GAME PLAN: Launching Advent Small Groups

With Advent practically around the corner (1st Sunday of Advent is November 30, 2014!), I thought it might be helpful to post a possible game plan for you as you finalize your strategy for launching your Advent small groups. Adapt as necessary — you know what your parish’s bigger picture is, so you know best how this fits best into your overall vision.

The following example is a marketing timeline for a small group that begins meeting the week before the 1st Sunday of Advent. I’m basing this on several timelines I created when I ran the Alpha Course USA and small groups (using RENEW International) at my last parish. (For another great example of a promotion plan, click here.)

Some thoughts:

  • We ALL have full schedules (especially when it comes to those weeks leading up to Christmas!), and so giving people at least a month’s notice so that they can consider how this might factor into their schedule is always a good policy (If we do this for parties, shouldn’t we do this for any event?).
  • Since joining a small group means committing to 4 consecutive weeks, I would advocate 2 months’ notice (as I’ve listed below), with the first month involving brief bulletin announcements (a soft launch, if you will) plus facilitor recruitment, followed by the hard launch a month before the first week of small group meetings.
  • Aside from the typical ways of promoting an event (bulletin, Mass anouncements, mass emails), NOTHING can replace the enthusiastic endorsement of your pastor. If the parishioners get the sense that small groups are something that are important to the leadership in your parish, they will respond in kind. One of the main ways parishioners will know it’s important? If they know that the leadership is participating in their own small group.
  • The Introductory Dinner/Launch Party is something I’ve seen successfully done by Alpha and also Ministry of Mothers Sharing (MOMS). It’s an optional component, however, it’s a way to get those who are unsure about committing to 4 weeks to preview a typical small group session (and to have them connect with their fellow small group participants!).

Any parishes out there with thriving small group ministries? Any tips on how to effectively recruit facilitators/leaders/hosts? I’d love to hear from you!

Small Group Marketing Phase I: Promoting Sign-Up Sunday/Recruiting Small Group Leaders
4 WEEKS BEFORE Sign-Up Sunday: Sunday, September 28, 2014
  • Bulletin Announcement #1 (For examples from RENEW International, click here, then download “Bulletin Announcements” in the bottom right corner.
  • Post announcements to your parish website and Facebook page. Could also include videos/articles talking about the importance of small groups in fostering community.
  • Begin recruiting for Small Group Facilitators
    • Ask for recommendations from Pastoral Staff
    • Place an announcement in the bulletin
    • Send personalized emails to previous small group/bible study facilitators.
    • If your parish ministry fair is taking place around this time, consider having a sign-up sheet for facilitators at your booth.
3 WEEKS BEFORE Sign-Up Sunday: Sunday, October 5, 2014
  • Bulletin Announcement #2
  • See above.
2 WEEKS BEFORE Sign-Up Sunday: Sunday, October 12, 2014
  • Bullet Announcement #3
  • See above.
1 WEEK BEFORE Sign-Up Sunday: Sunday, October 19, 2014
  • Bulletin Announcement #4
  • See above.
Small Group Marketing Phase II: Promoting Small Group Launch
4 WEEKS BEFORE Introductory Dinner/Launch Party: Sunday, October 26, 2014
  • Invitation Sunday (For an example from RENEW, click here, then download “How to Organize Sign-Up Sunday” in the bottom right corner).
        • Hang a banner in front of the church building
        • Post flyers around church building
        • Priests invite parishioners to Introductory Dinner/ Launch Party (Ideally, those presiding Mass this weekend might be asked to tie the importance of small groups and community-building in their homilies.)
        • Registration tables set up in foyer
        • NOTE: Online registration can also be made available via Google Forms or Sign-Up Genius.
  • Small Group Leader Training: Hosting Small Groups
    • Click here to read more about how Alpha trains its small group facilitators.
3 WEEKS BEFORE Introductory Dinner/Launch Party: Week of November 2, 2014
  • Small Group Leader Training: Pastoral Care
2 WEEKS BEFORE Introductory Dinner/Launch Party: Week of November 9, 2014
  • Small Group Leader Training: Task Force Training
1 WEEK BEFORE Small Groups Launch: Week of November 16, 2014
  • Introductory Dinner/Launch Party (To read how Alpha runs this, click here.)
SMALL GROUP WEEK 1: Week of November 23, 2014 (1 week before 1st Sunday of Advent)
SMALL GROUP WEEK 2: Week of November 30, 2014
SMALL GROUP WEEK 3: Week of December 7, 2014
SMALL GROUP WEEK 4: Week of December 14, 2014
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