Part 2: How to plant a Connect Group
One of our dreams is that every believer would be discipled in a small group. But for that to occur, we have to train leaders and open up a number of new homes. So, what does it look like to plant new Connect Groups? I'd like to suggest that there are four stages of starting a new connect group.
1.Identify New Leaders
The first stage would be identifying a new leader. If you've got a current group that meets in your lounge, and they meet week to week, and it's a healthy group, you're very excited. You think to yourself, “I could do this until Jesus returns!” But that's not the point. The point is that, ultimately, we're also there to facilitate growth and to release people. It starts with identifying who are the potential leaders that could possibly lead one day, and I don't think we're looking for perfection; someone took a risk with me one day, and possibly you and I, we should look at them through the same lens, these potential leaders, I think, look for more than just one leader, look at the possibility of two or three, identifying them for your group or for other groups along the way, that would be the first step.
2. Train new leaders
A second step would be the training process and feedback along the way. Now, training will happen formally where they may attend a “Connect Leaders Training Course,” but training also happens on the go. This is where the majority of our training happens, but it needs to be intentional even though it is “on the go”. This is where I fall short as a Connect Group Leader. Tuesday night comes too soon, and I haven't thought about who I want to release in six months. How am I going to get someone ready so that in six month’s they can competently lead a Connect Group?
Training on the go begins by looking at all the different elements of a connect group and putting certain elements in their care. For instance, asking them to take over the communication every week? Or, for instance, the catering such as food rosters? What about pastoring when someone is in need or just some shepherding? What about facilitating a discussion? They need to do that and give feedback that helps them when they encounter a difficult person or have a difficult discussion. Why? Because it's during the safe space that we train them so that, ultimately we can launch them to plant a group. Training needs to be on the go and regular, with loads of encouragement and then one or two little adjustment issues that may have appeared.
3. Timing and Releasing
3.1 Deep-End Release
A third thing to consider is knowing when it's time to release people. The first way I release people is what I've called the “deep-end release”. This is where someone says, “I'm ready to go; I'm ready to pioneer!” If he's got courage, let him go. Let him find people and start a group. I might not send people with him just yet, but many times he does a great job. The beauty of this is that if he fails along the way, he can check in again, and we haven’t given people to him, and so people haven’t been hurt along the way.
3.2 Small Core
The second type of release would be with a small core. I look at people and assess their capacity, relationally, time-wise, etc. I'll send a small core of people with them. I'm asking this: “Does he have faith for the people that are coming with him?” That's really important; they can't be imposed on him. But I’m also asking, “Do the people have faith in the new leader? We need to make sure there is some synergy. Often people get quite excited about a smaller environment! They are excited about a new mission, and releasing these guys can be quite exciting.
3.3 Large Group Release
A third way that I release people is with a large group. When I've looked at a leader and think this guy's got influence, I can see a leadership mantle on him. People listen; he can relate across the board. As long as they’re trained well, I’m happy to send a large group of people with them. The release moment comes when they can take that group they’re in, grow it, and lead it.
3.4 Specific Group Release
Another way that will release people is what I have called the specific group release. This might be an age-related category. It might be around ladies who aren't at work and can meet in the morning. It might be around babies and moms and tots type of group, a 20s group that's it's a specific type of group etc.
3.5 Specific Area Release
The last type of release for me has been very helpful. Looking at some areas where we are in Durban, South Africa, we found that a whole bunch of people were coming from the south of Durban to the north, where we met on Sunday. We wanted them to be in connect groups, but they weren't willing to drive through during the week. So we found a courageous leader and gathered all these guys together. It wasn't big. But we managed to start this group in the south of Durban, that's still a very healthy group. It's been around the geographical area that's been very helpful.
My last comment is that as we launch these groups and grow with a dream for everyone to be involved, the last point is that new Connect Leaders need support at every level. We shouldn't just be dropping them! Celebrate them often, and keep regular contact, regular support, and regular encouragement, just like we ourselves need as leaders.