Really interesting article and podcast on the state of evangelism in local churches in the US.
“Stated simply, the most common factor in declining churches is an inward focus.”
…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?
I asked this question to my students tonight and it was amazing to see their response. I am pretty sure that every person raised a hand in the room. I’m also pretty sure that not every person in the room believes in God. I know that is something that some may struggle with but I find it interesting that even those would love to see God work.
There is nothing like seeing God work. I’ve seen marriages on the brink of separation and divorce come back together. I’ve seen people with addictions come through them and gain victory. I’ve seen grown men and women weep after finding out that their sins could be forgiven and their eternal destination can go from “hope so” to “know so”.
In every one of those circumstances one thing has been the same- God uses His Word, the Bible, to change peoples hearts.
“For the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword…and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Do you want to see God work?
Read God’s Word.
Pray God’s Word.
Memorize God’s Word.
Proclaim God’s Word.
Listen to God’s Word.
Apply God’s Word.
Obey God’s Word.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”