You might be surprised at how easy it would be to start a connect group.
By Mike Rasmussen, North America and Caribbean Superintendent
For several years now, my wife Juli has been thinking and talking about hosting a Ladies Wine Night for our neighbors in Surrey Hills. My wife is an introvert and a nurturer, so the very thought both excites her and scares her to death. Over the years, Juli and I have had the privilege of hosting several small groups, and it works out well because she is the planner and loves to prepare food for our guests, while I feel more comfortable teaching and leading a group and then cleaning up afterwards. During COVID, we began to strategize how we could bring our neighbors together and start building relationships—once it was safe.
We came up with a Surrey Hills Ladies Wine Night for the women and a Surrey Hills Whiskey Club for the men. Both events take place once a month in our home. We have invited our neighbors and some couples from our church to be part of the group. It’s a “come if you can” type of event. Our desire is two-fold: to hang out and build relationships with our neighbors in a fun casual environment and to watch how the Holy Spirit works in people’s hearts and minds within these relationships.
We have three simple rules for both of our Connect Groups.
- We drink to taste what each person brings—but always in moderation! This is always important, but especially as many of our neighbors are former Baptist, Nazarenes and potentially even Mormons and we want to model balance.
- As hosts, we are not allowed to talk about God, faith or church, unless the guest(s) bring it up. Our goal is to build relationships, not make people feel we are trying to get them to join our church. If the topics do come up, we share a little and then get back to the relationship building. If they want to talk more about these topics, we can offer to get together for lunch or dinner to discuss them in more detail. Our belief is that in all relationship-building environments, the Holy Spirit will always lead the discussions toward God, faith and church. It will not be in our timing, but in his, and we need to be OK with that.
- Everyone is encouraged to invite a friend.
As of this week, we have held two Ladies Nights and two Whiskey Nights. All events have been fun and bonding for those who have attended. The Ladies Wine Night has been better attended than the Whiskey Night, GO LADIES! Time will tell how these groups grow in size and in depth, but in the meantime, it is so much fun getting to know our neighbors in a deeper way.
Connect Groups should be just that—opportunities for people to connect and build relationships. While some Connect Groups are specifically focused on a Bible study format, or may have something specific to do with church, many do not. All of our Connect Groups should be focused on building relationships and sharing God’s love with others in those relationships—even if we don’t mention his name or his purpose. In other words, our motivation is to show love through relationship rather than through teaching. We trust God to take things deeper and more focused in his timing. If our focus is about building relationships only with those who might come to church with us, this comes across as a bait-and-switch. People will quickly realize the purpose of the Connect Group is to build our church and it becomes clear we only want to maintain relationships with those who can benefit us and/or our congregation.
Here is a list of Connect Group ideas:
- What would Jesus brew?
- Flower club
- Book club
- Game night
- Motorcycle rides
- Gardening club
- Quilting club
- Moms and tots
- Sharing recipes
- Sewing club
- Golf group
- Work-out group
- Cycling group
Tell us about your Connect Group. We’d love to hear from you!