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How to Multiply Small Groups for Married Couples

How to Multiply Small Groups for Married Couples

The only thing more frustrating than trying to get married couples to commit to a regular small group is convincing them that your group needs to multiply.

A few years ago, our church started its first marriage small group for couples. These couples had some friendship history, which helped get things started.

But despite having known each other for a while, there was still the awkward tension of starting structured and intentional time together on a regular basis.

Start with Leadership

A critical component to the early days of any small group is leadership.

Inevitably there will be a moment when everyone in the room needs someone to give organization and direction to the conversation or activities of the evening. The leader doesn’t have to be the smartest or most biblically trained person in the room—he or she simply has to have a clear understanding of the purpose of small group.

People attending small group want to feel as though they belong, have a group of people who care about them, and aren’t wasting their time. If all three of these areas are met, something amazing happens.

Not only do the couples prioritize the time together, they actually start to see the group as a place other people they know need to be.

Getting on the Same Page

A few things need to be established in the early days of a marriage small group. Each member of the group must be on the same page concerning the status of the group. Is the group open or closed? In other words, are we open to adding new couples?

If the group is open to new members, a process needs to be established and followed by all current members. If this isn’t clear, it could become a limiting factor to the transparency and relationship of everyone in the group. There might be seasons of life, or certain curriculum topics that may lead to a pause on the addition of new couples.

Expectations for participation and confidentiality need to be established up front. While some folks have zero hesitations about pouring his or her heart out, many people take a while to open up. There might even people some who seem as though they only sit and listen week after week.

Regardless of any individual’s willingness or ability to share, respect and care need to be high priorities.

Create Leadership Opportunities

The current leader of any group needs to lead group in such a way that provides opportunities for members to step up. This will help the group become less leader-centric, and develop potential future leaders.

If your intention is to multiply your group in the future, this topic needs to be a regular part of communication. Unfortunately, even if you cast vision from the very first gathering for multiple groups in the future, any group that has grown close and walked through challenging circumstances will initially resist change.

After our initial group of four couples grew to nine, we knew it was past time to multiply. Content and geography can help cast vision for the need for new groups.

Even if someone doesn’t want to change, seeing the need for a group discussing a specific topic, or establishing a group in another part of town helps people take the leap into the unknown.

Pick a Time to Launch

Launching these new groups at an optimum time of the year also helps.

Many groups take summers to slow down the frequency of meetings. We also make these summertime gatherings intentionally more social. This gives a prime opportunity to invite new families to meet the current group members without the intensity of deep spiritual or personal conversations.

Fall and first of the year tend to be seasons in which people are open to trying something new, and self-improvement. Creating a clear and easy on-ramp for small groups in these seasons can help stimulate growth and create a natural lifecycle for small groups in your church.

I firmly believe that life change happens most effectively in the context of a small group. In the end, the willingness of small group members to attend and engage will ultimately determine the overall success of a group.

How does your church point married couples to small groups?

3 Ways to Create Community at Your Church Marriage Events

3 Ways to Create Community at Your Church Marriage Events

Dogs usually love groups. Dog parks, dog beaches, and pet-friendly restaurants were all created so that our dogs can get together with other dogs to be in community. Dogs are social animals.

On the other hand, cats tend to hate community. They seem to dislike people, other cats, dogs, and anyone in between. Cats are anti-social animals.

If you were to invite a dog to your next marriage event, they would instinctively introduce themselves to everyone and discuss the best chew toys and strategies for avoiding baths. And everyone would listen, because it’s a talking dog.

Although your marriage events won’t have any actual cats and dogs, you will likely have both social and anti-social people. And here are three lessons we can learn from dogs when building community with our large events.

1. Pull some chairs together

Community grows when it is void of rows. Placing people at tables is the best way to generate conversation. In addition, placing people together who share the same life stage will help to generate a lasting connection.

When tables are assigned and groups are deliberately organized, people will have less anxiety about where to sit. They can feel at ease with people who share the same life struggles, and generally feel comfortable and welcomed.

There will always be a token few who would rather grab an extra chair from a stack in the hallway and sit at the back of the room. Help them to participate also.

2. Find a common subject

Talking is easier when the subject is simple and engaging. Provide your groups with easy-to-answer questions that are void of provoking too much thought.

Creative questions can lead people into discussions that will prepare them for the discussion topic. Or can simply be a way to laugh, talk, and find common ground without having to deal with awkward silence.

Depending on the variety of the ages in the room, present questions that are appropriate for all audiences. Millennials don’t want to be thinking about how they will see themselves 20 years from now, and those with grey hair will have difficulty arriving at an answer to whether they would rather bungee jump or trapeze. (The answer is neither.)

3. Have fun

Games on stage or up in front are fun but create an environment where everyone else is watching couples on stage play, laugh, and win prizes but not enhance community.

Instead, create a multiple answer game where the couples at each table discuss the best answer to the question and pit their answer against other tables.

