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.

A Message From BGCO President Nick Garland

nick garland

Dear Pastor:

What is the last thing your church did that was truly “God-sized” or “Kingdom-sized” in its scope and impact?   Hopefully, you did not have to think about that answer very long.  This fall, all of us will have a great opportunity to be “Kingdom” focused.  I want to invite you to join hundreds of Oklahoma Baptists to reach out to our unchurched neighbors in a way we have not done collectively in a long time.  We want to move back to the future!

Sunday school is the backbone of every church.  It is the heartbeat for evangelism, ministry, mission service, stewardship development, leadership recruitment, and fellowship. Baptists were at our best when SS was continually promoted in church.  Involving people in small groups is the key to retention of new members, accountability of church attendance, and maturing believers.

This fall, the BGCO will be engaging our Oklahoma Baptist churches with the practical SS strategy called START.  Those churches that embrace the START strategy will be entering a ten-week campaign that will provide growth for every size church.  The START emphasis will focus on starting new units in the SS, training and encouraging all members in evangelism, praying for unchurched friends and inviting them to SS, and reaching out to the community around the church during the ten week strategy implementation.

By uniting across the state and encouraging every church to participate, the entire state during the ten weeks could be visited and enlisted to come to a Baptist church’s SS.  How great is that!  Baptists have always rallied when it was most urgent.  Our culture is sick.  Our country is sin-sick.  Our churches have the answer. Christ is the cure for sin!

This should be our finest hour and the greatest harvest is just ahead of us.  Let’s join hearts and do what the old hymn we used to sing admonished us to do, “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying…..weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen.  Tell them of Jesus the mighty to save!”  That is, indeed, Kingdom-sized business!   Your community is dying for someone to care!  You do!  Let them know!!!

Blessings,

Nick Garland

Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church Broken Arrow

Practically Speaking

practically speaking imageWe all like to dream, imagine, set goals, and forge new ground, but it takes work to reach our goals and realize our dreams, practical, boots-on-the- ground, dirty-your-hands effort. All progress begins with, and is, a series of small, practical steps.   Sunday school or small groups provide an environment in which we can accomplish all the big dreams God provides for our lives and for the church through practical steps, vital connections.

To truly live as God intends His followers to live, we must connect to Jesus, His Truth, His community (the church), and His mission in this world. Understanding the importance of the small group or Sunday school class in pointing us toward these vital connections, how can we personally engage and engage others in this important work. Here are a few thoughts…

1)      Connect to Jesus.

  • How much of what you know about Jesus comes from personal experience, and how much comes from the testimony of others?
  • Do you sense the Holy Spirit’s prompting on a regular basis, or have you allowed yourself to be sidetracked to the point that you have difficulty discerning His will?  Does anything need to change?  If so, what do you plan to do about it?
  • How much time a week do you spend with The Lord? This week, how can you structure your day so you can spend time with Jesus?
  • This week, how are you connecting others to Jesus? In your teaching, leading, working, family? Consider how you might put Jesus at the front of all your interactions this week.
  • When was the last time you led someone to Jesus?

 

2)      Connect to Truth.

  • What are you reading in Scripture right now? We are to meditate on His word, but how much time do you spend digesting new Truth?
  • Are you still quoting the same handful of verses that you learned as a child, or are you adding daily to your Scripture arsenal so that you can fight off the Enemy?
  • We are to pray continually, but how much time per week do you spend in concentrated, purposeful prayer? 
  • Consider you conversations with people inside and outside the church.  Is Scripture a regular part of your conversation?  How can you include it?

 

3)      Connect to Community.

  • Positions and posts aside, are you fully integrated in the life of your local church?  Who depends on you?  Who holds you accountable?
  • What relationships within the church need fostering or mending?
  • Who has joined your church lately as a result of your influence?
  • Who can you connect in the next couple of weeks into community in the Church?

 

4)      Connect to the Mission of God in the World.

  • Do you consider yourself a missionary?  Do your actions prove that notion?  Are you willing to serve if there is no tangible reward?
  • Do you sacrifice so that others can hear about Jesus, or is your giving convenient and easy?
  • Do you pray only that the Gospel will be spread or that God would use you to spread the Gospel?

Maybe you would take time to evaluate whether or not you are living practically the things you say you believe and God intends. Are you vitally connected to the work of God in your life, the lives of others, and His church?

Are you a Sunday School or small group leader (or thinking about serving in that way)? You may want to check out www.reconnects.com for online training to become a more effective leader and learn more about the four vital connections.

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…

Think Small

think-small1The biggest things come from the smallest things. Think about it. The smallest functional unit of the body is the cell. Cells are formed into tissue, tissue into organs, organs into systems, systems into bodies. The smallest unit of a society is the family. A kingdom is only as strong as the loyalty of the subjects. Again, the most elaborate strategy is predicated upon attention to the detail of the basics. This list of examples could go on and on.

