How to Launch Strong Bible Study Groups
Every church wants to see unconnected people get connected. But have you asked yourself what it really means to be "unconnected"? There are two types of unconnected people. The first are those in your community who are not active in church at all-yours or anyone else's. The second are those who attend worship - at least occasionally - at your church but aren't connected to a smaller group. A church-wide launch campaign can be an effective way to engage either or both groups. The strategy is remarkably similar!
Here are five steps to consider in planning your campaign.
1. Commit to connecting by starting new groupsWhile existing small groups or classes will almost certainly add new members as a result of a campaign, new groups will add more. Lots more! Four ingredients are essential to start a new group: an occasion, a location, a leader, and study material.
- Occasion. There are two basic choices: Right before or right after the primary weekend worship experience and/or some other time, such as a weeknight. Churches that operate Sunday School-or its functional equivalent by some other name-are a great example of the first. Churches that utilize weekday small groups represent the second. Churches that do both understand the significance of "and/or"!
- Location. Again, there are two basic choices: at/near the church campus and/or away from the church.
- Leader. This is usually the hardest part. And we often make it too hard. The main way to make it easier for a new leader to be successful-and for us to enlist them with that promise-is to provide them materials that increase their confidence and facilitate their success in leading a satisfying and transformational group experience.
- Study material. For the campaign, choose study material that all of your groups can study together. The study topic should be compelling to new group members, easy to connect with, and easy for new groups leaders to use.
2: Schedule the campaign to encourage people to attend new groupsOne of the wonderful side benefits of a campaign is that attendance in existing groups almost always increases-often dramatically. Some new people start coming, while the current members come more often. The thrust of the campaign is to get new people engaged in new groups. Here are a few tips.
- Schedule six weeks of study for the campaign. Small groups pioneer and founder of Serendipity House Lyman Coleman said six weeks was short enough for people to commit to, but long enough for people to begin to connect.
- Encourage all groups to study the same material. You might want to consider using Bible Studies for Life that gives you the option to align multiple age groups in studying the same biblical concepts. Some pastors may want to consider preaching messages related to the study.
- Promote the campaign in a compelling way. Videos and website banner ads are two ways to consider if your church has those resources available. You will also want to utilize your church's social media accounts. Old-fashioned snail mail works too.
3. Create new connectionsCampaigns are a great time for a little experimentation. Here are a few ideas.
- Use a large space for a safe connection experience. This tactic will work whether your groups meet on-campus, off-campus, or both. Many churches conduct such gatherings, each with different features. Basically, this is how it works. You set up a large room with chairs around tables or in horseshoe-shaped groups. A discussion leader is enlisted for each group. A "master-teacher" would speak to the entire group, while the questions would be discussed in the smaller groups. Some of these groups will want to continue to meet after the six sessions are completed.
- Encourage-and train-some volunteers to start a new group in their homes, workplaces, or somewhere else in the community. They provide or secure the space and invite FRANs (friends, relatives, associates, neighbors) to participate. You provide the materials. They commitment to meet six times. Many leaders and groups will want to continue. So, as my friend and LifeWay small groups consultant Mark Howell coaches, always have a suggestion ready for the next six sessions, too.
4. Communicate with everyoneCampaigns are "all-hands-on-deck" times in a church. Make sure you communicate well with your leaders and volunteers, explaining the strategic reason for the campaign, what you hope to accomplish, and the part they will play in making it successful.
5. Celebrate your successDon't forget to celebrate after the campaign! Plan a time to share your campaign ideas, successes, and even miscues with your team.
The best part of this entire plan is that most churches can easily accomplish these steps. Planning and launching a church-wide campaign requires some effort and shepherding on our part as leaders, but watching new faces connect to our churches and new lives impacted by the power of the gospel far surpasses effort on our part.