Another option for game play would be to have the individual couples compete against other couples in the room, or one where all of the individuals are competing against each other.

Providing couples an opportunity to work together and to have fun helps them to forget for a moment the struggles of career, kids, and car issues. Some couples haven’t had fun in years. Let this be a no-stress time for couples to re engage in fun.

What about the cats?

People who are reluctant to participate, (the cats in the room) can still enjoy their evening. Create a countdown clock so that they are aware of how much time they have to talk, when the game will end, or how the program for the evening will unfold. Eliminating the guesswork builds confidence and reduces anxiety.

Whether your event is filled with dogs or cats (or both), the success is more visible when you place them in circles, engage them with easy questions, and allow them to have some fun.

Although you don’t need to supply treats, both cats and dogs would appreciate something sweet or savory (as long as it’s made for human consumption).

How to Take Your Marriage Event to the Next Level

How to Take Your Marriage Event to the Next Level

My church began our marriage ministry in 2014 after being introduced to the Married People strategy at the Orange Conference. Since then, it has been an amazing ride. We’ve tried new things, failed at some things, and have continued to tweak things along the way. I believe this is how good ministries become great—by constantly evolving!

Perhaps your marriage events have hit a stale patch on road. You feel like the events look identical to the one before it. You’re ready to change things up and take these events to the next level.

Since we’ve gone through the same experience at my church, I wanted to share a few things we’ve learned along the way. Hopefully you can learn from our mistakes and not hit as many potholes and detours along your marriage ministry journey.

Small changes can make a big impact

I’m not sure why we believe that to “innovate” and “evolve” we have to do a complete 180°. As if spending more time and money will automatically lead to better results. That’s simply not true.

Small changes or upgrades to your event can make a huge difference—if done intentionally and effectively. Here are a few examples that you can try for yourself:

  • invite church members who own businesses to donate prizes
  • bring in live music if you’ve been using recorded music
  • have a local amateur comedian come in and do a 10-minute opening skit
  • have dessert made and handed out by the children or youth of the church as a special gift
  • make each centerpiece a unique prize that one couple at each table will win

Change up the games

We learned early on that games are one of the most critical pieces of these marriage events. Over time, we’ve allocated more resources and energy into quality games (and prizes!). And these efforts have paid off.

We found that playing a stage game and a table game is a must, because this accommodates the different personality types of people in attendance.  “Minute to Win It” type games have been the most successful.

Thankfully, the games that come in the Married People events have all been very good. Put a little extra effort into personalizing the games and prizes at your event and you will reap the rewards. Couples want to have fun—so give them the fun!

Make it personal

Find a professional videographer and interview several of the couples attending the event ahead of time. Ask them to share a story in relation to your theme. For instance, for the “Have Serious Fun” segment ask them to share a story about a vacation they went on that was super fun.

Likewise, for “Practice Your Promise,” interview a couple in your church that’s been married over 50 years. Ask them what their secret is. Be sure to pick a lively couple for some great laughs!

Make these couples your special guests at the event dinner. After a while, couples will ask to be a part of your future videos. Remember to give them the video as a keepsake afterwards. And, if these are professional quality, you can use the videos to promote your ministry later.

It doesn’t always have to be what it’s always been

This was tough for my team. After a couple of years of successful marriage events, we felt comfortable in what we were doing. But, if we were to evolve, my team would need to feel safe trying new things and stepping away from what we’d always done.

It’s not always easy to implement change—especially in the church.

Last summer, we held a group wedding vow renewal ceremony instead of the traditional “Practice Your Promise” event. I officiated the ceremony in a robe. We decorated the event like a wedding reception. The couples dressed up and we had a professional photographer there to capture photos of each couple.

By far, this was one of the most popular events we’ve ever held. And, it took us stepping away from what we “always” did to make it happen.

Whatever you choose to start with, just start with one thing that changes for each event. Remember—small changes are good! Before you know it, your event will be a fun surprise for participants and something all couples enjoy attending. The anticipation and excitement of what you’ll do next will entice more couples to come check it out!

How do you plan on taking your next event to the next level?

The Statistic About Millennials Every Church Leader Should Know

The Statistic About Millennials Every Church Leader Should Know

What Millennials Want

I’ve been working with married couples through the local church since 2001. During that whole time, marriage statistics are everywhere. Many of these stats can be discouraging for those of us who greatly want marriages to win.

But recently, a friend and researcher shared a report from Pew Research about the millennial generation. According to that report, here are the top eight priorities for millennials:

  1. Being a good parent
  2. Having a successful marriage
  3. Helping others in need
  4. Owning a home
  5. Living a very religious life
  6. Having a high-paying career
  7. Having lots of free time
  8. Being famous

Millennials get such a bad rap about everything. I know previous generations have always bemoaned the current one, but millennials seem to have gotten some extra moaning.

