By Bruce Raley and David Francis
This is Part 10 of a series of blog posts excerpted from Extreme Sunday School Challenge by Bruce Raley and David Francis.
- Part 1: The Strategic Purpose of Your Small Group: 4 Key Components
- Part 2: 4 Potential Outcomes for a Healthy Group
- Part 3: 2 Essentials for a New Group to Survive and Thrive
- Part 4: Identifying Leaders for Your Small Group or Sunday School
- Part 5: Multiplying Leaders, Step By Step
- Part 6: Leader Training in Tough Economic Times
- Part 7: Why Enrollment Matters
- Part 8: Starting with the Right DNA
- Part 9: Does Sunday School HAVE to be on Sunday?
We said last week that if the church only offers Bible study on Sunday mornings, then we eliminate the 20% to 25% of our population that works on Sunday mornings from ever attending. So here is a monster list of ideas for other places and times you could start Bible studies. We would love for you to add to this list. Where has your church started new groups?
- Created out of Large Classes Do you have groups with 20 or more adults in average attendance? Can you enlist five or six to be missionaries to start a new group? Additional ideas for expanding grading of preschoolers, children and students are found in the last chapter of Missionary Sunday School. 4
- Pastor’s Class Does the pastor have an opportunity to teach a Sunday School class? The pastor often has the ability to reach some who will not attend another class. The pastor will need other leaders to assist with the group organization, fellowship, and ministry.
- Church Members not Enrolled Compare the church membership and Sunday School ministry list (class rolls). Are there church members not enrolled yet attending worship? Do you have a Bible study group they could enroll in? If not, do you need to start a group just for them and others like them?
- People on Class Rosters, but not Attending Take a close look at your ministry lists (class rolls). Look for those who have not attended in the last six months. Is there a logical reason (illness, work, etc.)? If not, consider inviting them to a new group. This might be just what some need in order to reconnect.
- Apartment/Condo Complex Are there apartment or condominium complexes within the church field that might be a location for an on-site Bible study group? Many people will not, or cannot, come to the church facility. Go to them!
- Coffee Clubs Many members meet with other people from the community at a restaurant or coffee house. Ask these members to invite their friends who gather to meet once a week for a 15-20 minute Bible study. Take advantage of existing opportunities.
- Work Place As we strive to make disciples, ask group members if they would be willing to start a weekly Bible study in their work place.
- Hospital Hospitals are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Because they are open, employees are needed every hour of every day of every week. Those who work on Saturday night or Sunday often do not have a Bible study group opportunity. Why not start a Bible study at the hospital on Saturday evening and Sunday morning for the Sunday workers?
- Campgrounds While these groups may not provide many “permanent members,” offer a weekly Bible study at a local campground. Campers like to relax, slow down, and enjoy life. Many will find a Bible study would be a great place to connect with others.
- Seasonal Residents I (Bruce) lived in the Florida panhandle for 10 years. Each winter, thousands of temporary residents would travel to our community to enjoy the usual mild winter. We developed Bible study groups both weekday and Sunday for these special neighbors.
- Migrant Workers Many areas of our nation have workers that move in for a season. Because these workers know they will only be temporary residents, they often do not engage in local churches. Make connection with them and offer a weekly Bible study.
- Childcare Centers Offer services to local childcare centers to provide a weekly Bible story to the children.
- Business Executives Ask business leaders within the church to lead a Bible study for other business executives within the community. Many of these men and women are under constant stress and would welcome a weekly time of encouragement from the Scriptures and prayer.
- Parents of Preschoolers As you think and pray about new groups, think affinity. Many people would be interested in a group of people of similar life stage. Parents of preschoolers have challenges (and joys) that are different than parents of teenagers. Groups of similar affinity often discover they enjoy being together for Bible study and mission.
- Parents of Children
- Parents of Teenagers
- Hobbies, interests Just as people of similar life stage enjoy being together, so do people with like hobbies or interests. These might include interests such as: motorcycles, hunting, fishing, running, quilting, traveling, etc.
- Newlywed / Nearlywed While many churches try to assimilate newlyweds and nearly-weds into a young adult group, there are often obstacles to that becoming a reality. Begin a newlywed/nearlywed class at least every 24 months (if not more often).
- New Members to Church It is really difficult for many new church members to break into the relationship circles of many existing groups. New members may know only a few people in the church; offer the option of a new group for those who have joined the church in the last six months.
- Weekday Home Groups As earlier established, many people in every community cannot attend a group on Sunday even if they wanted to do so. Because of work or other obligations, Sunday is simply out. Create groups meeting at times other than Sunday and in locations easily accessible.
- Other Languages (Internationals) What languages are spoken in your community? Could you launch a group for those of different languages?
- Recovery / Life Issue Groups Addictions are rampant in every community and people are looking for help and support. Offer Bible study groups especially for those who are struggling with addictions and other life issues.
- Choir / Worship Team The choir or worship team often is preparing for worship services and do not get a Bible study group experience. Launch one just for these ministry leaders at an appropriate and convenient time.
- Retirement Homes / Villages As Americans’ life span increases, so do the numbers of living accommodations for the elderly. While some of these complexes have weekly worship services, many do not have weekly Bible study groups.
- Special Needs / Families This is one of the great opportunities for churches today. Provide a group for special needs children and another for adults. Families of special needs persons might also like a Bible study group just for them.
This article is excerpted from Extreme Sunday School Challenge: Engaging Our World Through New Groups by Bruce Raley and David Francis. Download a free copy of the book by clicking here.
Bruce Raley is Director of Church Education Ministry at LifeWay Christian Resources. He served in education ministry roles in churches in Arkansas and Florida before being called to LifeWay in 2006. Bruce and Donna have two married adult children. In 2011, they began a new young adult group at their church in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
David Francis is Director of Sunday School at LifeWay Christian Resources. Before joining LifeWay in 1997, he served as minister of education at First Baptist Church in Garland, Texas. David and his wife, Vickie, love teaching preschool Sunday School and are helping start a new adult class in their church in Hendersonville, Tennessee.