After 9/11, President Bush challenged Americans to participate in a national candle lighting ceremony and to ask God for help to get through the tragedy. The response was incredible. Days later I walked through my neighborhood and suggested to neighbors that we do something like this in our neighborhood as an evangelistic outreach and to show what happens when communities work together.
I first called men and women in my church who led Bible studies and got them on board. I then allied with a couple of women on the block who are the hub of information and networks. They directed me to the Moms in Touch group and introduced me to the PTA president of the elementary school. Through the PTA, I connected with the principal and significant businesses that donated money for the event. The principal led me to a group of enthusiastic teachers who helped me figure out the logistics of the event and introduced me to the junior and senior high principals who also lent support.
One day I walked into the local junior high and asked if they'd like to help out. They immediately suggested I make an announcement to the entire school. This junior high principal also turned me on to the junior high PTA network. The president sent out a blanket email that reached 80 percent of the parents of the junior high students.
Then someone connected me to the police and fire departments. We had the color guard. We had the girl scouts and the boy scouts all dressed.
This happened in a matter of 36 hours. Through this web of relationships, 1300—1500 folks came to this one event. The power of small groups to mobilize is an incredible force. This is the most transferable illustration that I can give you of how to find an unlimited harvest of leaders.
What did I do that is transferable to any small group ministry?
1. I found natural leaders. Once I found a few leaders, those leaders found other leaders. I just had a few hours and no time to singularly produce this event. I had to rely on other natural leaders in the community to make connections. It's advantageous to do this because they already have a personal connection with people with whom they're comfortable. They've got a network.
2. I worked with affinity groups that already existed. Affinity groups have trust. And trust gets you access. It also gets you loyalty, buy-in, credibility, and influence. As a volunteer who has limited time and resources, especially if you don't have a senior pastor involved, you don't have the pulpit to be able to leverage this. So you have to work with existing networks that have influence in order to get people to say yes.
3. I worked with existing activities that happened before I showed up. Moms in Touch, PTA, community Bible study, and daytime ladies studies provide some of the best leader training resources that are out there. Yet sometimes we are so presumptuous to think that that we are the ones who are going to train all of our leaders. Remember you can find already trained leaders from existing relationships in every community in everyday places.
4. I worked the crowd. I didn't just go to the principals, but I also went to the teachers and the kids. The most strategic place you can work is the crowd. Be vocal at your church's weekend services to get the crowd to move to the next step and speak to their longing to belong to community. Challenge them to come to a place where they can get that.
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