It makes sense that the health of things on a large scale will be, and is, determined by health at the smaller level. It plays out in life every day. So it is in the life of a believer in Christ. So it is true in the work of the church. We must give attention to the small things to see results on a larger scale in our life, and in the church as a whole.

Daily devotion, continued obedience and intentional life on life relationships of accountability, encouragement and influence with those rough, messed up, strange and imperfect people, both inside and outside the church. It is work that is not easy, but it is meaningful, rewarding and vital.

It is important to understand the church must do good work at the smallest levels to accomplish what it needs to accomplish. If we do not make vital connections to Jesus, His truth, His community and His mission in the world, then we have missed the point.  The truth is that all of these important things can be accomplished—are most effectively accomplished—in the life of the church through Sunday School or small group ministry.

Good Sunday School work is simply good small group work. The converse is also true. The small group environment puts us into immediate contact with Jesus, His truth, his community and His mission in the world. These are the things followers of Christ are to be and do. A church must do good small group work to be healthy at the larger level.

So, you can ignore work at the smallest, most foundational levels of life and ministry, but you will end up with a shell that appears like all the pieces are in place when, in reality, it is fragile, not able to bear the weight of life and Truth. It’s like settling for one of those cheap hollow bunnies at Easter that are made up of the gross chocolate. Who are we kidding? We would often rather shortcut or circumnavigate real relational work than invest time in the areas that are most important and that would give us the most lasting results. We sacrifice actual for artificial health because we avoid health at the smallest levels.

Don’t sacrifice substance for surface. Focus in on the basics. Hammer down on the fundamentals. Commit to feed the four vital connections. Understand that the direct line to these connections most of us have in our churches is the Sunday School or small group ministry. Highlight the smallest functional units of your church as the means to accomplish the work of the church.

ReConnect Sunday School is not just about re-connecting to Sunday School, re-emphasizing a program or revitalizing a ministry. It is about the people of God re-connecting their lives and others to the vital work of the life of a believer and of the church and using small group connections as the primary way to accomplish that work. Want to be healthy?  Think small.

ReConnect Moves Sunday School from Classroom to ‘Living Room’

sofaOklahoma Baptist’s new ReConnect Sunday School initiative moves Sunday School from the classroom to the living room. This transformation can happen in your church house and possibly in every house in your community.

Sunday School is most effective when people discover a personal relationship with God and with each other. The group needs to feel like a living room and not a classroom. ReConnect Sunday School is not a program. It is not just structure with a teacher giving a lecture about facts and figures. ReConnect Sunday School is alive! It is relational with people loving each other and meeting needs. It is a group clearly applying the Word of God to their lives.  ReConnect Sunday School is incarnational as opposed to superficial. ReConnect Sunday School is intentional as opposed to accidental.

God created people to be relational. He created people to relate to Him through His precious Son, Jesus Christ, and to relate to each other through community. A key ingredient to Church is body life, the need to worship together, hold one another accountable and to minister to each other and the world.

There is a difference between a house and a home. From the recent tornados that destroyed so many residences, you heard repeatedly about people losing more than a house, but a home. Memories, keepsakes and sometimes even a loved one were lost.

What is your idea of Sunday School?  Is your Sunday School class more like a house or a home? And even though the class needs to feel like a living room, there is another view of this analogy. Consider two houses, the church house and the residential house. Do you expect the people in the residential house to cross the street and attend your church house? Or are you ready to do whatever it takes to reach people and to cross the street to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others?

ReConnecting people with Jesus and the truth is more than a classroom activity. Connecting with people goes beyond the Sunday morning class or even the weeknight small group. The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s evangelism group supports ReConnect Sunday School with motivation and training for sharing your faith through MY316, CROSS and Listening Evangelism resources. You can use these resources in the Sunday School class or another designated equipping time, possibly on Saturday mornings or Sunday evenings.

Consider these best practices for evangelism in Sunday School:

• Develop a prayer list of lost friends, family and associates.

• Have class fellowships that focus on inviting lost people to participate.

• Schedule regular visitation by phone, email, text and personal visits.

• Identify parents and siblings from children and students who attend church activities.

• Contact parents and siblings to discover their spiritual condition and invite them to upcoming church events.

• Plan Day of Service and Season of Service activities through the SERVE Oklahoma emphasis.

• Review the class roll and contact people who have not attended recently.

What would it take to transform your class from a house to a home, a home for every person in your community and not just for a few of your best friends? As great as your symbolic living room may be, it is time to go outside the church house to the houses in your community. Believe this; you will not be dragging Jesus across the street.  He is already out the door looking back to you to see if you are following.