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.

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.

Three Mistakes Most Sunday School Teachers or Small Group Leaders Make

Most leaders don’t intentionally ignore inactive members of our group/class, lack focus on people who are not a part of our group or don’t pay attention to the life needs of the regular members of our class – but sometimes we do.

Inactive Members

Some people join our group or class and fail for whatever reason to connect with the rest of the members. Some people might even get mad at someone in the group and just quit coming. Others might simply miss a few weeks and just decide it’s easier to stay home than take the time to go to Sunday School or small group. Regardless of the reason, God has still placed these people in our ministry field and thus in our sphere of influence.

Non-members

You do realize that there are people in your church and outside of your church that are potential future members, right? We don’t mean to forget about them but sometimes we get so busy doing other things that we “get out of the habit” of paying attention to those who aren’t part of us yet. After a while, we just get comfortable and stop worrying about it all together. Besides, they know where our church is. If they want to be a part, they can just show up.

Regular Members

These are the people that show up. Most of the time, these are the people who participate in Bible study, activities, fellowships, ministry projects, etc. But what if there were some serious issues in their lives like a marriage falling apart, addictions, depression, anger, a job loss or more. Often times, in the midst of our business we miss the subtle clues that something is not quite right at home.

All of these situations have one thing in common— it’s people. God has called us as leaders to lead a ministry with, through and to PEOPLE. We need to stop focusing so much on what has to be done and start focusing more on those people. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Inactive Members – Chances are that an inactive member will most likely not come back to your class. Instead, focus on ministering to them through prayer and regular contact just to let them know you still care. Who knows, maybe they might come back.
  2. Non-members – Most Sunday School classes and small groups don’t have a prospect list. Why not start one? Every week just ask, “who do you know that might be a potential member of our class?” Put their name on your list and pray for them every week. Who knows, they might just come if you invite them.
  3. Regular Members – Take time to get to know each other. Don’t worry about finishing every bible study lesson. Take the time to share with one another in groups of 2 or 3 people. Plan fellowships that allow time for people to share personal prayer needs in really small groups so they don’t have to share such personal needs in front of the whole group. Who knows, you might just prevent a divorce, help a person through addiction, depression or anger or help someone find a new job.

Sunday School and small groups are about people. Let’s make them our primary focus.