How to Use “Play Groups” to Connect People to Your Church

In Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups, Kerrick Thomas and I lay out a proven system of semester-based, free market small groups that you can implement to see 80, 90, or even 100% participation in small groups at your church (we regularly see well over 100% of our weekly attenders involved in groups).

However, we also employ a very different type of group at The Journey on a regular basis:


Play Groups are one-time events, primarily designed for new people or a particular niche in our church.

They are what it sounds like – a chance to have some fun and get to know some other people from The Journey.

These groups are low commitment – one time only, just show up and pay your own way.

Some examples could include: going bowling, meeting up at a ball game, or simply going to see a movie together (one of my personal favorites).

We use play groups mainly during times when we have a lot of new people coming into our church who can’t get connected to a regular small group immediately (ie: in the middle of group semesters, like July or after Easter).  They also serve as a pre-small group promotion strategy just before a new semester starts.

Play groups are really just fun events – anyone can attend, but we normally target our invitations to new people.

P.S. For a great primer on the Activate Small Group System and how to implement it at your church, check out The Activate Seminar.

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About Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is an experienced church growth strategist, pastor, church planter and coach, consulting with churches around the world. As founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, he has personally trained more than 3,500 church leaders in over 45 denominations through live events, seminars and monthly coaching. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in Boca Raton, FL. Nelson and his church routinely appear on lists such as “The 50 Most Influential Churches” and “The 25 Most Innovative Leaders.” He is the author of over 100 church growth resources and 18+ books, including The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life, Ministry and The Difference Maker: Using Your Everyday Life for Eternal Impact, and At the Cross with the People Who Were There. He and his wife, Kelley, have one son, Alexander.

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