Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Small Groups: Helping Your Bible Study Group Understand WHY They are a Group

Andy and Elise attend your group every week; they are sponges soaking up every ounce of Bible study. Their hunger is shared by most everyone in your group. Yet, when you lead them to consider the opportunities the small group has to reach new people, their response is not quite the same. Helping your Bible study group understand WHY they are a group is perhaps the greatest challenge churches face.  There are some things you can do to help, but it does take work, intentionality, and focus.

Whether your church has a small group or a Sunday school model, most struggle with this interesting dynamic described above.  Adults love coming to study, they love their teacher, they love their group, but when you challenge them to consider reaching others, you hear that sound of the crickets as you wait for their response.

Last week I wrote about developing an effective small group strategy. Let's talk about ways to communicate the strategy.
  • Simplify The WHY. The strategy I discussed in the previous post  is something you and key leaders need to understand, but it is too much to explain to the average church member. The WHY can get lost if you try to explain every detail of your group strategy. I suggest you put together a short statement that can be used to explain the overarching strategy. Whether you call it a mission statement, a vision statement, or a slogan, just make sure it explains what you hope to accomplish. Here is the WHY we use at our church: Learning Together to Love God and Love Others.
  • Communicate the WHY. I suggest that most of your communication about the WHY be focused toward your teachers and key leaders and not the entire church body. The leaders will be creating the environment that will enable the Andys and Elises to understand why their small group exists. This also allows your small group strategy to be an integral part of your overarching church strategy instead of competing, overshadowing, or replacing it. The church as a whole will begin to understand the importance of the small group strategy as they experience the strategy. (Again, refer to my earlier post.)
  • Unpack the WHY.  Plan leadership training and meetings around the WHY. Design ways to help your leaders focus on various elements of the WHY. I build our training and meetings around specific elements of Learning Together to Love God and Love Others: (1) Learning -- I focus on helping our teachers learn how to study and prepare to teach the Bible; (2) Together -- I provide training to help our groups learn how to interact with each other; (3) To Love God -- I help teachers know how to lead their groups to stay in the Word and live the Word; (4) Love Others -- I provide training around helping our groups build relationships with regular attenders, absentees, new members, and guests. I help them look for ways to be missional focused by helping with local ministries, sharing their faith, and through other means. We are constantly unpacking the WHY. I try to plan and calendar at least four events per year to help our leaders understand the elements of the WHY.
  • Practice the WHY. This goes back to the foundational importance of your small group ministry. Make sure that every person connected to your church is connected to a group. That includes developing processes and systems that intentionally connects new members, guests, and current church members to a unique small group.
The Andy's and Elise's love for their group is not wrong. But when the love for a group overshadows the love Jesus expects us to have for those who aren't in our groups, then the focus becomes self-centered. This week, evaluate whether your groups have become self-centered Bible study groups. If they have, consider how you can help your Bible study groups understand WHY they are a group.

Maybe your group needs some specialized training. The 4:12 Network searchable database is a great place to start searching for the trainer or resource that could help.

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