O contraire, my friend. You can join a group at any point that the group is meeting. It’s just that we only promote the groups two times per year. Why is that? Read on.
Good News Church chose a semester-based model for the way that we promote community groups in order to provide “on ramps” and “off ramps” for people.
ON RAMPS: On ramps in the spring and fall help to make our promotion of groups more effective. We think it’s better to take time every January and August to remind you all about the importance of community groups… rather than bringing it up constantly throughout the year. Personally, I think I’d start to tune out the preacher (or announcer) if he talked about community groups all the time, or even half the time.
We also wanted to make sure there were two times per year where it would be easier-than-normal for people to join a group. In some contexts, you could get invited to a non-semester-based group (one that meets perpetually) and you run the risk of showing up right in the middle of “The Beast in Revelation, part 14.” You also run the risk of walking into a room where everyone knows everyone and you are the only outsider. However, if you know that there is a period of time when many new people from all over the church are joining groups at the same time (and perhaps some of those new people might even be joining the same group that you are) it’s less intimidating. Also, the groups try to be extra sensitive to new people in August and January not expecting them to have prior knowledge about things that were discussed in previous group meetings.
OFF RAMPS: Another advantage to doing semester-based groups is that it allows off ramps for people. Instead of inviting you to join a particular group and then asking you to stay in it for the rest of your life, we acknowledge that some people may want to switch groups at some points. The off-ramps of December and May allow people to move groups without feeling they’ve broken an explicit or implicit promise.
Additionally, we believe there is value in taking off some time in between semesters, and semester-based community groups make it easy for us to take breaks at Christmastime and summertime. It also gives us some stopping points where we can make changes. If we need to start a new group, stop a group, change leaders, train leaders, etc – it’s easier to do that during the breaks, then to do that in the middle of a semester.
In conclusion, these are some of the reasons behind why we are doing community groups the way that we are doing them. We do not believe that this is the only correct way to do groups. Perhaps we’ll make modifications to our group system in the future. But, these are the reasons why we are doing it the way we are doing it now.
I hope that was helpful.