3 Things You Need if You Want to Start a NEW GROUP

The right vision – Before starting a new group the most important question to answer is WHY? Just announcing the new class, finding a new teacher and assigning a room is important to starting new groups, but the real success comes from the why question. Why are you starting the new group? Who are you trying to reach through the new group? How will this help you to reach more people, disciple more people and develop more leaders?

The answer to the why question will be the clarion call to those willing to support the new group and those who will be interested in being a part of the new group. Remember, relationships are fundamental to the small group process but the objective is to make disciples who make disciples. To ignore one or the other is a recipe for disaster.

The right plan – Know your context. The right plan must understand the culture of the group you are trying to reach. I can honestly tell you that every group that I have helped to start was unique. There are principles that apply to every new group you start but the methods are many.

The right plan takes time to develop. Pray through it. Talk about it. Ask questions of existing groups. Discover those not attending a small group or class and probe their thoughts on starting a new class. Take the time to recruit the right leader. Develop the best curriculum plan and discover the best space possible to start the new group.

Great vision without a great plan is the definition of a disaster.

The right person – If God is leading you to start a new group, then He also has the right point person to be a catalyst to the beginning and continuation of the new group. (Hint: when I was on church staff, I kept a list of potential leaders on a sheet of paper that I kept in my Bible). Pray for God to show you the right person. Ask the person to pray for God to show him/her His desire for them and this new group. Spend time with them in prayer, planning and encouragement.

I can’t tell you the best way for you to start a new group but I know the one who does. God can and will lead you to make the best decisions in starting a new group. New groups are a must if you desire for, your church to be healthy and vibrant in your community. However, if you don’t start at least one new group every year, I can tell you that you are headed on a path to decline.

Pray right now and decide to be a catalyst in starting a new group.

Creating a Culture of Invitation in Your Small Group

Is your class or small group OPEN to new members? Is your class or small group EXPECTING new people to attend/join?

The answer to these two questions helps you determine whether or not your class or small group exhibits a “Culture of Invitation.” At the core of why your class or group exists is about making disciples. Our context is a small group of people, gathered around God’s Word and determined to accomplish His purpose. It’s about people. Our focus is on God and fulfilling His purpose, but our target is people. Use these suggestions to help your class or small group create a “Culture of Invitation.”

It starts before a guest or prospect arrives.

  • Assign someone to be primarily responsible for greeting and befriending any new guests.
  • Weekly remind members to invite friends, peers, co-workers and family to join them in Bible study.
  • Prepare the room for guests. Make sure the chairs are arranged so the guest will be comfortable and feel welcome.
  • Make sure you have enrollment cards, pens and name tags available. Additional Bible study books should be on hand to provide to guests.

When guests arrive…

  • Invite guests to sit in the best seats and surround them with people who are interested in them.
  • Collect accurate information for the purpose of follow up.
  • Invite them to join the class. You can enroll someone as a member just as easily as you can collect guest information.
  • Everybody wears a name tag. Use one color for guests and another for members.
  • Focus on getting to know the person, not just on completing tasks.
  • Invite guests to join you in worship. Ask them to sit with you and your family.
  • Invite guests to join you for lunch.
  • Be sure and introduce your guests to the Senior Pastor and other appropriate staff.
  • Assists with collecting children if they have preschoolers.

Follow up after a guests visit.

  • Make a phone call within 24 hours thanking them for their participation.
  • If they choose to join you, help them know what their next step would be.
  • Ask if you can add them to your mailing lists, email lists, blog, facebook or text group. If they requests to be removed, please honor their wishes.
  • Continue to make contact until they join and become active or they request to not be contacted anymore.

Living Missional; 4 arenas for missional living

18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. John 17:18 (HCSB)

“Living Sent” – When we received the gift of Jesus Christ, eternal life, the forgiveness of sin, and so much more, we were adopted into the Family of God. We are heirs, God’s children—family. Our privilege and responsibility is to now invite as many people as possible to join God’s family. But, how can they hear unless someone tells them? How can they see unless someone shows them? How can they know unless someone leads them?

