Semester Based Groups

Jody May, our Connections Pastor, has recently led us to transition all of our groups to semester-based, topical groups. These groups replace the ongoing sermon-based groups that we’ve done in the past. I think there are several advantages.

– semester based groups are shorter, meaning they are less scary to people

– semester based groups are topical, meaning that people can choose a group with a topic that interests them

– semester based groups provide a natural push point…we can promote them for a month, then run them for three months.

– they give people a time of rest. group leaders can lead groups two out of three semesters, so if they have kids really involved in baseball, they can rest.

– semester based groups look like something more familiar to unchurched people.

– semester based groups allow us to offer material that we aren’t necessarily covering on Sunday

– they give us three launching points throughout the year, meaning we can actually focus on groups more.

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6 comments so far

  1. travjohnson on

    Great stuff. I’d add that it helps people escape from poor group leaders. Semester based groups naturally show which groups are the best. The poor groups get weeded out.

  2. jacobburson on

    I have a question about closing off small group joining dates. Do yall allow people who are new to the church to jump into a group even though that group started their “semester” a few weeks or months prior?

    I know some churches basically force people to wait for the next “cycle”, I don’t know if OLC does that. I would think that most people that fall in that category are previously “churched” people that understand the importance of small groups and can handle the wait, but they shouldn’t be left on an island either.

  3. Michael on

    since this is the first semester we’ve tried this, we’ll see how it goes. the plan is to make people wait until the next time. we push it hard for a month and then the groups lock down and roll.

  4. jacobburson on

    I like the semester approach, but I just short of hate that small groups are “locked” and people are forced to wait to join a small group.

    Just like you don’t think churches should take a Sunday off, I don’t think people should be forced to wait for a small group opening. Are there alternatives until small groups start again for new people?

  5. Brad Christian on

    I recently read Sticky Church – which pushes sermon based sermon based sermon based… what do you think are the disadvantages or weaknesses of sermon based?

  6. Ariel on

    Where did you get the idea for semester based groups? We’ve been doing semester based groups for just over a year and it’s worked pretty well for us. The leaders have been the ones who have appreciated the break the most!

    We’ve had some leaders who wanted to meet throughout the break and since we have a facility that we meet in, we’ve have a few groups that meet on Sunday mornings – but about 98 percent of the groups meet throughout the week off-campus. We call those “ongoing groups.”

    The ongoing groups are required to start a new study or something new (new chapter of the Bible, new book in a study, etc.) when the time-bound groups begin their new semesters – that way everyone starts new at the same time and new group members don’t feel like they’re joining a clique.

    Our first year we were really strict about things like the “lock down” of the groups and having all the groups stop and take a break. That caused a lot of tension and discouragement among our leaders so we learned to be a little more flexible – thus the allowances for on-going groups and letting the group leaders decide whether or not to let new members in after the “lock down” date. We strongly, strongly discourage that, but we also let the group leader have the authority to let new members in if they honestly believe it won’t compromise the intimacy of the group.

    So I don’t know if you wanted it or not, but there it is: some food for thought from a church who is a little bit farther along on the time-based groups journey. =)


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