need multiple groups for each grade. When your kids check in to small groups do they check into their grade AND color, or do they just check into the grade only? I would love to get more info on the logistics of check in and small groups!
Did you see my post on Logistics? I kind of talked about how we have 4 groups for every grade. Your question is a good one and I’ll tell you how we do it. However, the bigger question to ask is, “What check-in system do you use?” For 10 years, I used Fellowship One and for this setup, I would have assigned everyone to a grade, but the kids who were regular, I would have assigned to a “breakout group.” Super easy to do. Now I used Church Community Builder and I’m not as much of a fan of their check-in setup. We have all of our kids check into a grade on the weekend. We also have kids in groups in CCB, but that’s just for the small group leaders to know which kids are in their groups. These smaller groups in CCB are not for check-in (apparently it would be overwhelming to assign check-in to this many groups on a weekend. Does that help?