It’s likely we’ve heard how important small groups are to the health and growth of parishes. But using these groups to gauge parishioner well being has been a very difficult task for many parish staff and lay leaders.
For example, Tim and Jenny have a small group of couples who gather to study the Bible and encourage each other on Tuesday nights. They are also part of a group of nursery volunteers and a group called Home School Families. Tim attends the once a month Men’s Breakfast and Jenny works as a mentor to young mothers.
It appears they are very involved in the life of the parish. However, are they really involved? Their small group has not met for over three months, the home school group is really falling apart and they have found a replacement for their volunteer spot in the nursery the last two months.
So what is happening with Tim and Jenny? Most parishes have no real way of tracking how effective these groups are and if their members are really involved. Churches are ahead of the curve if they even have a list of who is in which group.
Members also have a hard time finding groups that might be helpful to their growth. Tim and Jenny have not been attending because Tim lost his job and is now working two jobs and Jenny has been babysitting a friend’s kid to bring in extra cash. Their story is exactly why you created a group that meets monthly to support the unemployed. The group is a place to network and have others pray specifically for this type of situation. Unfortunately, Tim and Jenny have no idea this ministry exists and the parish leadership had no idea there was a problem.
This problem can be easily solved by following these steps.
- Define what a healthy member looks like for your parish. Many churches are not able to effectively track the health of members and groups because they are not sure what to look for. Tracking a combination of giving, mass attendance, small group attendance and/or service is a great start. If you see multiple pattern changes for a given parishioner, it could prompt the need to reach out to them.
- Use web-based software that makes it easy for lay group leaders to track attendance. If the leader of a small group, service area or community group can readily track attendance then the parish staff can accurately identify people who are beginning to fall away. For example, small groups sessions set up through ParishSOFT’s Religious Education module enable you to track attendance online for any parish activity set up through the module. Likewise, unique, login-based permissions give lay leaders the ability to track attendance and manage their small group online without the risk of deleting information or having access to information that they don’t need.
- Your parishioners should be able to sign up for groups online. It is not good enough to simply have the information on your website. People might see a group’s information online and may even decide that they want to attend; but for most people, bridging the gap from seeing the information to actually attending is the weakest link. Individuals are more likely to attend if they able to immediately enroll in the group and if the group leader or another group member extends a personal invitation to an upcoming gathering. With My Own Church, ParishSOFT’s online parishioner portal, parishioners can sign-up for small groups enabled for online registration through ParishSOFT Religious Education. Or, ParishSOFT Giving forms give you the ability to customize and embed forms for your website or email. Once parishioners enroll in a group, lay leaders will be enabled to track attendance to better assist parishioners in need or connect them to other parish resources and supports..
Many small group start off with high expectations but can fall flat if the parish has no real way of understanding their effectiveness. By defining the purpose for the groups and tracking the results, the church can effectively minister to its parishioners.
To discuss how ParishSOFT’s web-based software can help your Small Group ministries, please call our sales department at 866-930-4774 x7 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.