A couple of weeks ago Allen Wright and I travelled over to Kentwood, Michigan to attend the "Great Lakes Small Groups Network". I've blogged about the network before but here is the nutshell again in case this is the first you've heard of it: Small Groups and Discipleship Pastors, meet every 6-8 weeks, 2-3 people present new ideas they are implementing, share resource ideas, small group discussion around your tables, everyone kicks in $5 for lunch, you leave with two or three things that you can try or at least add to your small group reference file. It's a great idea and one that I encourage you to try in your area.
Oh yeah, those who are also working with Assimilation meet an hour early just to discuss retention.
So what did I learn??
Bill Layle, Pastor of Discipleship, Kentwood Community Church (Wesleyan, 2500 avg attendance) shared with us their "Small Group Curriculum Schedule". One of the things that smaller churches need to understand is that many of the best ideas by the largest churches are simple and inexpensive. This is a prime example of that.
The curriculum schedule is two 81/2 x 11 full color spreadsheets covering a 28 week period. There are three main areas to the spreadsheet indicated by three different colors. (I told you it was simple :-> ) The categories: 1. All groups study the same curriculum; 2. Group choice with a recommendation provided; 3. Purposeful change of pace. Example: Jan 7 - Feb 11 SG Recommendation - "Take It To the Limit" 6 Week DVD
When all groups are studying the same curriculum it usually means that they are studying something that is directly connected to the weekend sermon series, like "Just Walk Across the Room". I think they find that when they recommend a series, most groups go with it rather than trying to hunt down something different. "Purposeful change of pace" can be anything from 1-3 weeks where they encourage their groups to host a neighborhood party, serve, or just take a week off.
In two pages a group leader can see exactly where the program is heading over the next few months. Sweet!