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7 “Push” & “Pull” Strategies to Promote Your Small Groups

Larry Osborne, author and Pastor of North Coast Church, describes “The Power of Subliminal Marketing” with the analogy of the “push” and “pull” approach. Most churches strictly “push” small groups—marketing them to the church and trying to convince people why they should sign-up. Osborne asserts that “push” is necessary but that “pull” is equally important. “Pull” is subliminal marketing that subtly reminds people–using many different approaches–of the importance of participating in small groups. “Pull” often uses word-of-mouth to create a “pull” toward groups. “Push” is about PROMOTION.  “Pull” is about creating HUNGER.

While there are many different “Push” and “Pull” approaches to get people connected into a small group, I want to share seven ideas to help you get started:

1. Sign-Up Systems – Put the systems in place to capture sign-ups when people are ready. If people are “pushed” to sign-up or feel the “pull” to sign-up, but cannot easily do so, they will not. Online sign-up capabilities, bulletin response cards, and sign-up opportunities in the foyer make it easy for people to get connected to a group when they’re ready.

2.  Promotional Resources – These are marketing tools that help you “push” and promote small groups such as a small group brochure, campaign materials, email updates, social media, banners, and invite cards. Exhaust your tools to help you get the word out. About the time you’re sick of talking about groups is when most people will have heard of groups at least once. Remember, many people in church attend services on average once every three weeks. That means you have to talk about groups for three straight weeks just to reach everybody in your church.

3.  Vision Casting – Leverage inspiring vision to not only “push” small groups, but to “pull” the heart of members toward small group opportunities. Vision casting can be used through sermon series, testimonies of life change, and stories captured on video. When vision casting, be sure to include both inspiration (something that grabs the heart) and information (practical next steps to get signed up for a group). Here’s a recent testimony video we used to “pull” people toward our small groups at Christ Church.

4.  Leader Involvement – “Pull” people into small groups with the active involvement of key church leaders. When key influencers are involved in groups, others tend to follow suit. Ask yourself three questions:

  • How many of your key leaders in the church are leading a group?
  • How many of your key leaders in the church are in a group?
  • How can you increase leadership involvement and visibility?

5.  Leader Invitations – “Pull” people into small groups by having small group leaders take the initiative to invite people to join their group. This takes the burden off of the potential group member and removes fear or hesitations they might have about joining a group. Leaders can create a solid invite list by thinking about their circles of life (family, friends, church, neighborhood, hobbies, work) and lists of life (cell phone list, Social Media List, Email List, Christmas Card List). When leaders extend an invitation, people feel “pulled” into a group rather than “pushed” to join a group.

6. Connection Events – “Push” various on-ramp events for people to learn about and sign-up for small groups. North Point’s popular “Group Link” event is a great example. We also conducted an event called “The Living Room Experience” in which we turned our Sunday morning service into a large group/small group experience. Everybody sat at round tables facilitated by small group leaders. Worship and a small group leader testimony/interview took place on the stage (which was decorated like a Living Room) and an icebreaker, prayer, and group sign-ups took place at the tables. It was a unique experience that we conducted in both of our Sunday morning services.

7. Small Group Culture – “Pull” people toward small groups by creating a culture that makes small groups “the place to be.” To develop such a culture, Osborne recommends cutting the competition (so that small groups are not competing with other programs and ministries), providing a preview (a weekly bulletin insert with small group questions so that people can see what happens in small groups), and consistently referencing the small group experience in sermons (testimonies, stories, deeper discussion of the sermon’s topic in groups).

Question: What other “push” and “pull” strategies would you add to the list to get people connected in small groups?

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Stephen Blandino is the Lead Pastor of 7 City Church near the downtown/cultural arts district of Fort Worth, Texas. He holds a Master's in Organizational Leadership and is the author of "GO! Starting a Personal Growth Revolution." He lives in the Fort Worth area with his wife Karen and their daughter Ashley. Stephen blogs regularly at www.stephenblandino.com on leadership, personal growth, church, and culture. You can also connect with Stephen on twitter @stephenblandino.