small groups for the rest of usI will never forget the night I stood onstage in the gym where we were hosting our first-ever connection event at Cross Point. A connection event is basically speed dating for small groups. People came to experience what a group was like in a neutral setting before committing to show up at someone’s house for six weeks. We set up round tables across the gym where different types of groups would be represented with leaders and hosts sitting at each table. A person could visit and talk to the leaders before choosing a table to sit at and begin community.

This was our first event, so we planned for around two hundred to three hundred people to show up. And that number was stretching the capacity of the small gymnasium in the Baptist church we leased for our Nashville campus. Our team was excited to see this strategy put into action after months and months of planning.

It was complete chaos.

Instead of the two hundred to three hundred people we were expecting, more than four hundred eventually squeezed down the narrow stairs from the auditorium to the gym. We quit counting once panic set in. As I stood onstage, ready to start the event, I saw a quiet, reserved woman burst into tears in the middle of the room and make a Carl Lewis–worthy sprint to the door, probably to never give small groups another chance.

In that moment I knew we were going to have to come up with alternative on-ramps to groups than this massive extroverted-friendly approach. There were hundreds of people we were missing by taking a “one size fits all” approach to getting people into community.

Because I am an introvert by nature, I understand the fear that sets in with the thought of showing up at a stranger’s house every week to share my deepest thoughts with a roomful of extroverts. I don’t even want to share most of those thoughts with the people I am closest to! If we are going to convince people like me that small groups are beneficial, it’s going to take a different approach. We have to be intentional about creating environments with the least amount of resistance.

Instead of forcing introverts to show up at our extroverted connect events, give them a few low-pressure options to joining groups. A sincere, extroverted staff member once suggested we put all the introverts to one side of the room and assign an extrovert to be their guide for the event, kind of like boys and girls at a middle-school dance. We didn’t do that.

But here are a couple of connection strategies for introverts that have worked well:

  • Give them an opportunity to fill out an information card on Sunday morning and drop it in the offering at the end of the service. Resist the temptation to force them to take it to a table in the lobby so they can “meet a groups staff member or a leader.” First, that is an extra step that isn’t necessary. Second, they may not yet be comfortable enough to talk to someone about groups. It was hard enough for them to take the first step of turning in the card.
  • Provide a list of available and open groups on a website or in a book they can take home to look over. This gives them time to think through the options before committing to a group. I have found if given the proper space to make a decision about a group, most introverts will be all in. We are a loyal group of people.

Thomas Nelson Inc, Ln: Small Groups for the Rest of Us (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015).