People are watching. I’m not trying to freak you out, but people around us are observing what we say and do. They notice where we go and don’t go. They see how we live. Years ago I had a neighbor named Fred, (that really was his name). For months we talked over the fence about normal stuff. We laughed a lot and shared stories. One day, Fred asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was a Baptist Minister. Things got real quiet. Then Fred said, “Sean, if I had known that months ago we would not have been friends”. Fred had had a bad history with some church folks in his past and it left a bitter taste. Fred got to know me by the way I lived before he knew what my titles were.

People need the chance to see the Jesus in you. They need to hear the hope that is within you. Our world is selfish and desperately needs to see someone who loves them—unconditionally. They are desperate to be a part of a family like the one we have: God’s family. Take these truths and apply them to these 4 arenas of your life.

Your family – The people that really know you the best are those that are with you the most. Be careful to live the kind of life every day that glorifies God.

Your church – If we can’t love those who are part of God’s family, what does that say to the world who is watching us. 34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (HCSB)

Your Work or School – For many of us, these are people we see almost every day. How we live our life indicates what we value most. People at work or school need to see that Jesus is the most important person in your life.

Your Community – Every smile you give to a cashier, every kind word you say to a waiter and every door you open for others shows your heart and love for people. Give generously. Volunteer your time, your gifts and your resources to help others. Be Jesus in your community everywhere you go, everything you say and everything you do.

Christianity is 24/7. #Live4God

Grow Spiritually, 3 things that maturing believers do!

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (HCSB)

Have you heard the quote, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”? Actually You can. If you put a little salt in his oats, he will eventually head to the water tank. I’m not a theological genius but I believe you can encourage people to grow spiritually.

Participation in regular Bible study – In study after study, maturing believer’s credit regular attendance in a weekly bible study as one of the key factors for personal spiritual growth. This actually makes sense. Accountability is one of the key environments needed to keep people focused on God’s Word and His mission. Encourage those you lead to commit to attend more often. If they attend Bible study twice a month, encourage them to make it 3 times a month. You get the point. People need to know that just showing up every week helps. (NOTE: It helps even more if they attend Worship as well).

Accountability Group – This is one of the strongest indicators of maturing believers but also one of the least used methods in study after study. This requires a high degree of accountability and trust. Many people struggle to “go deep” because the cost of trusting someone else is so high. Vulnerability is a significant sign of maturity. A group of 3 to 4 people of the same sex meeting regularly for the purpose of bible study and accountability can significantly increase you spiritual attitude and aptitude. Choose wisely. Consider longer term friends instead of someone you just met.

Read Your Bible everyday – This was identified as the number one attribute of a growing believer in study after study. Nothing takes the place of the individual spending quality time alone with God and His word. Whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour; this one thing alone over time equips you to face life’s trials and deepens your faith and trust in God. Read God’s word daily. Pray daily. Meditate on God’s word (read it slowly and over and over again for comprehension). Just take the time to BE with God.

Share the Gospel: Why most people don’t!

37 “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38 (HCSB)

I prefer the statement, sharing the Gospel with the lost rather than soul winning. The former is an objective that can be measured. The latter assumes that I am the one who wins souls; only God can do that. In the simplest of terms, God has commanded me, as a believer, to make disciples. The starting point for all disciples is a relationship with Christ. But how can those who are lost know the Savior unless someone tells them?

Fear, apathy, selfishness, anger, bitterness, lack of confidence are some of the reasons people give as to why they don’t share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. Research shows us that the majority of Christians have not shared the gospel with anyone. Of those precious few who have, thank God.

I have a simple answer to those who have not shared; Just do it. If you don’t know how, ask someone to show you how. If you lack confidence, ask someone to go with you. If you don’t know anyone, ask someone else who they know. Just go. Just share.

Sharing the gospel is hard work. It requires two things as indicated in Matthew 9:37-38; Pray and Go. It really isn’t complicated. I know, I know, you want to know what happens if you don’t do it right. I admit, there is some truth to that but remember that salvation is the work of God not us.

Commit to these 4 things. If it helps you to remember, this is the 3151 commitment.

  • Pray for at least 3 lost people every day, by name.
  • Learn at least 1 gospel presentation.
  • Invite at least 5 people to your Sunday School or Small Group.
  • Share the gospel with at least 1 person.

