Google, the multinational corporation specializing in information worth billions of dollars, understands something every church should understand: circles. Google’s social media arm called Google+ has a unique approach to social networking, allowing users to group all of their contacts in “circles.”
With Google+, you can organize your relationships by creating any kind of “circle” you want: immediate family, cousins, work friends, co-workers, sci-fi lovers, BBQ fanatics, football junkies, New Mexicans, college friends, neighbors, fishing buddies, etc. The list is as limitless as your imagination.
What does this have to do with church? It’s all about how we think about organizing people.
Most churches use some kind of system for organizing parishioners. Hopefully, your church has ditched the spiral-bound attendance books and has moved on to some kind of software. In any case, the systems we use for organizing people reflect how we think about people.
Google+ has a way of thinking about people that can be paradigm-shifting. It starts with two fundamental beliefs: 1) Everyone belongs to some kind of group. 2) Every group needs uniquely targeted communication. On my Google+ account, I have circles for ministry colleagues, small group pastors, life-long friends, Star Wars fanatics, family and so on. It’s a hard pill for me to swallow, but I have to recognize that not everyone I know wants to read my Star Wars related posts. So when I share anything about Star Wars on Google+, it’s posted so only people in my Star Wars fanatics circle will see it. This is different than the Facebook or Twitter style of communicating, which simply blankets all of your friends or followers with the same message.
This way of thinking can be a powerful concept for church leaders because it forces us to think both strategically and personally at the same time. Let’s face it, people are inundated with too much information today. And no matter how important we think our church programs are, not everyone in our database wants every morsel of information we want to send them.
That’s where circles come in. Let’s examine the two beliefs I mentioned earlier in a church context.
1. Everyone belongs to some kind of group.
At the church I pastor, we are trying to think about people in circles rather than database columns. We call these circles “groups.” No, I’m not referring to only to people who attend “small groups”; it’s much broader than that.
Every person is a part of some kind of group. In our church management software, we have groups for anything we can come up with: first time guests, two-year-old ministry volunteers, greeters, band members, office volunteers, small group leaders, small group coaches, actual small groups, staff members, elders, high school students, food pantry volunteers, etc. Many people are in more than one group and that’s OK.
In order to help make sure no one falls through the cracks, everyone in our database belongs to a group of some kind. Everyone belongs.