Posted: 3/21/17 at 11:15am. Post by Tony Brooks.
Many people are trying to keep up with what is happening with the NCAA basketball tournament that we call March Madness. As you know, each game is pivotal. You lose; you go home. (I wish we had the same passion for what Sunday School/small groups could do to bring people to Christ and mature disciples!)
We have an eternal message, and we need to realize how powerful we can be to transform the world. I was reminded of a twist on how we need to see ourselves by this YouTube video, How To Explain What You Do, When You’re A Pastor.
So how do we make sure we are successful at starting new groups/classes, and that we are not one-and-done? Here are some proven ideas:
- You need at least three passionate people to start a new class or small group. Why three? You need a teacher, someone in charge of outreach, and someone in charge of care groups. You don’t want to promote a new possibility with just a teacher. If only one person shows up, it is awkward!
- Whom are you trying to reach? Start in the pews on Sunday morning, use a census, or contact people whom members already know. You need a target audience. Whom would that be, and how many viable contacts do you have? This is imperative. You may get half or fewer to join you.
- Where will you have it? Starting a new class on Sunday morning at church works if you have several seekers with similarities. What if you are trying to reach unchurched people? Perhaps a home or public place is a better location. Make sure you decide on a space before you invite people.
- Enlist & train workers. As I mentioned, you need at least three. This may require persons to leave an existing group. Share and encourage the passion and vision to reach new people. Train them in teaching, outreach, and care.
- Go get new people!
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:3-7 NIV)
In the final step for starting new classes/groups, you need a deep commitment and passion for reaching people for Christ much like Jesus’ parable above. Every adult class ought to pray weekly in class to find ways to reach lost people and start new classes as a missionary endeavor. As you prepare to “go after the people,” I encourage you to consider the following:
Six months before starting a new class/group:
- Enlist the workers (three: Teacher, Fellowship/Care Leader, and Outreach Leader) to begin praying and preparing: looking for prospects, deciding on the age group to reach, and building relationships with prospects they know for this class. Meet with experienced workers in other classes to learn from them. Go to a training session to prepare.
- Ask another class to begin praying for God to work in a mighty way through the three leaders and to open doors for prospects. This adult class should see the new class as an adoption on their part.
Three months before starting:
- Continue to pray and enlist the entire church to pray about your efforts.
- Decide on the first quarter’s curriculum as you talk to prospects and what their needs are.
- Begin promoting the class in your church newsletter, worship bulletin, and in the community you are targeting with the topic you will start teaching. Use social media like Facebook and your website to help get the word out. There may be a specific neighborhood or group you are targeting. Get the adult class that adopted you to help spread the word.
For instance, some churches have started new classes specifically for parents of preschoolers or parents of children or parents of youth. The first eight weeks were focused on biblical parenting. You may want to bring in a specialist in the age group to talk about developmental stages for the child–physical, emotional, and spiritual–in one of the sessions.
One month before:
- Continue to pray.
- Plan a social event and have the adult class that adopted you host and help promote the event. Having a larger crowd for interaction would be great for both the class and prospects. Send letters, use email, Facebook, and other means to spread the word.
- Commission the workers for the new class in worship. This is significant in two ways. It will validate the importance of these workers and their work, and it will allow other classes to see the need to begin thinking about Sunday School’s significance or small groups as a missionary movement.
First day of class/group:
If your new group is a Sunday School class, have a breakfast 15-20 minutes before the Sunday School hour to build fellowship. If it is a small group, have a meal perhaps before or as part of the session. The sooner this new group can bond, the better. Breaking bread together brings a different level of intimacy to a group.
As we plan to start new classes, may we embody Luke 15 as we seek to reach lost people for Christ!