Want your group to grow? Try Open Groups!

open_door-t2Church Growth Researcher Thom Ranier posted on his blog his findings after over 25 years of research the most common pattern among churches in decline.
“Stated simply, the most common factor in declining churches is an inward focus.”
The same thing that causes whole churches to decline also causes Sunday School classes to decline as well. That is why I believe that every church that does Sunday School should have a goal of having an open group philosophy when it comes to every Sunday School class.
You may be asking, “What is an open group?”
Open Groups….

…Expect new people every time they meet.
If you were having guests over to your house for dinner, how would you prepare?  Would your house be clean? Would you make sure they knew how to get there?  Would you be warm and welcoming?  Would you talk over your guests head or speak to them where they are?  Open groups expect that guests are coming and are completely prepared to meet them, make them feel welcome, and to help them be a part of the group.

…Take the Great Commission as a group and individual mandate.
When Jesus gave the great commission to go and make disciples to his disciples He gave it to them as a group.  They understood that although it was a personal commission it was best done together.  It’s easier to reach people when you do it with others, and open groups leverage this to reach people.

…View their enrollment as a ministry and prayer list.
So many Sunday School classes view their enrollment as a list of people who could possibly come.  Often, if a person doesn’t come for a while they are taking off a list.  Also, they don’t add people to their list until they come a few times.  This is not a good idea if you want to grow.  Think about it–>They make it difficult to be a part of the group, and easy for them to stop being a part of the group.  Open groups view their enrollment as a list of people to which they minister.  They plan what ministry needs to be done on a weekly basis based on this list.  Leaders of open groups pray for their people and lead their groups to pray for each other as well.  Open groups cultivate prospect lists that they pray for as a group.

…Look for ways to invite new people.
If a group is open they will be disappointed and think that something is wrong if there was no one new attending when they met.  They are always looking for people to invite.  They are constantly looking to create a culture of invitation in their group.  Activities and fellowships are not just for people who already belong, but are also opportunities to invite new people to connect to the group.

…Allow people to belong before they believe.
People may not agree with everything we believe, but they should feel loved, accepted, and cared for the moment they come to the class, if not before.  They come back because they are loved and ministered to, and this gives the opportunity for the person who doesn’t believe to be under the practical teaching of God’s Word.  Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

…Realize that it takes effort to stay open.
The natural tendency of every group is to become closed.  It takes effort, vision, focus- leadership-  to stay open.

What are some other ways that your Sunday School group could be more open?

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