I grew up in Houston, so we would occasionally make the drive through Louisiana on our way east. There’s a stretch over the swamps on I-10 that advertises the next exit is something like 25 miles. I remember seeing that sign as a kid and immediately panicking as I quickly thought through every drink that I had consumed since the last potty break. That has to be the longest 25 miles in my life because of the thought of no on or off ramps to offer relief!
One of the things that we recognized people need with groups are clearly defined on and off ramps. How and when can I join a group, and will I have the opportunity to ever take a break? Here are a few of the ramps that we offer:
- Semesters – We currently have 3 seasons for groups at Cross Point: Fall (August – December), Winter (January – March), & Spring (April – June). Each semester begins with a “kick-off” where people have a chance to join a community group. Having clear starts and stops gives people the chance to join a group without feeling like they are signing up for 2 year, non-refundable contract. It also gives leaders permission to take a semester off occasionally without feeling guilty.
- Open Groups – A lot of our groups stay open through the semester so that people can join even if they miss the official kick-off. One of our most successful models for this is our “mid-size” groups that meet in large homes or at the church. They are able to create sub-groups that allow for the intimacy that a small group brings, but have the room to continually add new people.
- Host Groups – These are 6 week groups that give people the experience of being in a community group without the pressure of a full semester. Our hope is that they will get hooked and want to continue for another 6 weeks. We have found that most of them do finish out the semester and eventually become a full community group. It also lowers the bar for someone to host instead of lead. We have separate training and curriculum for our Host groups.
- Summer Break – We give our groups permission each July to take the month off from meeting on a regular basis. We do encourage them to stay connected through social events and serving, but not feel the pressure to have normal group meetings. This gives the leaders a much needed break, and they are usually rested and fired up to start again for our fall semester.
Those are just a few of the on and off ramps that we offer for our groups. We are constantly looking for more ways to introduce people to community.