Adding new groups helps our churches remain open to new people and helps people more easily navigate being involved in a group.
By Dwayne McCrary
When traveling a distance on an interstate, most of us end up traveling with a pack. We may not know the other drivers in the pack, but somehow we find ourselves falling in line with others on the highway. When we stop for gas or to stretch our legs, we are left to find another pack once back on the highway.
The same can be true with ongoing Bible study groups. People joined the group and were comfortable with the pace and others in the group. However, for a variety of reasons, a person took a pit stop while the rest of the pack moved on. We saw a lot of this with COVID lockdowns and concerns about illness. Many in our churches who got out of the habit of going to small groups over the past few years now need to find a new pack. And that is not always as easy as it sounds because one has to get back on the highway.
Creating safe onramps
Getting on the interstate can be frightening. We are fine once we are up to speed, but getting in the flow with everyone else is the problem, especially on cloverleaf interchanges that include a lane shared by both those trying to get on and those trying to get off the highway. To lessen the probability of collisions, many of these have had to be updated. The right type of onramp make for a safer experience.“The addition of new groups helps our churches remain open to new people and helps people more easily navigate being involved in an ongoing Bible study group.” — Dwayne McCrary Click To Tweet
People who are not currently in an ongoing Bible study group need a safe onramp to get up to speed. The need for onramps is particularly acute if we use an ongoing Bible study groups strategy that includes groups meeting every week. The solution for many of the most dangerous cloverleaf interchanges wasn’t trying to adapt the old one, but adding a new ramp. Similarly, we can create a new group, a new ramp helping people get up to speed without feeling like those already in the group might run them over. The addition of new groups helps our churches remain open to new people and helps people more easily navigate being involved in an ongoing Bible study group.
Let’s look at a five-step action plan for creating new groups.
The entire process begins with inviting people to pray for the new group and leader. After we’ve secured prayer partners, the focus turns to finding and training a leader for the new group. This leader may be a first-time leader or an experienced leader who hands off their current group to an apprentice.
With a leader in place, we can focus on identifying the people the group will primarily seek to reach. Having a clear picture of who we are trying to reach will help us plan and prepare. College students have different needs than their parents. Ongoing Bible study groups should reflect those different needs.“Having a clear picture of who we are trying to reach will help us plan and prepare.” — Dwayne McCrary Click To Tweet
Identify by name people for whom the new group is intended who are not currently involved in a group. Then invite them to a meet and greet. At the meet and greet, tell them about the group, including what will be studied and how.
As the first group time approaches, the leader will want to contact everyone who attended the meet and greet to remind them about the first group time. The leader will also prepare to lead the group, gathering everything needed to do so. Leaders should begin on time and provide nametags to help everyone get to know each other.
Now the real work begins. The leader contacts participants each week, encouraging them to invite friends they know who are not involved in an ongoing Bible study group. The group may organize with greeters, administrators, and prayer leaders. Church leaders will need to encourage the leader of the new group and continue to equip all leaders.“We may not need to re-engineer our groups to involve people not currently involved in Bible study groups. Instead, we may simply need to add new groups.” — Dwayne McCrary Click To Tweet
We may not need to re-engineer our groups to involve people not currently involved in Bible study groups. Instead, we may simply need to add new groups, creating new ramps to help them get involved in our ongoing Bible study ministry.
For permission to republish this article, please email Marissa Postell Sullivan.
Dwayne is the manager of the adult ongoing Bible study team at Lifeway, an experienced group leader and church leader, and one of the people behind Simplicity, a resource to help churches start new groups.
Simplicity is a curriculum that serves as an onramp to your church’s Sunday School traffic flow. Simplicity helps church leaders create an open lane where new people can get up to speed quickly and merge into ongoing Bible study. You can find out more about these free resources at lifeway.com/simplicity.