The Matthew Party is one of the small group’s best multiplication tools. Matthew Parties are named for the party Matthew threw for his tax-collector friends on the evening he met Jesus. Matthew held this party so his friends could meet the Lord in a safe, hospitable setting (Mark 2:14–17). The Matthew Party at a small group is meant to offer the same opportunity.

In our small group Network, we recommend that each small group host a Matthew Party approximately once a quarter. In some small groups, the Matthew Party is deemed so important to the health of the group that it supersedes the regular gathering. Other groups choose to host the party on a weekend or at some other convenient time.

The goal of a Matthew Party is to fill the meeting place (typically a home) with guests who will have the opportunity to mingle with members of the small group. By meeting new people, and discovering that these people are “normal,” the guest becomes comfortable and may choose to attend one of the regular small group gatherings to check it out.

When it comes to inviting the neighborhood, some small groups generate either formal or informal invitations to the party. Others rely on word-of-mouth alone. With the inexpensive cost of VistaPrint Postcards (I got one-hundred four-color postcards for the cost of shipping—less that $9—recently), many small groups are investing in these high-quality invitations.

There is no standard format for a Matthew Party. Some simply host a big dinner, do some group singing, and introduce the guests to the concept of their group. Others create a theme party. We attended one Matthew Party where the theme was A Midsummer’s Night Dream. The party featured a fondue fest on an expansive deck at a member’s home. Twinkle lights were strung across the deck and in the evergreen trees as if fairies were looking on. Another small group hosted a mystery by purchasing one of the mystery party game kits. Ideas for a Matthew Party are limited only by your creativity. The goal is for everyone to have a great time and to get comfortable with the participants of your group.

About the only “rule” of a Matthew Party is that there must be a hand-off to the next event. A hand-off is a flyer, invitation, postcard, brochure—something in writing that invites the guests to a regular small group gathering. Often the small group begins a new series of studies the week following a Matthew Party. For instance, the group may choose to do a six week series on marriage and the Bible, or eight weeks on Jesus’ teachings on finances, and so on. There are any number of topics and studies that could be attractive to the guests and give them an opportunity to experience the transforming power of Jesus Christ in a small group setting.

Over the years, we’ve discovered that when small groups regularly host Matthew Parties, they are less likely to become “closed” and/or exclusive. Instead, they find themselves being intentional about evangelism and small group growth.