By Mark Dance
Pastors are constantly pressured to promote ministries from the stage, which is something that many of us can find annoying. Each week we wake up excited to preach and reluctant to promote. There are times, however, when we need to sound the trumpet for ministries that impact the whole church.
This summer is the best time to prioritize and promote the discipleship strategy of your church. I’m going to give you a head start by suggesting nine ways to promote your groups both on stage and off.
1. Preach about discipleship in August.
Churches are smart to follow the rhythm of the local school system. The beginning of the school year is also the de facto beginning of the church year. That makes it the best time to start new groups as well as to recruit and train new teachers.
2. Recognize teachers in Sunday morning worship.
It makes a significant impact when you invite small group teachers to stand with you on or near the stage. I suggest you separately recognize new teachers and those who are faithfully staying at their post. This also provides an excellent opportunity to thank those who are rotating off. After you’ve shown appreciation to all your teachers, lead the church in a commissioning prayer.
3. Share stories from the stage.
Live or video testimonials can powerfully reinforce the importance of groups in your church. Most modern phones have excellent video quality and sufficient audio capabilities. Video testimonies help control time and content and can also be shared on the church’s social media channels.
4. Make next steps obvious.
Groups are at the core of most church discipleship strategies, but we must be crystal clear when communicating next steps from the stage. Sometimes our creative, churchy terms can be confusing to newcomers—terms like Sunday School, Life Groups, Discipleship Groups, etc.
A pastor’s job is to clarify the vision of discipleship by explaining the why of groups and to help people understand how to get plugged in.
My church has a “Next Steps” sign positioned over a room that’s conveniently located next to the worship stage. The person who closes the service each Sunday invites people who are interested in finding out more about salvation, membership, or a small group, to visit that room.
5. Visit classes once a year.
The largest church I pastored had as many as 40 adult groups, so it took me a full year to make all the rounds. Don’t feel compelled to visit each group every year because you don’t want it to feel like an inspection. I assure you your visit won’t be forgotten or unappreciated.
6. Help train group leaders.
Ken Braddy writes, “Participating in a training event with group leaders says that the Bible-teaching ministry of your church is important, and so are its leaders. A pastor’s absence communicates just the opposite, so ‘save the date.’”
7. Lead a short term study.
Sheep follow shepherds, so when you’re not connected to a group of some kind, you’re sabotaging your own discipleship strategy. In an previous post, I wrote about how pastors can help start new groups.
8. Prioritize groups on your website.
The things that are important to your church are usually found on it’s website. August 1 through mid-September is your best window to onramp both members and guests into a group that will love and feed them all year long.
9. Attend class fellowship events.
I’ve found that July and December are the best times to connect with your people off campus. Class cookouts and parties will wreak havoc on your waistline, but they are effective and efficient ways to “know well the condition of your flock, and pay attention to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23).
Acknowledgment: Several of these ideas come from Ken Braddy’s excellent book, Bringing Life Into Sunday School. You can buy this in bulk for $5 each in bundles of 10 for all of your group leaders.
After serving as a pastor for 27 years, Mark is now the director of pastoral wellness for GuideStone Financial Resources. He frequently speaks at churches, conferences, and retreats—often with his wife Janet. Read more from him at MarkDance.net.