Before you begin your Small Group program, you have to invite people to participate in your groups! This can often be one of the most daunting tasks as you look to host a vibrant program.
Who are we trying to reach with this small group?
- The Alienated – people who think of themselves as Catholic but feel anger, separation, hostility for one reason or another
- The Lapsed – people who no longer think of themselves as Catholic
- Inactive – people who think of themselves as Catholic but do not make worship a priority…“Cultural Catholics”
- Episodic – people who think of themselves as Catholic but who worship in irregular patterns…Once a month…Every few weeks
- Active – Catholics who participate weekly in Mass and are looking for ways to become more involved in parish life.
This is not an exhaustive list, and some Small Group programs will target more than one. Its helps to think about your audience though as a bulletin ad will be unlikely to reach “Inactive Catholics” in the same way it will “Active Catholics.”
How do we best recruit participants and leaders for Small Groups? Here are some tips:
- “Brand” the groups that your parish is offering. This is particularly important if you will be using material produced outside your parish or diocese.
- Use the branding elements that the materials provide—logos, typeface, pictures, etc.
- Announce the beginning of the program well before you do a sign-up for the small group.
- Set aside a Sunday for the “sign up” event and make that the focus of the homily and/or announcements.
- Have “sign up” material in the pews. Walk people through the sign-up process. Have an easy way for people to turn in their sign-up forms.
- Have an information table in the foyer of the Church.
- Advertise well in advance of the sign-up.
- Use letters, post cards, posters, emails, websites to reach beyond your parish walls. Redundancy is good.
- Reach groups in the parish: societies and ministries.
- Decide if there is a “youth” component or “family” component and use ministers for these groups to recruit.
- Decide if you will give the option of groups according to age or interest.
- Consider when different groups will want to meet: Seniors (probably will meet during the day), parents, empty nesters, singles, etc.
- Challenge church-goers to reach out to those who do not regularly attend. Urge them to take a sign-up form for others.
- Develop or discover material for small groups several months before the process begins.
- If you are developing the material, make sure several people have input into the process.
- Identify potential small group leaders (facilitators) during this same period.
- Ask for other potential small group leaders about two months before the program starts. There are parishioners who can lead small groups whom the parish might not already know.
- Determine what kind of orientation small group leaders will need; have them go through this orientation at least a month before the small groups begin.