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 planter, coach and church growth strategist, working with churches in over 45 denominations. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in San Francisco and Boca Raton, FL. He first developed the Assimilation System 10 years ago at the Journey Church and has since implemented and improved these strategies with over 3,000 churches across all sizes and denominations. He started coaching pastors in 2006 and has personally coached over 2100+ senior pastors, helping them break common growth barriers like 125, 250, 500, 1000 and beyond, all while maintaining personal life and ministry balance. As founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, he has trained more than 50,000 church leaders (3,000+ church planters). He is the author of over 85 church growth resources and 17+ books, including Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests Into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church and The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life and Ministry. His continued mission is to help church leaders around the world cooperate with God in creating healthy, thriving churches. Nelson is married to Kelley and together they have one son, Alexander.

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