Author Archive for bob-mayfield

3 Arenas of Evangelism

I received some insight recently into evangelism in the local church from a conversation I had with one of our Oklahoma pastors. He shared with me that for that past two years, every baptism the church he led had come from either Vacation Bible School or youth camp. He and his church leadership were exploring ways to reach people with the Gospel who do not attend VBS or camp.

As a result of this conversation, I have done some exploring of my own…

Three Arenas of Evangelism in the Local Church

Program
For many churches, programming represents a large number of their church’s baptisms, often times well over half. A church I visited with last week baptized 18 people in the previous year; 14 of the baptisms were from either sports camp, VBS, and youth camp. In fact, Vacation Bible School typically produces about 25 per cent of the baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention (look here and here). In Oklahoma, over 2,500 students receive Christ as Savior at Falls Creek every summer.

Let me be clear: thank God for Vacation Bible School, youth camp, Disciple Now, or any other church program that is bringing people to Christ! Let’s continue to do these programs and let’s do them well. But as my friend Alvin Reid told me last week; a shrinking percentage of people in our culture are going to be reached through programmed strategies that require lost people to attend some type of event at the church’s facilities. Program-style evangelism is vital, but it must not be the only facet of a church’s evangelism strategy.

Pulpit
Traditionally, Southern Baptists (of which I am a proud member) have had strong evangelistic emphases from the pulpit. Pulpit evangelism has been a mainstay of evangelical churches; including Brush Arbor revivals, tent evangelism, Billy Graham crusades, and annual or even semi-annual church revivals. The invitation to receive Christ as Savior that is extended at the end of every worship service is an integral part of bringing people to Christ.

For an obvious reason, the success of pulpit evangelism primarily depends on the attendance of lost people. Pulpit evangelism is most effective when church members invite and actually bring their unsaved friends to attend worship. Pulpit evangelism is another critical piece of the church’s evangelism strategy, but it should not be the only piece.

Personal
The third and most under-utilized facet (in my opinion) is personal evangelism. According to Ed Stetzer and LifeWay Research, 80 per cent of church attenders believe in personal evangelism; but 61 per cent of church members do not share their faith. There is a massive chasm here between belief and action. Far too often, church members may believe that they are supposed to be a personal evangelist; most do not take action on their belief.

Locked away in our small groups and Sunday Schools is an untapped Gospel explosion just waiting to happen. Many churches lack an actual plan of mobilizing the people in their small groups to actually do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5). The small group or Sunday School is how the church is organized (supposedly) to do the mission of the church. If this mission statement is true, then many churches are not using their small group strategy to its fullest and most mission-vital objective… evangelizing a lost world “as we go” (Matthew 28:19).

Personal evangelism is the most missional of the three arenas of evangelism. In even the smallest of churches, our church members know hundreds of lost people. The challenge for the 21st century American church is to mobilize and unleash ordinary church members to become extraordinary evangelists who are able, willing, sharing their faith with friends, family and neighbors.

Engaging the Last 15%

worshipMany churches today average about 10-20% more people attending worship than they have in Sunday School or small group. A look at the attendance pattern of most churches indicates that this is an ongoing issue. Pastors and Sunday School leaders see people in worship every week that just will not make the commitment to go the next step and join a Sunday School or small group. We place ads in the worship bulletin and make announcements from the pulpit that almost beg these people to join a group… often to no avail.

I have discovered that there are three main reasons (barriers) why many people who attend worship are not willing to join one of the church’s small groups.

  • They do not know the group leader. Many of these folks are afraid the group leader will ask them to find the book of Habakkuk and read a bunch of names they can’t pronounce!
  • The social circles in the church’s small groups are already established. Breaking into an existing social circle is very difficult. Therefore, it is easier to skip the group meeting and go home.
  • An unwillingness to make a long-term commitment.

So how do you engage the 15 per cent (or 20 or 30) of worship attenders that are not participating in a small group? Instead of offering the usual ways to join a group (which they have already rejected), the church needs to offer some new ways to involve people in a new group that addresses the three barriers mentioned above. Here are two recommendations that may help you engage that final 15%:

First, begin a Connection Group. For this type of group to work, it needs to be led by the pastor or a staff member. A Connection Group is simply a short-term group (six to eight weeks) that is led by the pastor. During the course of the group, the pastor identifies and begins to train someone from within the group to become the group’s new leader. When the initial study is completed, the pastor hands the group over to the new leader and the group is moved from a short-term to an ongoing group. The people in the group have made new friends and established new relationships.