Much of the team I work with are millennials, and I’m really big fan of this generation. Millennials not only make up the largest part of the U.S. population, they are changing the world they inherited.

Unlike the previous generation, they long for experiences instead of stuff. And what’s their biggest experience? Their family. They want to have a great family. They want to be great parents and have a great marriage.

What This Means For The Church

This is great news for church leaders. Because if we get really strategic about creating experiences for married couples, we can create a solid bridge for millennials to walk back into the church, or maybe walk in for the first time.

I’ve seen it happen all over the country—great marriage events and resources connecting people to the local church.

My wife, Nancie and I experienced this recently. We spoke and hosted a fun date night event at Mariners Church South County in San Juan Capistrano. This is in Orange County, Calif., where the divorce rate is a staggering 75%. This stat does not seem to discourage the Director of Marriage, Amanda Maguire. It actually seems to empower her.

Through her fun and strategic marketing, this event was filled with millennials. After the event, a young man approached me and said, “My wife and I are really struggling. We thought this would help. It did. We’ll be back here.”

At the end of the event, Amanda did an amazing job to ensure the group that the event wasn’t the only thing for marriages at their church. She told them it was part of an overall plan to pour into the marriages of Orange County. She gave them a reason to come back.

Bottom line: when a church leverages millennials’ love of experiences with their desire to have a great marriage, powerful things can happen.

And I’m not just talking about increasing millennials’ marital satisfaction. I’m talking about leveraging marriage to draw people to church, and ultimately Jesus—something no statistics can ever describe.

3 Reasons to Use Email to Impact Marriages In Your Church

3 Reasons to Use Email to Impact Marriages In Your Church

How does your church communicate with married couples? If you’re like most churches, you have the occasional small group study or sermon message on marriage. But the rest of your efforts are probably put towards responding to couples in crisis—trying to help couples at the brink of divorce.

But we have found that there is one simple but effective thing every church can do that impacts every couple. One of the best things your church can do to help married couples is send them regular, bite-sized tips and reminders through email.

While there is obviously more to marriage ministry than just email, it’s a great tool for all churches including those that are too busy or unsure what else to do. But why an email?

1. It’s Where People Are

Married couples are busy. Just like you, they’ve got too many things going on. They don’t need another book to read or seminar to attend. Plenty of couples love books and seminars—but those aren’t the couples that need help. The couples that need help won’t take initiative.

Where are these couples already spending most of their time? What place gets plenty of their daily attention? Their digital screens. This includes their email inbox. A mobile phone doesn’t have to be a distraction for a couple—it can be the way you sneak helpful tips into their marriage.

Thankfully, email is not restricted to certain ages or demographics. It’s simply the way that most people communicate these days. No matter what size your church is or where you’re located, email is a universal way to reach people—especially married people.

2. It’s Quick and Cheap

If you’re like other church leaders, you don’t have much time. If your church is like most churches, you’ve got a smaller budget. Thankfully, email offers a relatively speedy and very cost effective method to helping church couples.

One of the biggest benefits of email is that it’s instant. It’s not like print pieces that can take time to print, sort, and mail. It’s not like events that take weeks to organize. All you need is an hour or two per month to dedicate to schedule content and manage an email list.

There are plenty of email services out there, but MailChimp offers a 100% free service for email lists of less than 2,000. Even if you do pay, they offer a discountto nonprofits and churches. Email marketing may already be something your church already pays for.

3. It’s Trackable

One of the biggest challenges of any marriage ministry is telling whether or not it worked. Shifting from a proactive instead of a reactive strategy is much better. But it’s harder to track. It’s easier to tell how many divorces you’re preventing the closer the couples are to divorce.

Email platforms provide you with data that can begin to tell the story of marriages you’re impacting. You can measure the size of your email list and numbers of people opening and clicking on your emails. It gives you an idea of what works, and what doesn’t.

Next Steps

Email is the best place for your church to start impacting marriages, but it’s not the end. If your church is committed to marriage and think you can pull this off, here are some action steps to begin.

  • Create an account. If your church doesn’t already have one, sign up for an email platform. There are plenty of options out there, but MailChimp is always a good option.
  • Start collecting emails. Hopefully your church has a membership database that you can import into your new email platform. But you can also grow your list by asking people to sign up through your website or social media.
  • Find content to send. People are busy, so don’t clutter their inbox with meaningless messages. Send them stuff that provides value. Don’t know what that looks like? Then you really need to check out MarriedPeople Monthly.

What’s MarriedPeople Monthly?

Because email is such a powerful way to engage married couples, our friends at MarriedPeople have created a customizable email that your church can send to couples every month. It’s chock full of practical things couples can do together, including blog posts, fun videos, and discussion questions.

You get all of the content each month as well as instructions on how to implement and customize to your audience. We really think is a resource you and the couples of your church are going to love.

Reposted with permission. Read the original article here.

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