For more tools and resources for the 3151 commitment, go to www.louisianabaptists.org/connect1/.

5 Minutes with the Sunday School Teacher!

People are busy. I know that. There is a lot you want to do and a whole lot more you are expected to do. What I would like do is to take 5 minutes of your time to talk about one thing that I know God expects of you.

Go and Make Disciples – This command from Matthew 28:19 is the clarion call to all lay leaders to equip the saints, to make disciples who will make disciples. There are tons of voices out there telling you all the ways to make disciples. Lots of experts who have developed tools, resources, strategies and workshops that will help you make disciples. Many of them have great ideas and insights that work great—for them. Unfortunately, you are not them and your church is certainly not like theirs.

I want to make this simple. There are principles that many of these experts are teaching, but how do you apply that to your situation. First of all, let me restate your purpose as the leader of your class. Your job is to make disciples who will make disciples. The churches best strategy to make disciples is through small groups.

With all of that being said, most of you already have a structure that can already accomplish this purpose. In many churches it is called Sunday School. The problem is that most of our existing groups have lost their purpose. It is your job as leader to lead them and equip them to make disciples. I know you are doing the best you can to accomplish the purpose you believe you are suppose to accomplish. Along the way, maybe you have lost sight of the purpose of your small group. It is your job to remind them. At the same time, let’s be honest, some people will never understand the purpose of their small group. Let’s focus on those that do. Our model is the Great Shepherd.

He led by loving them – Change is not easy to most people. Don’t announce changes, encourage change. Don’t make demands of them, equip them. People respond to your heart and your actions, not from your words.

He led by showing them – Exemplify change. Be willing to go the extra mile. If you are willing to commit, follow through and live the life you want them to; they will follow.

He led by equipping them – Show them what’s most important. If everything you do is important, those who follow will not know what’s most important. Tell them, show them, equip them and lead them to know what’s MOST important.

He led by caring for them – Those you lead need to know that you care about them and those in your community. I know you care, but do they know that?

Leader, you are the one God chose to be in your role. He can and will use you to make disciples that make disciples.

5 Minutes with the Pastor!

Pastors are busy. I know that. There is a lot you want to do and a whole lot more you are expected to do. What I would like to take 5 minutes of your time to talk about is one thing that I know God expects of you.

Go and Make Disciples – This command from Matthew 28:19 is the clarion call to all pastors to equip the saints to make disciples who will make disciples. There are tons of voices out there telling you all the ways to make disciples. Lots of experts who have developed tools, resources, strategies and workshops that will help you make disciples. Many of them have great ideas and insights that work great—for them. Unfortunately, you are not them and your church is certainly not like theirs.

I want to make this simple. There are principles that many of these experts are teaching, but how do you apply that to your situation? First of all, let me restate your purpose as the pastor of your church. Your job is to make disciples who will make disciples. The churches’ best strategy to make disciples is through small groups.

With all of that being said, most of you already have a structure that can already accomplish this purpose. In many churches it is called Sunday School. The problem is that most of our existing groups have lost their purpose. It is your job as pastor to lead them and equip them to make disciples. Most Sunday School classes are doing the best they can to accomplish the purpose THEY believe they are suppose to accomplish. Along the way, they have lost sight of the purpose of their small group. It is your job to remind them. At the same time, let’s be honest, some people will never understand the purpose of their small group. Let’s focus on those that do. Our model is the Great Shepherd.

He led by loving them – Change is not easy to most people. Don’t announce changes, encourage change. Don’t make demands of them, equip them. People respond to your heart and your actions, not from your words.

He led by showing them – Exemplify change. Be willing to go the extra mile. If you are willing to commit, follow through and live the life you want them to; they will follow.

He led by equipping them – Show them what’s most important. If everything you do is important, those who follow will not know what’s most important. Tell them, show them, equip them and lead them to know what’s MOST important.

He led by caring for them – Those you lead need to know that you care about them and those in your community. I know you care, but do they know that?

Pastor, you are the one God chose to be in your role. He can and will use you to make disciples that make disciples.

Make Disciples

Go and make disciples.

Simple, direct and to the point.