A second way to address this issue is to offer a Connection Event. A Connection Event can be done in several ways, but the basic idea is to start two or more new groups and invite people to stop by a booth or table in the church foyer immediately following the worship service so they can meet the group leader and receive information about the group. Some churches even offer a meal right after worship for people who are not connected to a group, and begin the new groups in this manner.

Regardless of which strategy you may use, realize that you need to address the three major issues mentioned earlier that prevent many people from belonging to a small group. By using the Connection strategy people can meet the group leader in advance; join a new group with no pre-existing social circles; and participate in a short-term group and establish relationships before it becomes an ongoing group.

Be sure to leave any comments or questions below and I will reply as soon as possible.

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Bob Mayfield is the Sunday School/Small Group specialist for the BGCO. Bob also writes for his own blog at www.bobmayfield.com.

10 Reasons to Consider ReConnectSS for Online Training

220px-OK-10_scenicIf you follow me on Twitter, or just about anyone else at the BGCO, you have been seeing a lot of activity about the new online website that the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma has developed for the specific purpose of training Sunday School and Small Group leaders. We are excited about this new website, and it officially launches on Monday morning, October 14.

With the launch just a few days away, let me share 10 reasons why you and your church should consider using the ReConnectSS website as part of your church’s training strategy for your Sunday School and Small Group Leaders.

1) Cost Well, actually there is no cost. Through the contributions of Oklahoma Southern Baptists to the Cooperative Program, the training available to your leaders through the ReConnectSS website is available to you at no charge.

2) Focused content The new ReConnectSS website is focused specifically on Sunday School and Small Groups leaders. You and your other church leaders are not going to get lost on this website. Because of its singular focus, ReConnectSS is able to provide specific training content.

3) It’s Southern Baptist The training courses at ReConnectSS are all from Southern Baptists and are focused on Southern Baptists. We do not mind if someone that is not a Southern Baptist (or is not from Oklahoma) wants to use ReConnectSS to help train their small group leaders. But we also recognize our audience, and our primary audience is Oklahoma Southern Baptists. This means that our content will be fully aligned with the Baptist Faith and Message (2000). It also means that when you hear a reference to OU or OSU, we are not talking about Oregon or Ohio State!!

4) Quality The courses available on ReConnectSS are high quality in technology and in content.

5) Practical The people and the content of ReConnectSS training courses are practitioners. BGCO leaders that produce content also serve as interim pastors, educators, youth ministers, and childhood leaders. Other leaders you will find on the ReConnectSS website have practical ministry experience.

6) Ease of use From the first moment you land on the site, you are directed to your next step. (Hint: Step One is to register on the site). Registering gives you a personal profile where you can see what courses you have taken, what badges you have earned, and also recommendations.

7) Church friendly A pastor, Sunday School director, or other Sunday School leader can recommend courses and/or badges that they would like all of their leaders to take. This feature provides a unique opportunity for leaders to participate in the training on their schedule, but also be able to share and go even deeper at leadership meetings at the church.

8) We are putting “Fun” into Sunday School training. Our badging system is fun! I mean seriously, who can resist participating in the “Arthur Flake is My Homeboy” badge!! What childhood leader would not want the “Kid Genius” badge? Why not learn and have fun at the same time.

9) Technology People today have massive amounts of technology at their fingertips. You can go online to ReConnectSS from a computer, notebook, or smart phone. The website is designed for use with whatever online device you may have.

10) Online and On-Demand Instead of traveling hundreds of miles to an event and spending hundreds of dollars, a church can equip their Sunday School and Small Group leaders for free using the technology that their people already have in their hand. Leaders can participate and get training while waiting in the doctor’s office, during their lunch break at work, or in the middle of the night while battling insomnia!!

We think that you are going to like the new ReConnectSS training website. If you have any questions or comments, leave them below and I’ll get back to you…