by Reid Smith
I’ve always been fascinated by flight. The idea of soaring thousands of feet up in the air, the perspective of aerial views, visiting unfamiliar places – it all has a way of inspiring me. This is why I sought to understand what aeronautical experts consider to be the ideal conditions for lift-off when I thought about how group leaders could optimize the launch of their new groups.
As you can imagine, there are many factors, but most of them can be organized into three general categories: The aircraft itself, atmospheric conditions, and the trajectory (starting and ending points) of the flight-path. An experienced pilot knows what’s involved in each category and the right combination will ensure a successful lift-off and flight-path so everyone arrives at their desired destination. There are steps you can take that will optimize the launch of your new group and help you to stay on mission as you work out God’s Kingdom-expanding purposes together:
- Prayerfully Seek God’s Vision – Our initial ideas tend to undergo transformation through prayer. Take time to pray, invite others to join you in praying for the group that God put on your heart to lead, and be open to how it evolves. (Prov. 16:3, 19:21)
- Three-fold Invitation – Don’t fly solo. Get a co-pilot before take-off by inviting somebody to help you, even if it’s with a small part of the group at first. Secondly, invite people you know to join your group, but don’t stop there. Thirdly, be sure to ask everyone to invite people they know to join you. Don’t worry about space because only some of those you invite will come and there’s usually some attrition. (Ecc. 4:9-12; Lk. 10:1)
- Remove Obstacles – Answer the unspoken questions that might be on people’s minds. Regarding time commitment, let them know the duration of the initial study will be short-term and how you’ll start and end each session on time. If they have kids, describe the environment and dynamic you’re expecting based on others who plan to come. Make the study materials easy to acquire and text a reminder a day or two before your first meeting.
- Create a Hospitable Environment – Open your launch window wider by providing a meal for your first meeting. Food is the best ice-breaker and has a way of creating conversation. Circle up the seating, eliminate noise, make your space clean, bright, and pet-free for those who may not want your furry friend pouncing on them.
- Prioritize Connection – Before diving into curriculum, create connections. A primary goal for your first meeting is to help people get to know each other. Invite each person to share a little about themselves and what they’d like to get out of the group. Model authenticity from the outset.
- Set Expectation – Explain the vision God put on your heart for the group, what you hope for each session, what you want for each person, why their involvement is important, and what you’re believing for each one to experience and walk away with. (Prov. 29:18; Rom. 1:12)
- Instill Faith – You should be the most excited person about your new group so don’t be shy about telling people how you believe God is going to use it to transform their lives! During each meeting, point people to the reality of Jesus being in your midst and build up people’s faith by speaking biblical promises over their lives. (Mt. 18:20; 1 Thes. 5:11)
- Talk it Up – Tell the person who serves as your leader how it went and how to pray for you. Let people you’re linked to via social media know what you’re doing. Remind your new group members what you’d like for them to do beforehand and of your next gathering.
Taking these steps will help to harmonize the aircraft, atmosphere, and trajectory of your group so that its launch will be optimized. A strong start will ensure your group is propelled onto a flight-path where God’s mission is fulfilled through each member. See “Ready-Set-Go” and “Optimizing Group Bible Study” at www.reidsmith.org for more details on how you can have a successful take-off and flight with your new group.