As many of you know I have been working to transition our small group system toward a semester structure. The biggest reason for this is to create clear and easy opportunities for more people to get involved in a small group. In 2011-12 there will be three 12 week semesters and a 4 week mini-semester. Here is what it means for your group:
(1) there will be regular opportunities for new people to join
(2) there will be breaks in between semesters when more all-church activities can be scheduled
(3) there will be a curriculum resource library that that will help you find material (it does not limit the material you can use but is simply a ready made list of pre-approved resources). I hope to have 50 studies listed by the beginning of the Fall Semester.
(4) there will be a service project list that you can draw from that will make it easier for each small group to do a service project together each semester (again, it does not limit the service projects you can do but is a ready made list of opportunities)
(5) there will be a "play day" list of possible fun outings that your group could do together that will make it easier for each small group to take one of their sessions to just play together (once again, it does not limit the things you can do together but...)
(6) you can take breaks from leading a small group without fear that your group members will drop out of small group life. In fact, it would probably be a good idea if you chose only two or three of the available semesters to lead (if you are used to leading all of the time)
(7) some of you group will choose to be a part of other groups but the core of your group won't be forced to split
(8) groups will have to finish by the end of the semester so that people are free to join the next semester's groups. We don't want to create opportunities for people to drop out of small group life.
The first semester (Fall) will run September 18-December 10. I will be putting a small group catalog into people's hands August 28. If you will, won't, or might be facilitating a group (teaching, hosting, or organizing) I would like to hear from you. It is all coming together quickly. Pray with me that it goes smoothly. The Winter Semester will run Jan. 8-Mar. 31. The Spring mini-semester will run Apr. 22-May 19. The 12 week Summer (2012) Semester will begin June 3. Summer semester might be broken down into two six week sessions. This is still to be determined.
I am encouraging regular facilitators/leaders to head up a group two semesters and to participate in a group someone else facilitates/leads the other two. I am encouraging everyone who attends the church (even if only once a month on average) to sign-up for and participate in 1-3 small groups.
The breaks between semester are usually 4 weeks. These breaks assume that people develop better through a stress and release cycles. A further advantage is that all-church activities can be scheduled without conflict with small groups (not just calendar conflict but attention, energy, promotion, leadership, etc.). Every 12-week semester each group will take one of their meetings for a play day together and another for a service day. So, each semester has 10 sessions available for a study--if that is the focus of the group. I hope that this brings us a better balance of study-service-fellowship. This arrangement is less staff initiated and directed and, therefore, more free-market and facilitator/leader driven.
I am trying to let leaders direct their small group design as much as possible according to the needs they perceive and the passions that God has given them. There are group possibilities that some of the staff believe would meet specific needs and I am sure that each of us will be encouraging people in those areas but the basic assumption is that we'll have faith that these needs are met as God moves individuals to have a personal excitement, commitment, and calling for a particular people group or need (i.e. college and career, parents of younger children, singles, couples, men, women, seniors, sportsmen, artists, missions, home repair or construction...whatever). It would be great if you have specific people in mind that you could encourage to sign up for the group.
Here are my goals for the year:
1. Identify and Contact 40 Small Group facilitators by the end of September.
2. Have a transitional Fall Semester (a) focused in June, (b) formed in August, filled in September, and facilitated in October (with 20 groups in the Fall catalog).
3. Repeat for Winter (Jan.-Mar.) Semester.
4. Construct a completely new website that will help facilitate this system by Aug 21.
5. Complete a semester of e-training for small group facilitators by end of October.
6. Solicit and receive Fall Semester Evaluations by second week in December (they are available on the current website and will be available on the new one).
7. Compile a Curriculum Library (list with descriptions) with 50 studies available by year end.
If you are interested in a book that gives the backbone of this system check out
Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas
Ventura, CA: Regal, 2008.