Leveraging Small Groups for Church Marketing

April 15, 2010 by

You don’t need me to tell you we live in a world inundated with marketing. You can’t go to remote China without seeing stickers for Coke or Pepsi peppered around local villages. One might think that it’s only these messages driving growth and consumption.

As marketing gurus know, however, the most effective marketing for any product or service isn’t advertisements or commercials. It’s word of mouth. It’s the witness. Why else do organizations pay celebrities and athletes top dollar to use their shaving gels and drink their sugar waters? They want a witness to testify.

Recently the church I attend decided to offer everyone the opportunity to create a small group specifically around the passions God has stirred in their hearts. The response has been amazing. There have been incredible testimonies already and the small groups have only been in place since the beginning of the year.

I read the entry on this site about mixed martial arts as ministry and would propose that this is only the beginning. The sport is simply a vehicle to relationship. How many of these vehicles have been ignored but are burning to be given a chance in their churches?

The point is this: why, as churches and as Christians, do we try and fit ourselves into a box that ignore the passion, drive and desires of our hearts? It’s nonsense! And honestly, it’s bad marketing.

At our church, outreach into the community has come as a by-product of contagious passion. Outreach should be natural and organic rather than contrived or formatted. Honestly, Christ doesn’t need any more salesmen.

Small groups of passionate people solve two major issues of the church at once: how to use God-given passion and how we reach others outside of our churches.

The concept is simple:

Anyone is allowed to begin a small group, and if they have three or more people sign up to join, then it stays; if not, it goes. Groups last for twelve weeks at a time, so people don’t feel obligated for an entire year should they decide they don’t enjoy the group or can’t get connected.

At the end of twelve weeks, there is another sign up day when everyone has the opportunity to lead or join the groups again. Naturally the most successful groups will probably stay around, while the others will not.

Our small groups are diverse and include: Salsa Dancing, Art and Theology, Novel Writing, Tennis, Fathers and Sons and How to Rap–just to name a few.

It has been an incredible thing to see the numbers in our church grow in such a short time. It’s refreshing to know that people are there, not because of a catchy slogan or clever marketing campaign, but because they caught something in their spirits while visiting a small group.

Post By:

Beau Garrett


Beau is a recently published novelist, a pilot and a volunteer youth pastor at Northlands Church in Atlanta.
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4 Responses to “Leveraging Small Groups for Church Marketing”

  • bondChristian
    April 15, 2010

    Church marketing at its best: built on relationships.
    -Marshall Jones Jr.


  • mandythompson
    April 15, 2010

    I can’t tell you how effective this approach is.
    So, I’ll just show you.
    4 months ago I started working at a church that is 6 years old. In these 6 years, the church has grown to a steady 700 in attendance… The driving force is small groups. Our church runs new small groups approximately every two months. Some groups may last 12 weeks, some may last 1 night (dancing).
    We have everything from ballroom lessons to p90x, to a survey of the old testament, to WII, to Dave Ramsey, to being on the Tech Team, to…. well. You get the picture.
    It works. Redefine small groups, and you’ll redefine your church.


  • Ken Eastburn
    April 16, 2010

    This begs what the point of small groups is – is it community? Is it Bible study? Is it discipleship?
    For some the answer will be an across the board yes and for some it will be a yes to only one.
    The problem is assuming that because people are plugged into a sort of small group that they are actually experiencing some sort of growth in the Lord.
    But that’s obviously not always the case, particularly with interest-groups that focus on a particular activity (i.e. knitting, martial arts, etc.).
    I’m all for community and these types of a groups present a great way to get into community, but if all we ever get is community, there is a problem with our small groups.
    Jesus’ goal is disciples, not just community groups all formed around similar interests.



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