New Approach to Community Groups

August 21, 2014 — 6 Comments

This year we are totally restructuring our Community Group system.

For decades we’ve had a pretty typical model – Freshmen studies, Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors.

From talking to Florida Cru, we really liked how their small groups are structured (with 650 students involved in 50 Community Groups, they must be doing something right!):

  • Intergenerational studies (freshman-senior all together)
  • Every group has a target area
    • A lot of them are dorms (80%)
      • The whole Community Group focuses on that dorm all year
      • Most will meet on campus in the dorms every week
    • Others are formed around affinity groups: Epic, Marching Band, Bridges, Greek, AIA teams, Majors (Kinesiology, etc)
  • Freshmen Groups meet for first 6 weeks then gets absorbed into an intergenerational Community Group
    • Freshman and CG’s meet at the same time and night

Intergenerational Community GroupsA few things we really like:

  • Our students leaders will just be in one Bible study – currently, all of our leaders are in a study AND also lead a study.
    • It looks more like life after college (mostly in that you are just in one study – even if you leading it, you can still grow from the community and be challenged by the Word as you process it together)
  • Everyone is engaged in pursuing freshmen (or other affinity group)
  • It makes it easier for students to invite their friends from their classes to the study they’re leading (because it’s not just for freshmen)

For us, what really prompted the change is that in the past few years are number of CG leaders has dramatically increased (like 4x as many), but the number of students in CG has not grown much. We want to be more effective in helping as many students as possible to experience life change through Community Groups.

Specifics on how the leadership of the groups is structured:

CG Coach (usually seniors)

  • Primary job= Coaching their 4 CG Leaders
    • Coach the CG they’re in as well as one other CG
    • Two separate coaching appts/month
      • With the 2 CG leaders  from their study & then 2 CG leaders from the other study they coach
  • Just show up to CG – Don’t necessarily lead – can lead in vision and mission and shepherding the group, but not the content and details of the group
  • Why Seniors?Wisdom and Experience

CG Leader (usually Juniors)

  • Primary Jobs= pursuing upperclassmen and leading the Community Group
    • in Content of the study
    • to stay on Mission (e.g.- reaching the Quads and upperclassmen peers)
      • set direction and plan details of outreach
  • Why Juniors?
    • Experienced leaders but not as much future pressures as seniors (not as focused on post-graduation yet)
    • More focused on what areas they desire to make an impact in while in college

Freshmen Leader (usually sophomores/first time leaders)

  • Primary Jobs= pursuing freshmen all year and being trained to lead CG next year
  • Lead the first 6 weeks of freshmen studies
  • Focus on freshmen throughout the year – connecting them to the Cru movement, doing follow ups, relationally pursuing them all year
  • Why Sophomores or First Time Leaders?
    • most connected relationally to on-campus
    • most excited and passionate, energy
    • Closest to just have gone through what it’s like to have been a freshmen (sophomores)

We’re hoping it gives sophomores a trial run at leading so they will be really effective leaders their junior year. And it gives our seniors a crucial role (instead of slowly fading out).

Here’s a one page summary of the intergenerational model.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes for us this fall!

What are your thoughts on this intergenerational model?




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  • Cole Penick

    I love it. We are making a similar shift this year. We are launching Villages. They meet in living spaces (dorm rooms not dorm commons, apartments and not our building), will be multigenerational and focus on discussing the passage and topic from the previous worship gathering. We will have seperate upperclassmen and freshmen focused villages in the Fall and then everything will go multigenerational in the Spring (so we are just a bit behind your timeline). I really appreciate the job description breakdown you provided as well.

    Can we see a post in two months on how this has gone? I’m interested to see how the freshmen transition into the multigenerational groups and how your sophomore leaders do with a six week trial.

    Thanks for being willing to share everything.

    • timcasteel

      Great minds think alike! Look forward to hearing how y’alls go, too. I’ll keep you posted on how things fare for us.

      • Steven S.

        Any update on how the model has worked this year Tim?

  • This makes sense. Our focus in Cru High School has always been the “naturally forming groups”, such as sports teams, band, ROTC, clubs and such and those are always intergenerational.

    Hopefully focusing on the dorms and affinity groups will help these grow more “naturally”!

  • Sam Harper

    Great stuff here Tim. Grateful for your shared thoughts. Here is a question for you. If you were to step onto a new campus , and start pioneering from day one (without a previous existing reputation), you and one other person, what would you do? Would you and your co laborer push to 80 freshman right out of the gate and go for as many contact cards as possible? Would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

    • timcasteel

      Good question! I think 80 is a little ambitious. I would aim for a solid group of leaders the first year. So my goal would be to have maybe 20 freshmen by end of the spring. And that 10 of those would come back and pursue freshmen in the fall. I wrote out a timeline on this post:

      On that post I have “year 0” as “find leaders; build a leadership core”

      And then “year 1” as “reach 80 freshmen”

      I honestly think 40 might be a more realistic goal for “year 1” after you’ve spent a year building a leadership team during “year 0”.

      Then “year 2” – go after 80 freshmen.