You would think that Christians would know Jesus commands us to go and make disciples. Why is it then that many of our actions as a class or small group do not reflect this purpose?

I believe that the church’s best strategy to make disciples is through small groups (special note to my friend Brian Haynes, Senior Pastor at Bay Area Church in South Houston, who says, “the best discipleship strategy is in the home”).

For those of us who are the church, we are to make disciples everywhere we go. It just makes sense that we would provide the environment where that can happen best (i.e. the small group).

I believe that every effective, disciple-making small group needs four priorities. Some of those we will be better at than others, but our attention and our focus must always return to these four things.

  • Share the gospel with the lost.
  • Develop biblical community.
  • Help people to grow spiritually.
  • Equip people to live missionally.

The ReGroup strategy is built off of this one purpose and four priorities. You can help your class or group to “ReGroup” around this core message and these objectives.

For more information about the ReGroup strategy and events and resources, go to LouisianaBaptists.org/ReGroup.

In The Beginning…

History is one of those things that we are destined to repeat if we don’t learn from it. Sunday School is and has always been about God’s people connecting with one another, engaging in God’s Word and making a difference in the community.

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.” John 13:34 (HCSB)

God commands us to love one another. You don’t have to like each other but you do have to love one another.

I have experienced Sunday School classes and churches who don’t love each other very much.

Think about this, do you “feel” loved by the people in your Sunday School Class or Small Group? There are lots of variables that contribute to how we “feel” about each other, but use these words to help measure that love.

  • Do you trust them?
  • Are they genuinely interested in your well-being?
  • Do you feel like you “fit” into the group?
  • Do you “feel” comfortable enough to share personal issues or concerns with your group?

Love is best illustrated by unselfish desires and actions.

On the other hand, how do others in your class or small group “feel”? Do they “feel” loved by others and by you? Face it, you don’t control the actions, choices, behaviors and attitudes of others; but you do control yours. Are your actions, choices, behaviors and attitudes loving towards others?

The core element to “making disciples” in your small group or Sunday School class is loving relationships.

Sometimes it is easier to teach through loving others in your actions, choices, behaviors and attitudes than it is to just tell them that you love them. On the other hand, it doesn’t hurt for them to hear it from you every once in a while too.

Tell the people in your class or group that you love them today. Send a text, write an email, call them, send them a card, or talk to them when you see them at church or around town. Let them know you love them. Better than that, show them. Be an example of loving others just as Jesus has commanded.

What a history lesson it will be if you and your class or group were known for how much you loved one another.

Three Ways to Create a Better Biblical Community for Your Group

In your opinion, how many times a month does a person have to attend to stay connected to your group? What happens when they attend less often? Is it possible to attend regularly and still not be connected?

Great questions, huh! Listen, you don’t control the behavior, opinions, attitudes or actions of others. But you do control what you do and how you lead your group to stay connected to God and one another.

People are fickle. I think you would be a better steward of your ministry as the leader of your small group or Sunday School class, if you focused more on what God expects from you and less on what others expect from you.

Here are three things you can do to create a better biblical community for your group.

  1. Encourage them to read their Bible daily. What does that have to do with creating biblical community? Simply put, the more a person loves God, the better they are able to love others. You can’t spend time alone with God and not fall deeply and intimately in love with Him. Love God, love others. It just happens.
  2. Spend time together outside of the weekly group meeting time. Once a month, once a quarter or as often as you can, plan a time of fellowship, bible study, or ministry together. Even if you can’t get everyone there, plan something – DO something.
    Relationships happen because you spend time together.
    If you enjoy a two-hour Bible study on your favorite topic – do that. If you enjoy just spending time together, eating food and letting the kids play – do that. If you would rather do a ministry project together like, habitat for humanity, yard care for an elderly person, food kitchen service, or thousands of other ideas for projects, just do it together.
  3. Stay in contact. Real needs are not discovered in your weekly bible study. They are discovered during those one-on-one or three/four people groups. Pray for one another. Laugh together (i.e. “Hey I heard this great joke the other day”). Invite them to join you with on a personal project. Call, email, text, visit, and so much more.

Community happens when we are intentional about making it happen. Be a catalyst.